the ultimate guide to natural shampoos

ultimate guide to natural shampoos

Welcome to another installment of my “ultimate guides” series, this time featuring my thoughts on green, natural shampoos.

This guide will be helpful for you if the following is true:

  • You have fine hair.
  • You have oily hair.
  • You have non-color-treated hair, or very gently color-treated hair that does not require a heavy moisturizing shampoo.

As with all of my “ultimate guides,” this ultimate guide to natural shampoos will be constantly updated as I try new products, and I’ll be sure to ping you with a social media update to let you know when it’s updated.

Now, onto the natural shampoo reviews!

*Indicates press sample. Yes, I do buy my own products, and yes, free stuff gets the same level of criticism as stuff I paid for myself!

(Like my ultimate guides? Find more guides and products you may love! Or, visit my faves page for a list of my top picks across multiple categories.)

Natural Shampoos I Liked and Will Repurchase

Acure Organics Lemongrass + Argan Stem Cell Clarifying Shampoo ($9.99 for 8 ounces)

I like to keep a clarifying natural shampoo in my hair for weekly use — gotta de-gunk product buildup — but Acure Organics Lemongrass + Argan Stem Cell Clarifying Shampoo, which features moisturizing avocado, argan and olive oils, is gentle enough for daily use.

I love the generous lather and light, fresh scent. I’ve repurchased this several times and would highly recommend it to anyone new to natural shampoos or looking to introduce a non-stripping, clarifying shampoo into their arsenal.

Acure Organics Pure Mint + Echinacea Stem Cell Volumizing Shampoo ($9.99 for 8 ounces)

When I first met Acure Organics Pure Mint + Echinacea Stem Cell Volumizing Shampoo, it was love at first lather.

Affectionately referred to as “the Acure shampoo in the blue and white bottle,” this is my hands-down favorite shampoo that I’ve repurchased time after time and constantly recommend to my fine and oily-haired friends.

My fine hair gets a boost of volume after using this natural shampoo (seriously, no product needed — just shampoo and a quick blow dry without any teasing), yet never feels depleted of moisture or shine. A+

*Avalon Organics Strengthening Peppermint Shampoo ($10.50 for 11 ounces)

It’s well-documented that I love minty-fresh products in my shower (as I’m a morning shower-taker but not exactly a morning person), so Avalon Organics Strengthening Peppermint Shampoo had an easy edge — but scent isn’t the only thing that matters in a natural shampoo, obviously.

I’ve been impressed with how well this natural shampoo has kept my hair looking sleek and healthy (though I’m in need of a trim!) without coating it in a ton of silcones.

*BeautyCounter Clean Everyday Shampoo ($20 for 10 ounces)

Gentle enough for everyday use, BeautyCounter’s citrus-scented natural shampoo breaks down buildup gently without leaving my hair feeling dry or static-y. There’s just the right amount of moisture, and I like the sleek, minimal packaging. This truly is a wonderful everyday shampoo that won’t strip your hair or leave it with a dull buildup.

Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Cleansing Shampoo ($19 for 8.5 ounces)

Loaded with powerful ingredients such as green tea, avocado, bamboo, aloe vera, rice extract and vitamin E, Briogeo’s Be Gentle, Be King Cleansing Shampoo is perfect for fine, oily hair that needs moisture as well as a thorough cleansing. The lather is perfect, and the generous 8.5-ounce bottle rivals other luxury natural shampoos that match a high price but deliver less product.

*Evolvh UltraShine Moisture Shampoo ($24 for 8.5 ounces)

It’s quite surprising to me how much Evolvh UltraShine Moisture Shampoo captured my heart (hair?), but it did, thanks to the incredibly smooth, baby-softness it imparted on my hair without making it feel weighed down.

Seaweed extract, mango and apricot quench thirsty strands’ thirst without dousing them in excess moisture. It’s just enough to tame flyaways and set your hair up for a perfect, sleek blowout.

This natural shampoo is more expensive than I like to pay for natural shampoo, but it’s totally worth it.

*Function of Beauty ($22 for 16 ounces)

Probably the neatest shampoo on this list, Function of Beauty allows you to customize what comes in your bottle. To get in on this personalized haircare collection, start with a simple quiz to identify your hair texture and type. Then, you’ll identify your “hair wish list” that the shampoo is formulated to address. Want strength, volume, color protection, oil control and shine all in one? You got it.

But it doesn’t end there. Function of Beauty allows you to name your shampoo and choose its color and scent (mine was white tea jasmine, obviously). My specific formula yielded a dense shampoo that only required a dime-sized amount to get the job done. This shampoo is for you if you want a truly personalized experience or are looking for an interesting gift.

John Masters Organics Lavender Rosemary Shampoo ($16 for 8 ounces)

John Masters Organics holds a special place in my heart. It’s one of the first green beauty lines I fell in love with when I made the switch to naturals back in 2007, and this is one of those solid, staple shampoos that just delivers.

With hair- and scalp-friendly ingredients such as lavender and rosemary, John Masters Organics Lavender Rosemary Shampoo stimulates the scalp and volumizes the hair. The ingredients list is quite impressive, with a cocktail of hair-healthy herbs and vitamins (I love when products include borage seed oil, one of my favorite hair/skin/nails supplement that I also take internally), and the price is reasonable.

Bonus: It’s easily available at Whole Foods and many natural foods stores.

*Josh Rosebrook Balance Shampoo ($30 for 8 ounces)

The day I first used this shampoo, my coworker noticed the natural volume in my hair — not an obvious tease and style, but a genuinely healthy-looking lift and shine in my hair.

This formula of this shampoo is very similar to Josh’s “Nourish,” except this one contains different deep cleansing and balancing oils, such as lemon, rose and grapefruit. In addition, aloe vera, African black soap and herbal infusions gently cleanse impurities and balance an oily scalp.

It takes a little more than typical of this shampoo to really get the job down (think half-dollar size), but with the right cleansing technique (sectioning, massaging and spreading!), you can maximize its reach.

*Juice Organics Volumizing Shampoo ($12 for 10 ounces)

This is one of my favorite affordable shampoos! Juice Organics is a vegan and cruelty-free brand that has a wide range of haircare options. I always opt for volumizing shampoos, and this shampoo did not disappoint. The dense gel formula feels wonderful massaged into the scalp and deposits soy and barley proteins to help it appear thicker and fuller. It’s also full of passionfruit and vanilla extracts, giving it a soft, feminine scent. A+

Max Green Alchemy Scalp Rescue Shampoo ($15.99 for 8.8 ounces)

Healthy hair is dependent on having a healthy scalp, and that’s why Max Green Alchemy Scalp Rescue Shampoo is much-loved natural shampoo for me. This is one of those natural shampoos that I like to switch it up with if my scalp if feeling itchy (especially during season changes) and needs some attention.

With its amazing blend of botanical extracts, vitamins and essential oils, this natural shampoo brings out the best in your hair — think strong, beautiful, lustrous hair supported by a healthy scalp that’s free of irritation.

*Naturigin Colour Care Hair Wash ($17.49 for 8.5 ounces)

This mild, Ecocert-certified shampoo (or “hair wash” if you fancy) produces an incredible lather yet never leaves your scalp feeling itchy or dry. The scent is relatively neutral and undefined, and the packaging isn’t overly masculine or feminine. It fits wonderfully in a unisex or guest bathroom and won’t intimidate your significant other when he stays over and is wading through all your shower products searching for shampoo!

My only critique of this shampoo is that the formula is a bit “slippery” — by this, I mean that you should very carefully squirt out shampoo and take caution not to overdo it. You can easily get way too much product in your hands!

*Soignee Botanical Shampoo ($16.25 for 8 ounces)

Two words: Vanilla frosting.

That’s what this shampoo from Soignee smells like, and I cannot get enough of it. This luscious shampoo has a rich lather, is perm- and color-safe and is designed for all hair types. The moisture in this shampoo helps to tame flyaways and frizz, yet doesn’t weigh down fine hair.

Enriched with soy and wheat proteins as well as vitamins, herbal extracts and essential oils, this shampoo helps strengthen hair and leave it feeling silky and manageable.

*Stop the Water While Using Me! All Natural Rosemary Grapefruit Shampoo ($32 for 6.76 ounces / 200 ml)

Another fantastic natural shampoo for scalp stimulation and your morning wake-up call, Stop the Water While Using Me! All Natural Rosemary Grapefruit Shampoo provides a healthy lather and even cooler reminder to your bathroom guests to be conscientious about water use.

Though my hair is not currently color-treated, this natural shampoo, as invigorating as it is, is safe for color-treated hair and even better for fine, wimpy hair like mine that needs a boost. I’ve used this natural shampoo so many times and gone without my usual volumizing styling products post-shower — it’s that great at offering some lift! It’s on the pricier end for me, but I do like the convenient pump packaging in addition to the results. This is one that I would use a few times a week to clarify without overdrying.

*The Wonder Seed Hemp Shampoo, Sweet Orange ($15.95 for 8 ounces)

If you’re a fan of Acure Organics, but long for a bit more moisture, then you must check out everything from The Wonder Seed. This line takes advantage of the ultra-nourishing properties of hemp seed oil, and for dry or color-treated hair, this natural shampoo is absolutely fantastic.

For my fine, oily hair, though, this natural shampoo also does not disappoint. Little secret: With every shampoo I use, I always condition just the ends of my hair first, and then I shampoo. Does anyone else do that? That keeps my fine hair from being weighed down (which happens with this shampoo if I shampoo and then condition — I just don’t need that much moisture).

But with this way of washing, The Wonder Seed Hemp Shampoo in Sweet Orange delivers the perfect amount of flyaway-taming moisture with a delicious scent of sweet oranges. Sweet orange also helps balance the scalp’s natural oil profile and seals in moisture. Win-win, even for us oily gals!

Natural Shampoos I Liked But Will Not Repurchase

*Beesentials Honey & Botanical Sulfate-Free Shampoo ($12.99 for 8 ounces)

A simple, softly scented natural shampoo infused with nettle, propolis, chamomile, orange peel, yarrow and honey, Beesentials Honey & Botanical Sulfate-Free Shampoo produces a generous lather and leaves your hair feeling clean, soft and naturally beautiful. Honey and silk proteins naturally hydrate the hair while plant extracts strengthen and smooth the hair. I’m a bit smitten with the light, airy and slightly sweet scent of this natural shampoo.

While the packaging is a bit cutesy and young, this natural shampoo stands up to the other natural, luxurious picks on my list in both effectiveness and high quality ingredients. I like the bounce that this natural shampoo leaves my hair with, and it’s another one that my boyfriend gravitates to when he showers at my place.

Davines Authentic Cleansing Nectar Hair & Body Oil Shampoo ($28.50 for 280 ml)

Davines has been one of my cleaner beauty hair obsessions for years, and the Authentic Cleansing Nectar Hair & Body Oil Shampoo is no exception.

First, while you can obviously use any natural shampoo as a body wash as well, I like that Davines markets this with this cleanser. It’s gentle enough for true head-to-toe use, and the lather is just right for your hair (not too bold, but enough creamy bubbles to satisfy your mind). This mild, moisturizing natural shampoo is just a joy to use.

*Jason Gluten Free Daily Shampoo ($7.19 for 16 ounces)

For those who are truly sensitive to gluten and fragrances, Jason’s Gluten Free Daily Shampoo is an excellent pick. It has a fantastic lather, a generous-sized bottle and is extremely affordable. My no-frills boyfriend typically reaches for this natural shampoo when it’s stocked in my shower, and it could make an excellent guest bathroom / shower natural shampoo for guests who may be very particular about their scents.

For me, however, one of the biggest draws of shampooing daily (yes, I shampoo daily; I am hella oily) is enjoying the lather and scent of my favorite natural shampoos. I don’t wear perfumed hair oils, and rarely spray my hair with fragrance, so I rely on my shampoo to give my locks a fresh, alluring scent.

If I ever were to spritz my hair with scent, though, this would be a good natural shampoo to keep on-hand. So, while it’s in the “like but won’t repurchase” list, it really might be a repurchase to just have on hand. But I can’t make a category for that, so it goes here. :)

John Masters Organics Bare Unscented Shampoo ($14.50 for 8 ounces)

The definition of minimalist natural shampoos, John Masters Organics Bare Unscented Shampoo is packed with all the great ingredients you’d expect — jojoba oil, evening primrose oil, white tea and chamomile — without the scent that can conflict with some people’s personal preferences.

For me, though, this was a dealbreaker. I like for my natural shampoos to have some sort of pretty, clean scent. Everything else — lather, performance, ingredients, pricing — is on point. If you’re sensitive to scents or like to add natural perfume to your hair, this one is for you!

*Josh Rosebrook Deep Nourishing Shampoo ($30 for 8 ounces)

UPDATED: I’ve moved this shampoo to this section because I prefer Josh’s new “Balance” shampoo over this one — didn’t think it could get better for me!

I’m glad I received a small sample of Josh Rosebrook Nourish Shampoo in one of my green beauty boxes, because otherwise I wouldn’t have tried it! Now don’t get me wrong — I love and deeply respect Josh — but I tend to avoid moisturizing / nourishing shampoos because of how fine my hair is.

Josh has created a beautiful natural shampoo that works for various hair types. I’ve talked with my dry-haired friends about this shampoo and they’ve raved about how well it works for them. And here I am, the oil slick of the group, raving about this shampoo.

Again, this is one that’s on the pricier side for a natural shampoo, but it’s well worth it. Josh is thoughtful with his formulations (this puppy has aloe vera, African black soap, various organic oils and a multitude of hair-healthy herbs packed in!) and is extremely accessible via social media for any questions you may have about hair!

*Just Natural Hair Care Shampoo to Remove Build Up ($27.99 for 16 ounces)

Another fantastic clarifying shampoo, Just Natural Hair Care Shampoo to Remove Build Up is a great once-a-week treatment to truly de-gunk and start fresh.

I don’t recommend it for daily use, as it’s quite potent with its combination of aloe vera hydrosol, burdock extract, papaya extract, peppermint essential oil, cajeput essential oil and grapefruit essential oil, but it’s damn good at doing exactly what it says it’s going to do: Remove all that buildup!

Pro tip when using this natural shampoo: Be sure to shake it up to ensure all those cleansing ingredients are well-mixed.

Marketing tip for Just Natural: Update your packaging design! The pump bottle is awesome and so is the product, but the design of the label could use some love.

*Maple Holistics Argan Oil Shampoo ($12.97 for 8 ounces)

Formulated for all scalp types, Maple Holistics Argan Oil Shampoo contains argan oil, jojoba oil, almond peach kernal, camellia seed and avocado for a moisturizing yet weightless shampoo that’s appropriate even for fine- and oily-haired gals like me. Its lather is big, so if that’s important to you, this natural shampoo delivers, thanks to some cleaner surfactants (though cocamidopropyl betaine scores a 4 on the EWG ingredients list). This isn’t a traditionally heavy moisturizing shampoo (which is great for me!), so if you’re dry, you’ll probably just need to use this a few times a week with a weighty conditioner for added moisture.

*Odylique Gentle Herb Shampoo ($20 for 6.8 ounces)

Designed for sensitive scalps, Odylique’s Gentle Herb Shampoo delicately cleanses and nourishes the hair and scalp with aloe vera juice and coconut oil as well as a host of healing herbs such as horsetail, rosemary and chamomile.

Though it’s formulated as a gentle shampoo, there’s a nice lather that’s not overpowering nor underwhelming. It’s the perfect in-between for someone whose scalp needs to retain some moisturizing oils, but likes the feeling of a gentle lather throughout the hair.

I was very impressed with this shampoo. The only reason it’s not likely to be on my repurchase list is access; Odylique doesn’t appear to be readily available in the States just yet.

Rahua Voluminous Shampoo ($32 for 9.3 ounces)

I go back on this darling of the green beauty world. Rahua Voluminous Shampoo works well on my hair when it comes to volume, but I’m just a bit unsure on the scent — think black licorice — and I just cringe at paying this much for a natural shampoo that I’m not totally in love with.

As far as performance and packaging, Rahua is spot-on. Gorgeous and effective! It’s just not quite the right fit for what I want and need in a natural shampoo.

*Rare Elements Pure Shampoo ($38 for 8.5 ounces)

Rare Elements Pure Shampoo is the best of luxury and natural, and the subtle, earthy scent is soothing to my senses. This shampoo, though, is not absolutely necessary for me — I’ve had similar or better experiences with other better-priced shampoos on my repurchase list. But, it’s definitely one to consider and one that I appreciate!

The lather is lower than many on this list, but the texture of the actual shampoo is thick and coating, allowing you to massage your hair and scalp and rest assured that you’re not overdrying or stripping your hair.

Instead, you’re drenching your locks with rare Kalahari watermelon seed oil that naturally dissolves sebum and other buildup. Blackseed oil, murumuru utter and marula oil pamper your hair and scalp with moisture. While this natural shampoo is suitable for all hair types (I had zero issues with weight!), it is especially wonderful for color-treated or moisture-deprived hair.

*Saavy Naturals Moisturizing Shampoo ($12 for 8 ounces)

Saavy Naturals Moisturizing Shampoo takes advantage of luscious oils such as kukui seed, argan, moringa and coconut to drench your hair in a sea of moisture — yet it doesn’t weigh down my baby-fine hair, and it somehow offers a nice, gentle lather that even a newb to natural shampoos would appreciate.

I’m on the fence with this one because of the inclusion of honeysuckle extract as a preservative. There’s a lot of other great natural shampoos out there that omit this controversial ingredient, which gives them the edge.

Natural Shampoos I Did Not Like and Will Not Repurchase

*Alba Botanica Natural Hawaiian Shampoo in Plumeria ($10.50 for 12 ounces)

This natural shampoo is simply too heavily scented for my tastes. The lather is great and the ingredients are clean, but I’m kind of wondering if that addition of “fragrance” at the end of the ingredients list is bugging me. Holy smell zone.

Aubrey Organics Rose Mosqueta Nourishing Shampoo ($10.48 for 11 ounces)

I used Aubrey Organics Rose Mosqueta Nourishing Shampoo two years ago when I was regularly coloring my hair and wanted a safe, gentle, natural shampoo. It served those purposes, but it did nothing for volume

*Just Natural Hair Care Shampoo for Oily Hair ($24.99 for 16 ounces)

Despite being formulated and marketed for oily hair, Just Natural Hair Care Shampoo for Oily Hair did absolutely nothing for me. I didn’t see any difference in volume after using this, and I had issues getting this natural shampoo to lather up to my liking. You can’t win ’em all, eh?

*Intelligent Nutrients Harmonic Shampoo ($17 for 8 ounces)

This daily use shampoo produces a low lather that just couldn’t seem to get my oily scalp clean. By mid-day after a wash, my hair was limp, oily and sad. I think this shampoo would be better suited to someone with normal or dry hair and scalp.

*Maple Holistics Sage Shampoo ($14.95 for 8 ounces)

While I don’t suffer from dandruff, I do experience irritation on my scalp (think bumps and scabs). I though Maple Holistics Sage Shampoo could provide some comfort and relief, and while it did, it dried out my hair in the process. I could never get the right balance of conditioner to keep my hair from going through that dehydrated/over-oiled feeling from attempting to compensate with additional conditioner. I think, instead, this would be a good shampoo to concentrate only on the scalp to truly treat and massage, and then finish off the rest of the hair with a shampoo that’s a bit more balanced.

*Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo ($13.95 for 8 ounces)

My scalp tends to get problematic, with blemishes and dead skin irritation, so Maple Leaf Holistics’ Tea Tree shampoo immediately appealed to me. It’s designed to treat these very issues, and my love for tea tree oil is truly head to toe. However, similar to Maple Holistics Sage Shampoo, this special formula shampoo should be reserved for only the scalp. It’s just too drying to the rest of the hair, leaving it with a “squeaky clean” feeling that has my hair ending up feeling very straw-like once I’ve blown it out.

*Mineral Fusion Hair Repair Shampoo ($9.99 for 8.5 ounces)

This natural shampoo is clearly for dry or damaged hair, so it’s a bit unfair of me to judge it, as it’s not the right fit for my oily, fine hair. But, in case you are tempted by it and have hair like mine, just don’t. It will weigh your hair down. Instead, consider it as a luxe hair conditioning treatment for a night in (followed by a great wash in the morning).

*Nature’s Gate Pomegranate Sunflower Shampoo ($28.88 for 18 ounces)

This is another natural shampoo designed for color-treated hair, but my real issue with it was the scent. It was just too strong for my liking. Lather was great, and it’s a wonderful brand regardless, but scent is just hard to nail down sometime!

*Surya Brasil Amazonia Preciosa Shampoo for Normal and Straight Hair ($19.99 for 10.14 ounces / 300 ml)

Another disappointment in the lather department, Surya Brasil Amazonia Preciosa Shampoo for Normal and Straight Hair was extremely runny and didn’t feel like it was getting my hair clean.

I know that lather is not an indicator of cleanliness, but my issue with a non-foaming natural shampoo is that I never have an indication that I’ve used enough product or covered all my hair for a good cleanse. Call it psychological, but those powers are fierce! Besides that, I didn’t notice a difference in volume — in fact, my hair looked a little flat after using this.

*Tammy Fender Omega Rich Hair Cleansing Creme ($45 for 8 ounces)

Extremely soft and milky with a luxurious scent, Tammy Fender’s Omega Rich Hair Cleansing Creme is one that I wish I could love, but just can’t. My oily, fine hair needs some oomph to really to clarify and cleanse, and this cleansing creme is just too gentle (and doesn’t lather) to get my hair and scalp feeling clean. I think this would be better suited to someone with very dry hair or with delicate curls that need extra moisture and very little lather.

*True Nature Botanicals Shampoo  ($32 for 8 ounces)

I wanted to love this shampoo. The packaging is sleek and functional (love the pump applicator!), but the formula was just lacking for my fine, oily hair.

This shampoo is designed to cleanse, hydrate and strengthen, but I feel like it was too hydrating for my hair. After shampooing and blow drying, my hair still looked and felt limp, and my naturally oily scalp wreaked havoc on my hair by mid-day. Here’s to hoping TNB formulates something new to help us greasy gals!




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