HEAT STYLING AND highlights are an essential part of my daily hair routine, but as I grew older, this unfortunately made my hair dryer.
I asked my hairdresser for advice, and he said that heating tools and hair dyes strip hair of natural oils which leads to dry hair over time. He also mentioned that shampoos that contain sulfate add to the problem.
Sulfate is a harsh ingredient added to shampoo to strip hair. This can be good because the sulfate gets rid of dirt and unwanted oils, however, as we grow older, we need to use shampoos that will repair hair—not strip it.
So I took his advice, stopped using shampoos that contain sulfate, and started trying and testing as many sulfate-free shampoos in South Africa that I could get my hands on.
DISCLAIMER: When we say ‘best,’ this is only our team’s personal opinion based on our experience with getting our hands on the actual products on this list (and yes, we did order & try every product,) our research, as well as survey data that we conducted. Your opinion and experience with these, or other products in South Africa may differ!
For this review article, I chose 3 of my favorites based on the below factors that I think are important when looking for sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners.
- Price—Sulfate free shampoos can be expensive! I can’t afford something that costs R500 every month, so this is a huge factor for me.
- Lather—My hair would get very oily after 3 days, so I still need a sulfate-free shampoo that lathers enough without leaving my hair overly dry.
- Fragrance—I love the smell of clean hair after a shower. So my favourites needs to smell good!
- How long a wash lasts—Usually I can go three days without feeling like I need to wash my hair again. I expect something similar from a sulfate free shampoo.
With that said, here are my top 3 favorite sulfate-free shampoos in South Africa.
01. Sorbet Clarify & Detox, Activated Charcoal Shampoo & Conditioner
I love Sorbet products but have only tried their skincare range. Whilst shopping online for sulfate-free hair care products at Clicks, I discovered that Sorbet has a few lines of sulfate-free shampoo and conditioners so I thought I have to try some.
Price and first impressions.
I purchased the Sorbet Drybar ‘detox your locks’ Activated Charcoal Shampoo & Conditioner. The products come in elegant, tall, and slim bottles with flip-top lids. The shampoo is in a charcoal color bottle with white writing and some purple shades, which I found very attractive and elegant looking. The conditioner is in a white bottle with charcoal writing and shades of purple.
The shampoo retails at R119 and the conditioner R109 which I thought was quite reasonable for a sulfate-free range and the bottles are 350ml.
I had never heard of an activated charcoal shampoo and conditioner but after doing some research I read that activated charcoal revives thin and lifeless hair and is also thought to help with hair growth. The label indicates that the products will clarify and detox your locks and that it is for all hair types.
The shampoo & conditioner are also both enriched with coconut oil and aloe extract. Coconut oil is known to help with hair loss, prevent breakage and replenish moisture. It is also thought that regular use of coconut oil can speed up hair growth. Aloe extract helps with dandruff, conditions your hair, and is also used in hair growth formulas.
I was excited when receiving my order, was impressed by the quality of the bottles and lids, flip-top lids are my favorite, easy to open and pour out in the shower.
In the shower, I was surprised when pouring the shampoo into my hand that it was actually really was charcoal in colour. I was a bit shocked at first and concerned the color might not wash out of my hair. I could imagine getting out of the shower with my blonde hair-dyed charcoal!
- Consistency was creamy. Nevertheless, this all added to the experience and was a sure change from the normal white, pearl white, or pastel shades shampoos I was used to.
- The fragrance is very subtle but nice, although I prefer a fragrance with a little stronger smelling.
- Lathering. When putting the shampoo in my hair and lathering, the lather did not work up a rich lather but it did feel clean when rinsing out. My hair felt okay when rinsing out, not dry but it did feel like I needed a conditioner. However, it felt clean and that the product had been rinsed out well. I usually shampoo, rinse then repeat but the directions on this bottle said to the only shampoo and rinse and follow with the conditioner. So I did just that shampooed and rinsed once.
- Consistency. The conditioner is the same color as the shampoo, very charcoal-colored, and is a thick creamy consistency.
- The fragrance is also pleasant but a little too subtle for my liking. The directions say to massage the conditioner into your hair and scalp. Now, as far as my knowledge goes a conditioner should not be massaged into the scalp it should only be massaged through the hair itself to prevent an oily scalp and prolong the time between washing.
I massaged the conditioner into my scalp and hair and left it in for 2 minutes as per the directions, the directions state to leave in for 1-2 minutes.
My hair did not feel well-conditioned after rinsing. On the back of the label it states that the conditioner deeply hydrates and conditions, however, I feel this product did not do that for me.
When combing my hair it was a little tangled and I needed to spray some detangler spray on to prevent my hair from breaking when combing out.
Final results after use.
After blow-drying, however, my hair felt soft, silky, and light. The slogan printed on the back of the bottle ‘Don’t let your hair down, Liberate your locks with a pure and simple detox’ Well I think this shampoo and conditioner lives up to that statement, my hair feels clean, and fresh like it has undergone a detox. However, my advice to others would be to spray a conditioning or detangling spray on your hair after shampooing and conditioning and before brushing.
I will be back after a few days to say how my hair feels. I have fine, highlighted hair, in good condition but the ends do tend to get a bit dry. I do prefer to skip 2 to 3 days between washes.
02. Marc Anthony Grow Long Shampoo & Conditioner
Price and first impressions.
The packaging is very pretty, pink with white writing and a strip of teal. It comes in a 250ml tube.
The shampoo & conditioner retail at R164.99 each which is pricey for a 250ml for our market here in South Africa but I wanted to give it a try because it is sulfate-free and I know Marc Anthony has a good reputation for his hair care products.
The label also sorts of indicates that your hair will Grow Long with its Super-Fast Strength. Both the shampoo & conditioner contain caffeine & ginseng which are often used in hair growth formulas.
When receiving my order, the one bottle had leaked out a little, I was not too concerned as it had been in transit. But after showering I closed the caps and placed the bottles down, when I returned the shampoo had leaked out more. I noticed then that the back end of the flip lid was damaged which is a problem with the tube-type packaging, the cap is at the bottom so the bottle needs to be placed on the bottom end, the lid side.
- Consistency. The shampoo is pearl white and has a creamy consistency.
- The fragrance is subtle but pleasant.
- Lather. When washing with the shampoo it did not work up that much of a lather but it washed well and rinsed out well. My hair felt smooth when rinsing but at the same time felt squeaky clean. With so many sulfate-free shampoos I have tried after rinsing the shampoo my hair felt like there was a waxy film left on it with some and with others my hair felt dry.
This felt different, it felt squeaky clean but still felt like it needed conditioner. I am used to shampooing, rinsing, and repeating the process but the directions on the bottle only said to shampoo and rinse and follow up with the conditioner so I only shampooed once.
- Consistency. The conditioner is white also with a creamy consistency.
- The fragrance is pleasant.
The directions didn’t state how long to leave it on for, just states ‘Apply to wet hair directly after shampooing, massage, and rinse, so I did just that. My hair felt soft and tangle-free after conditioning and it did not weigh my hair down.
Final results after use.
When combing my hair afterward and blow-drying I did not feel I needed to add any detangling lotion to my hair, my hair was tangle-free and felt soft and silky after blow-drying.
This is my first wash, now to see how true their claims are with regards to the super-fast strength and growth. I can honestly say though from my first wash this sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner made my hair feel squeaky clean, soft, and silky.
Feedback after three days.
I like to give my hair a two to the three-day gap between washes but found after 2 days it was starting to get oily, I pushed through until the third day but by then my hair was really greasy.
I really loved the way my hair felt after shampooing and conditioning but it got oily too quickly, a sign that the shampoo doesn’t deliver a good clean.
03. SOL Professional Shampoo & Conditioner
So I saw a post on Facebook of my Hairdresser posting before and after pics of a Lady he had put hair extensions in.
The hair extensions were from Strands of Love. I have always wanted long hair and the photos looked so natural and beautiful I decided to give it a try and took the leap of faith and had my own put in by my hairdresser.
The strands are Russian hair and come from Strands of Love. They advise you to use their SOL (Strands of Love) Sulfate-free Professional Shampoo & Conditioner for the hair.
Price and first impressions.
The packaging is absolutely gorgeous, with black bottles and the labeling with different shades of pink & green leaves. The lids are flip top with the flip part being pink. Love it!
Very pricey though at R250 per bottle of 250ml, R1 per ml! I paid R500 for the shampoo & conditioner, I wouldn’t normally pay this much for a shampoo & conditioner but bearing in mind the extensions are expensive I want to ensure my new locks get the best treatment! The label says for all hair types including hair extensions.
I loved my new hair extensions but we used micro rings which were very visible through my own hair. My hairdresser and I decided to rather redo them the following week with the keratin bonding method, the strands came with keratin tips but we wanted to try the micro rings first. While waiting for my follow-up to redo them, by day 4 I had to wash my hair and was excited to try my shampoo & conditioner.
SOL Shampoo cleanses the hair from root to tip, based on cell serum technology. It is developed for normal and human hair extensions. It contains natural ingredients that penetrate the hair shaft to ensure healthy and soft hair by nourishing the hair the natural way. SOL is developed to facilitate the flow of oxygen and nutrients into the hair follicles to stimulate hair growth, assist with split ends, de-tangles hair, fights hair loss and premature greying. SOL contains vitamins A, B1, B2, D, E, minerals, and antioxidants to promote healthy strong hair
You can tell this shampoo is not your ordinary, everyday shampoo by their description and that a lot of research and development has gone into this formulation. I like the fact that this product has been formulated to stimulate hair growth, my own hair is really short and I would prefer it to be longer to add to the mix.
This was my first experience washing my hair with my new extensions so was quite a challenge. In the shower, I first wet my hair thoroughly ensuring all the strands were wet. I poured quite a bit of shampoo into my hand, the shampoo is clear in colour with a hint of rose, really beautiful.
- Fragrance. I smelt the fragrance almost immediately, a fresh rose scent absolutely divine!
- Lather. I then applied the shampoo to my scalp first, then through the rest of my hair and extensions, massaging the shampoo into a lather on my scalp being careful not to rub the micro rings too hard, then massaging into a lather through the rest of my hair and extensions.
The directions said to rinse well so I made sure I rinsed really well. I was pleasantly surprised that my own hair and my extensions felt quite soft and silky after rinsing before I even applied the conditioner. Must be the cell serum technology they mention.
The conditioner is based on the same technology as the shampoo and the natural oils in the conditioner are to moisturize and hydrate the hair.
- Consistency. The conditioner is of a creamy consistency and white.
- The fragrance is to die for! Absolutely divine, a rose-like fragrance
When applying the conditioner to my hair I was careful to not get it in the micro rings, I applied it to the strands of extensions below the micro rings and the top of my hair only the ends and massaged through the extensions. I didn’t leave it on for long maybe a minute or two before rinsing out, it rinses out well and leaves your hair feeling super silky, soft, and light.
After towel drying my hair I brushed out my hair and extensions, the brush glided through my hair super easy. My hair felt so soft and smooth and silky and light. I dried the top of my head, my own hair and it felt great, I plaited the extensions and left them to dry naturally. Once dry my extensions were soft, wavy, and shiny.
Feedback after three days.
Day 3 after my wash my hair still looks like it could go another day before I wash. Usually, I wash my hair every 3 days, usually, by the third day it’s quite oily and really needs a wash but this time I feel I could do a 4-day gap.
I absolutely love this shampoo and conditioner combo, loved the experience of using it on my extensions for their first wash. What an amazing experience. Now I can’t wait to have my keratin bonding done on my extensions and I will continue using this product!