15 Best Sulfate-free Shampoos for Colored Hair for Lasting Sheen

Written by Alvira Dsouza, Hair Expert
Updated on Feb 07, 2024
Sulfate-free Shampoos for Colored Hair for Lasting Sheen
Sulfate-free Shampoos for Colored Hair for Lasting Sheen
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Your money might be going down the drain (quite literally) because the sulfates in your traditional shampoo can make your gorgeous hair color, which you spent so much time, money, and energy on, fade quicker than ever. They can also strip your hair of its natural oils and leave it feeling dry and dehydrated. But, fret not, you can prevent this from happening by adding the best sulfate-free shampoos for colored hair to your everyday hair care routine.

Sulfate-free shampoos have gained popularity for their gentle cleansing action that provides you with shinier and softer hair. It is said to be incredibly useful for color-treated hair and strands that have undergone chemical treatments (like keratin treatments) because it doesn't strip out the treatment or the components of hair dye, making them last longer. Also, they can be used on all types of color-treated hair — chemically processed, including permed and relaxed.  According to Jurga Rimukte, Creative Director (also stylist and colorist) at Lanphier, "If you have vibrant colors in your hair (or any other hair color), these colors tend to fade away from your hair the fastest. That's when it would be a good reason to use a sulfate free shampoo" (1). She further adds that these shampoos might not be for everyone, but those who fit the bill, aka people with colored hair, can expect excellent results.

So, if you are someone who changes hair colors with every season and your ever-changing mood, then you should join us as we explore the top-rated color safe sulfate free shampoos in the market. Our team has tested several products based on their ingredients, texture, cleansing action, suitability for color-treated hair, and price so that you can dazzle with vibrant locks for longer!

What Does Sulfate-free Shampoo Do to Colored Hair?

The "free-from" claims are nothing new, and sulfates happen to be leading the trend. But what did sulfates ever do to any of us? 

Well, shampoos use cleansing agents called surfactants, responsible for making lather. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are some of the most commonly used surfactants and also some of the most demonized ingredients (ever since 2009), particularly for colored hair (2). The bad rap of sulfates comes from them being harsh on hair and scalp. Therefore, many people made a conscious switch to sulfate-free shampoos to lower the chances of irritation, dryness, contact allergy, and faster fading of hair dyes.  

According to a 2016 study presented during the MFUIC and KTCM International Conference on Advances in Medical & Health Sciences (3), sulfate-free shampoos can slow down the fading process of artificial hair colors. Additionally, they were found to provide effective cleansing and make the hair soft.

If we were to get a bit science-y, color-treated hair becomes negatively charged because of the dyes, meanwhile, these shampoos typically use cationic surfactants which are positively charged. The positively charged cationic surfactants neutralize the negatively charged hair surface and neutralize them, reducing frizz and making hair softer (4). These surfactants also form a protective layer around colored hair strands (since opposites attract!) and prevent further hair damage and the color from fading (5).

15 Best Sulfate-free Shampoos for Colored Hair

Formulated with pure tea tree oil as its star ingredient, this is the best sulfate-free shampoo colored hair will absolutely love. Give your hair the tender loving and care it deserves with the thick and luxurious consistency of this clarifying shampoo from Maple Holistics. Its all-natural blend finds many takers for removing dandruff. Our analysis of this product revealed that it also helps with scalp infections including odor, itchiness, flaking, and bumps on the scalp.

Pros
  • Clarifies hair
  • Feels refreshing
  • Makes hair soft
  • Smells pleasant
  • Calms itchy scalp
  • Cruelty-free
Cons
  • May exacerbate dryness for some
  • Slight difficulty dispensing from the bottle
  • BEST FOR DAMAGED HAIR

    Framesi Color Lover Volume Boost Shampoo

    Framesi Color Lover Volume Boost Shampoo
  • Introduce your hair to a gentle hair care system with the moisturizing and pH-balanced formula of Redken Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo. This sulfate-free shampoo for colored hair comes in a vibrant pink bottle and offers to bring a similar kind of vibrancy to colored hair. It has a thick and creamy consistency that cleanses gently and nourishes the hair. We determined through our tests that it strengthens hair from root to tip, making it an ideal choice for damaged hair.

    Pros
    • Quinoa and aloe vera enriched
    • Preserves color vibrancy
    • Enhances volume and body
    • Nourishing and hydrating
    • Suitable for color-treated hair
    Cons
    • Lacks volume boost
  • Best for Damaged Hair

    Redken Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo

    Redken Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo
  • Get your hands on this sulfate-free color-safe shampoo from Nexxus that is recommended not only by hair stylists but also magazines like Glamour, Instyle, and Allure. Formulated with key ingredients, including elastin protein and quinoa, it brings dull and damaged color-treated hair back to life. It replenishes the nutrients and protein lost during the coloring process, making hair look and feel healthy, vibrant, and nourished. Based on our observations, you can expect salon-quality results from this shampoo.

    Pros
    • Smells amazing
    • Great for chemically treated hair
    • Adds shine
    • Conditioning formula
    • Highly recommended by hair stylists and colorists
    Cons
    • Not for fine and thin hair
    • Pricey
  • Most Recommended

    Nexxus Color Assure Shampoo

    Nexxus Color Assure Shampoo
  • Get your hands on this sulfate free color safe shampoo from Nexxus that is recommended not only by hair stylists but also magazines like Glamour, Instyle, and Allure. Formulated with key ingredients, including elastin protein and quinoa, it brings dull and damaged color-treated hair back to life. It replenishes the nutrients and protein lost during the coloring process, making hair look and feel healthy, vibrant, and nourished. Based on our observations, you can expect salon-quality results from this shampoo.

    Pros
    • Smells good
    • Comes in pump packaging
    • Makes hair soft
    • Suitable for bleached hair
    • Hair becomes manageable
    Cons
    • Does not remove build-up

    Quick Tip

    Wash your hair twice a week using the sulfate-free shampoo with lukewarm water for best results. Then, wrap your hair in a microfiber towel before finally blow-drying it.

  • Best for Oily Hair

    Paul Mitchell Color Protect Shampoo

    Paul Mitchell Color Protect Shampoo
  • Paul Mitchell Color Protect Shampoo is an advanced formulation that goes beyond cleansing, offering unmatched protection to your precious hues. Infused with a gentle, sulfate-free blend, it keeps your hair's natural oils intact, ensuring color longevity and vitality. Immerse yourself in a luxurious lather that doesn't just cleanse but safeguards your hair's vibrant personality. Experience the ultimate harmony of gentle cleansing and color protection, making every wash a celebration of lasting, radiant hues.

    Pros
    • Good fragrance
    • Enhances shine
    • Suitable for color-treated hair
    • Long-lasting results
    • Good for oily hair
    Cons
    • Expensive
  • Pureology Strength Cure Shampoo

    Pureology Strength Cure Shampoo
  • Revitalize and rejuvenate your colored hair with the Pureology Strength Cure Shampoo. Its protein-infused strengthening formula is gentle and helps in the maintenance of hair color and texture, especially for brittle hair. It is a sulfate-free shampoo dyed hair will love and approve of. Highly recommended by hair stylists and colorists, it promises salon-like hair without shelling out the big bucks. We have found from using this product that it is a game-changer for unruly damaged hair and works great together with the conditioner from the same range.

    Pros
    • Lathers easily
    • Conditioning
    • Vegan ingredients
    • Makes hair soft
    • Adds shine
    Cons
    • Not suitable for fine hair
    • Strong fragrance
  • Best Drugstore

    Aveeno Blackberry & Quinoa Blend Color Protect & Strengthen Shampoo

    Aveeno Blackberry & Quinoa Blend Color Protect & Strengthen Shampoo
  • This sulfate-free shampoo for color-treated hair from the popular drugstore brand, Aveeno, works wonders in maintaining the vibrancy and longevity of colored hair. Its gentle and pH-balanced formula comes packed with the goodness of blackberry and quinoa protein, nourishing hair from the root to the tips. Speaking of the goodness of quinoa protein, our contributor Eliza Pineda, In-house hair expert at Mayraki Professional, says, “Since colored hair is damaged hair, one can really benefit from plant proteins like quinoa protein, to help build the cuticle back up and strengthen the strands.”

    The star ingredient here is colloidal oat. After trying out this product, we found that it has a pearly white creamy texture that lathers quite well. With regular use, it also has a scalp-soothing effect.

    Pros
    • Lathers easily
    • Cleanses well
    • Makes hair soft and shiny
    • Little goes a long way
    • Budget-friendly
    Cons
    • Smell may not appeal everyone
  • Best Overall

    COLOR WOW Color Security Shampoo

    COLOR WOW Color Security Shampoo
  • Achieve your hair goals with the COLOR WOW Color Security Shampoo which is true to its name and keeps the hair color secured like no other product. Whether you have highlights or a vibrant red color, this sulfate-free shampoo for colored hair ensures the vibrancy and longevity of the dye job. Our findings show that it does an excellent job at cleansing without stripping the hair and scalp dry. More than that, it doesn't leave any residue behind, which is a problem with some sulfate-free shampoos.

    Pros
    • Light, pleasing scent
    • Little goes a long way
    • Rich lather
    • Makes hair soft and shiny
    • Works for hair extensions too
    Cons
    • Pricey
  • Best for Unruly/Frizzy Hair

    LuxeOrganix Rejuvenating Argan Oil Shampoo

    LuxeOrganix Rejuvenating Argan Oil Shampoo
  • Elevate your hair care routine with this sulfate-free color protecting shampoo from LuxeOrganix, which is formulated with Moroccan argan oil. It has an incredibly nourishing and moisturizing formula that goes a long way. It promotes a healthy scalp environment and protects the color from fading for a long time, giving you the appearance of healthy hair. It is also suitable for chemically treated hair. Drawing from our experience, it reduces frizz and even helps in taming the flyaways that are a bane to the existence of so many of us.

    Pros
    • Moisturizing
    • Adds bounce to hair
    • Lathers nicely
    • Works great for coarse and curly hair
    • Improves overall hair health
    Cons
    • Smell may not be liked by everyone
    • Pricey
  • Best Clarifying

    Love Beauty and Planet Blooming Color Sulfate-Free Shampoo

    Love Beauty and Planet Blooming Color Sulfate-Free Shampoo
  • Add this sulfate-free shampoo for dyed hair to your haircare arsenal for the shiniest hair of your dreams. It has a pearly white thin gel-like consistency that works up into a rich and satisfying lather. It combines the goodness of murumuru butter, Bulgarian rose, and coconut oil to give you nourished, moisturized, and healthy tresses. As indicated by our tests, this shampoo will leave you with silky, soft, and smooth hair without facing any color-fading issues.

    Pros
    • Rinses out easily
    • Natural ingredients
    • Packaging made from recycled material
    • Budget-friendly
    • Cruelty-free
    Cons
    • Strong floral scent
  • Best in Budget

    Pantene Illuminating Color Care Sulfate Free Shampoo

    Pantene Illuminating Color Care Sulfate Free Shampoo
  • Finding a sulfate-free color protect shampoo that actually works for your hair and scalp cannot get any easier than this. The Pantene Illuminating Color Care Sulfate Free Shampoo is a pocket-friendly hair cleanser that does an incredible job of removing all the dirt, grime, and build-up accumulated daily. Our team discovered through using this product that it has a clear and light texture that goes on to lather adequately—not too much, not too little, just the right amount!

    Pros
    • Has a crisp, refreshing fragrance
    • Makes hair silky
    • Small amount is sufficient
    • Effective color retention
    • Adds shine
    • Affordable
    Cons
    • May cause dry scalp
  • Best for Dry Hair

    Framesi Color Lover Moisture Rich Shampoo

    Framesi Color Lover Moisture Rich Shampoo
  • Give your hair the love it deserves with this color-safe and sulfate-free shampoo from Framesi. Formulated with nourishing and scalp-soothing ingredients like quinoa, aloe vera, plant proteins, and shea butter, it is a holy grail product for dry and dull hair. After putting it to the test, we can say that with its ultra-conditioning vitamin-rich formula, you can expect revitalized hair from the very first wash. No wonder, it is a popular choice in salons.

    Pros
    • Makes hair soft and shiny
    • Light, pleasant scent
    • Keeps color vibrant
    • Good for textured hair
    • Soothes irritated scalp
    • Vegan
    • Cruelty-free
    Cons
    • Not for fine hair
  • Oligo Professionnel Blacklight Blue Shampoo

    Oligo Professionnel Blacklight Blue Shampoo
  • Specifically formulated with highlighted, prelighted, bleached, white, and natural blonde hair in mind, the Oligo Professionnel Blacklight Blue Shampoo takes care of the unwanted brassiness. Based on our firsthand experience, it is best suited for blonde hair and can rejuvenate it while maintaining the vibrancy of the hair color. This sulfate-free shampoo for highlighted hair is enriched with eleven amino acids and the goodness of argan oil, which come together to moisturize, repair damage, and strengthen the hair structure.

    Pros
    • Smells good
    • Offers deep cleansing
    • Brightens hair color
    • Does not weigh down hair
    • Prevents hair from breakage
    • Adds shine
    Cons
    • Stains skin
  • Colorproof Moisture Shampoo

    Colorproof Moisture Shampoo
  • Keep your hair color fresh and looking like it's brand new with the Colorproof Moisture Shampoo that not only preserves the color for longer but also nourishes the hair. It is a good sulfate-free shampoo colored hair is bound to appreciate, thanks to its powerful blend of proteins and antioxidants. It takes care of the overall hair and scalp health. When we trialed this product, we found that it makes the hair smooth, soft, and more manageable. 

    Pros
    • Smells good
    • Lathers well
    • Cleans without stripping
    • Good for bleached hair
    • Vegan
    • Cruelty-free
    Cons
    • Expensive
  • Mixed Chicks Sulfate-free Shampoo

    Mixed Chicks Sulfate-free Shampoo
  • Color-treated hair requires special care and maintenance. The same can be said for curly hair. But, what happens when you have both? The answer is simple! Ditch your old sulfate shampoos and opt for this sulfate-free shampoo for colored curly hair from Mixed Chicks instead. It has a thick consistency and cleanses gently without leaving any residue. Enriched with olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, panthenol, aloe vera, sesame oil, and sweet almond oil, this shampoo works wonders for hair that is kinky, coily, and wavy.

    Pros
    • Smells good
    • Lathers well
    • Makes hair manageable
    • Softens hair
    • Adds shine
    • Improves hair elasticity
    Cons
    • Pricey

    Now that you have seen our product recommendations for the best sulfate-free shampoos for colored hair, glance through our buying guide to make an informed purchasing decision.

    How to Choose the Best Sulfate-free Shampoos for Colored Hair?

    The market is full of shampoos claiming to be sulfate-free. But, which one is the best for you and your hair? Here are some additional things you must know before making your informed purchase: 

    Scalp and Hair Type

    Determine if you have a normal, dry, or oily scalp. The same goes for your hair. You may have a combination of two different types, i.e., an oily scalp and dry hair, or a dry scalp with oily hair. It is an important step when it comes to choosing shampoos or any other hair product for that matter because different types have different requirements.

    Sharing a few tips on choosing the right shampoo, our contributor Eliza Penida says, “For low-porosity hair (hair that doesn’t absorb moisture quickly), a thicker consistency of shampoo will work best. You can work this in until the hair and scalp are fully saturated. For high-porosity hair (hair that absorbs quickly), a thinner consistency will suffice and a thicker consistency may need to be diluted so as to not oversaturate the strands.”

    Ingredients

    When choosing the best shampoo for your hair, avoid harsh ingredients like citric acid and sodium chloride that can strip away your hair color. Look for what caters to your specific hair needs. Colored hair is prone to weakness and damage. Therefore, opt for ingredients like argan oil, amino acids, keratin, plant proteins (including wheat protein), etc., to help strengthen your hair follicles and repair damage. For scalp-soothing properties, seek ingredients like aloe vera and colloidal oats. Don't forget to check for shine-inducing ingredients like glycerin, panthenol, silicones, and natural oils. 

    Sulfate-free Formula

    Look for an explicit mention of "sulfate-free" on the shampoo's label. If it is not mentioned, you may also check the ingredient list for sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). 

    Color Protection

    A shampoo's formulation dictates its impact on the hair. You must ensure that the shampoo you are picking is specifically formulated for color protection, since such a shampoo would be more gentle and would have ingredients that help sustain the color. Don’t forget to invest in a serum that provides UV protection to aid your color-protectant shampoo.

    Cleansing Action

    Not all shampoos are built the same. Some are moisturizing, while others are clarifying. Pick the one that best suits your needs. Some sulfate-free shampoos because of their mild cleansing action cannot clear scalp build-up. In such a case, invest in another gentle clarifying shampoo to be used once a week.

    Price & Value

    Compare the price and the quantity of the shampoo to ensure that you are getting the best value. Some shampoos are more expensive because of the larger size but you are also getting more shampoo. Some may be expensive, and the quantity would be less. Perhaps only a little amount is needed for them to work and would last a long time, covering the extra cost.

    Customer Reviews

    Read the reviews and feedback from users who have colored hair and/or the same hair concerns as you have to gain better insights into the effectiveness of the shampoo in protecting the color and its overall performance.

    After taking a look at the factors to consider before buying the best sulfate-free shampoo for colored hair, take a look at how you can effectively use it for the best results.

    How to Use Sulfate-free Shampoos Effectively?

    Here is how you can use sulfate-free shampoos effectively - 

    - Soak your colored hair and scalp with water so that they are completely saturated. 

    - Apply your sulfate-free shampoo to the hair, roots, and along the lengths. 

    - Massage your scalp and allow the shampoo to work its magic for 1-2 minutes. 

    - Add more water to create extra lather.

    - Rinse completely and dry your hair using a microfiber towel.

    Contributor: Eliza Pineda, In-house hair expert at Mayraki Professional

    Conclusion

    Sulfates are not the bad guys per se, but they can pose a threat to color-treated hair, leading to the emergence of sulfate-free shampoos. The best sulfate-free shampoos for colored hair protect the vibrancy of hair color and ensure its longevity, allowing you to make the most of your salon visit. "Sulfate-free" is not merely a buzzword but a revolution. With their gentle cleansing action and conditioning properties, these shampoos become an essential part of the haircare routine for color-treated hair. Besides, the Maple Holistics Tea Tree Shampoo is our favorite for its gentle formula that is also suitable for sensitive scalps. Having said that, with our handpicked recommendations, get ready to dazzle with a luscious and lasting color for weeks to come.

    FAQ's

    What is the safest sulfate-free shampoo for color-treated hair?
    Haircare is subjective. So, the safest sulfate-free shampoo for color-treated hair is the one that works best for you. You may choose from Redken Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo, Nexxus Color Assure Shampoo, or the Pureology Strength Cure Shampoo among others for optimal results.
    Is any sulfate-free shampoo okay for colored hair?
    All shampoos are going to fade your hair color but sulfate-free shampoos are going to take their time, meaning, they won’t be as harsh or quick in terms of fading color, as their conventional counterparts. Love Beauty and Planet Blooming Color Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Pantene Illuminating Color Care Sulfate Free Shampoo are two of the best options.
    Can sulfate-free shampoos still effectively clean my hair and scalp?
    Yes, sulfate-free shampoos can still effectively clean your hair and scalp.
    Do sulfate-free shampoos produce a rich lather like regular shampoos?
    No, sulfate-free shampoos don’t produce a rich lather like regular shampoos.
    Will sulfate-free shampoos weigh down my hair or make it feel greasy?
    It will depend upon the ingredients and formulation of the shampoo.
    How often should I use sulfate-free shampoo for colored hair?
    The number of times you use a sulfate-free shampoo for colored hair must depend on your individual hair needs and requirements.
    Are sulfate-free shampoos safe for sensitive scalps?
    Yes, sulfate-free shampoos are largely safe for sensitive scalps.
    How do you moisturize color-treated hair?
    You can moisturize color-treated hair by opting for a sulfate-free shampoo with a gentler cleanse and moisturizing formula. You can also try deep conditioning masks.

    Why Trust Pinkvilla

    Alvira, the author, is truly passionate about everything haircare. She dedicates her time to exploring the ever-changing world of haircare products and technologies. As a certified hair care expert, she recognizes the soaring popularity of colored hair and also the desire to prevent it from fading. So, she took it upon herself to curate a list of the best sulfate-free shampoos for colored hair designed to protect color vibrancy and longevity, while safeguarding hair health.

    Our product experts study the specifications of every product we suggest and try them out to bring what’s proven to be worthy of your money, time, and energy. We also have subject matter experts from various fields like Fashion, Skincare, Haircare, Home Decor, and Health & Fitness onboard to make sure our suggestions are credible and trustworthy. You can trust Pinkvilla to be your faithful shopping guide for all the right reasons!

    Author BIO
    reviewer
    Alvira Dsouza
    Hair Expert

    With a keen eye for detail and a passion for hairstyling, Alvira is a certified Hair Expert who brings the latest tre More