The best shampoo for locs is formulated specifically for dreads. It also has good reviews and a well-established name. Read on to see our top 7 picks, their features, and what you should consider when buying each.
Maintaining natural hair is difficult enough, but locs need even more TLC. If your locs have a musty odor, are dry, or have an itchy scalp, it’s probably because you are using the wrong products for your hairstyle.
How to Choose the Best Shampoo for Locks
You already know that your locs act differently from natural hair. Therefore, your tightly wrapped and matted hair needs special attention, particularly with the products you choose. Any old shampoo won’t do in this situation. Instead, here’s how you go about picking the best shampoo for your dreadlocks.
Read Next: What Are Dreadlocks?
Look for Residue-Free Shampoos
One of the biggest problems with using ‘regular’ shampoo on locs is their residue. Matted hair is very good at absorbing ingredients like fragrance and oil. It doesn’t even matter how thoroughly you rinse your locks.
There’s a good chance that some residue from hair care products will be left behind. This residue coats the hair shaft and slows down the drying process. The result is likely dread rot, a condition that causes mold to grow in your locks.
You may notice a musty, mildew smell, especially when your hair is wet. For this reason, look for residue-free shampoos. Some of the ingredients that are likely to cause buildup in your locs include:
- Added fragrance
Notoriously, stay away from any products listing PEG or PPG ingredients. Usually, you’ll see the ingredient name starting with PEG or PPG. For example, you may see PEG-80 sorbitan laureate in the list of shampoo ingredients.F
Lastly, watch out for shampoos claiming to soften, moisturize, or otherwise make your hair easy to manage. These labels are dead giveaways that the shampoo may contain ingredients likely to leave residue in your locks.
Be Careful With Sulfates
Most shampoos use sulfates as a detergent. The word sulfate is short for a surface-acting agent. Without it, shampoos wouldn’t have cleansing power. Surfactants, another word for sulfates, change the surface water tension, removing oil and washing hair.
As such, not all sulfates are harmful. There are three main types of sulfates used in shampoos. Without getting too technical, these include Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS).
You want to choose shampoos that use Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) as the primary surfactant for our purposes. This ingredient is derived from natural plants like palm kernel and coconut. ALS is far more water-soluble than other sulfates, making it easier to rinse off your dreads.
Of course, you could avoid sulfates altogether and choose sulfate-free shampoos. This route is highly recommended if you have particularly dry or brittle hair, sensitive scalp, eczema, or colored dreadlocks. But, if you must use a sulfate shampoo, go for ALS.
Read Next: Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Watch Out for Organic Shampoos
The first instinct for most people is to choose a natural or organic shampoo for their dreads. But, many of the shampoos claiming to be made from all-natural ingredients are just clever marketing gimmicks.
This industry isn’t as regulated as you’d think. In many cases, organic means whatever the manufacturer thinks it means. Furthermore, not all organic ingredients are suitable for your locks. For example, beeswax can leave residue in your hair and attract lint, dirt, and other debris.
Instead, look for shampoos that contain natural oils such as argan oil, jojoba oil, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, rosemary oil, or coconut oil. These natural oils are great for reducing itchiness and dandruff, among other benefits.
Choose Shampoos Made for Dreadlocks
This tip may sound like a no-brainer. But, check that your shampoo is specifically formulated for dreadlocks. Ideally, the brand should have a good track record of catering to this market.
Be sure to read product reviews from real users to ensure that the product delivers on its promises. Also, just because a shampoo is designed for natural hair doesn’t mean that it addresses the specific needs of dreadlocks.
7 Best Shampoos for Locs
Now you know what goes into a great shampoo. But, choosing the best shampoo for locs isn’t always so straightforward. Each person has their own unique hair needs that the shampoo should address.
So, a personalized approach to picking your shampoo is your best bet. Below are our top recommendations for the best shampoos for locs based on different dreadlock needs.
Our Top Picks
- Best Locs for Removing Buildup – Jamaican Mango and Lime Tingle Dreadlock Shampoo
- Most Versatile Dreadlock Shampoo – Knotty Boy Dreadlock Shampoo
- Best No-Residue Locs Shampoo – Dreaded Head HQ Dread Soap
- Best Locs Shampoo & Conditioner Combo – Taliah Waajid Total Body Black Earth Shampoo & Conditioner
- Best Locs Shampoo for Baby Locs – Knotty Boy Dreadlocks Shampoo Bar
- Best Shampoo for Colored Loks – Dollylocks Nag Champa Dreadlock Shampoo
- Best Locs Shampoo for Brittle Hair – PURA D’OR Original Gold Labe
Jamaican Mango and Lime Tingle Dreadlock Shampoo
- Very effective for removing buildup
- Nice fragrance
- Soothing tingling sensation
- A great mix of natural ingredients
- Strips locs of color
- Not recommended for brittle hair
Almost everyone with dreadlocks will have to deal with buildup at some point in their journey. This Jamaican Mango and Lime Tingle Dreadlock Shampoo is a go-to option if you need to remove buildup from hair products. The shampoo uses old Jamaican recipes for long, strong, and healthy dreads.
The shampoo contains a good mix of natural ingredients, including Manuka honey, menthol extracts, and Moringa seed oil. Aside from eliminating buildup, the traditional Jamaican recipe helps relieve itching, seal moisture, and nourish the hair. This shampoo is the complete package for treating the most common dreadlock issues.
The shampoo also has a pleasant smell, which is a bonus. But, there are downsides to using this shampoo. The formulation contains sulfate, which can be harsh on brittle hair. Additionally, the shampoo removes color from your hair, despite claiming otherwise.
Overall, this is an excellent shampoo for removing buildup. I suggest using it occasionally when you need a good cleanse. Otherwise, the formulation may be a little harsh for your regular shampoo.
Knotty Boy Dreadlock Shampoo
- Doesn’t contain SLS
- Specially designed for dreadlocks
- Versatile for all hair types
- Great smell
- Not recommended for extremely sensitive scalps
Most dreadlock shampoos are designed for African American hair. But, this Knotty Boy Dreadlock Shampoo works for most hair types, including Caucasian hair. This shampoo even works for synthetic dreads. In addition, you can use this Knotty Boy as a body wash!
This shampoo also has a pleasant tingling sensation which is soothing for itchy scalps. It will leave your hair smelling minty fresh and doesn’t leave a residue. The formulation also includes the essential oils we like to see, including peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree.
On the downside, this shampoo is expensive compared to other similar products. Also, people with extremely sensitive scalps may not appreciate the tingling sensation. Otherwise, this is an excellent locs shampoo for most people.
Dreaded Head HQ Dread Soap
- Doesn’t leave product residue
- Odorless shampoo
- Rinses out easily for people with long, thick dreads
- Helps to lock hair faster
- Doesn’t have the tingling sensation that some people like
We already mentioned the best shampoo for removing residue. But, it is best to avoid residue accumulating in your locs in the first place. To this end, the Dreadedhead Dread Soap effectively cleans your dread, with no worries about leaving behind residue.
You can finally say goodbye to moisturizers and conditioners that slow down the locking process. This shampoo also doesn’t leave behind a scent if you’re worried about that kind of thing. This shampoo also lathers quickly and rinses out surprisingly quickly.
These characteristics are critical if you have long, thick dreads, which can be a hustle to clean and rinse thoroughly. Finally, this locs shampoo is an excellent option for people with oily hair. It will also help your hair lock faster, so don’t be afraid to use it on baby locks!
It is difficult to fault Dread Head HQ. But, if we had to pick something, this shampoo doesn’t have a smell. Many people like fresh-smelling dreads with a hint of peppermint or other fragrance. Also, it doesn’t have a tingling sensation, which many people associate with deep cleansing.
Taliah Waajid Total Body Black Earth Shampoo & Conditioner
- Softens unruly dreadlocks
- Great moisturizing properties
- Good for sensitive scalps
- May detangle dreadlocks
For the most part, conditioners are a big no-no in the dreadlocks world. Conditioners can loosen your locks. But, this doesn’t solve the problem of how to moisturize your hair. Taliah Waajid Total Body Shampoo & Conditioner is the answer to this catch-22.
This product is specially formulated by a natural hair expert and hairstylist, Taliah Waajid. The shampoo helps to thoroughly clean your dreads, while the conditioner ensures that your hair doesn’t dry out.
The shampoo and conditioner set is especially great for people with dense, coarse hair that is difficult to style. However, this product is designed for people with unruly dreadlocks. Otherwise, it could detangle your dreads.
Therefore, we suggest using this product with caution and only when you want to soften hard-to-manage dreads. But, overall, it is a great shampoo and conditioner combo for a particular and often under-served market.
Knotty Boy Dreadlocks Shampoo Bar
- Good for baby locs
- Has a pleasant smell
- Great mix of natural oil extracts
- May be difficult to use for longer and thicker dreads
Knotty Boy makes another appearance on this list, this time with a shampoo bar. This shampoo bar is specially formulated for locks, which is another plus in our books. Baby locs are complicated to care for. There’s always the risk of detangling when washing.
This Knotty Boy Shampoo Bar thoroughly cleans your baby locs and leaves them intact. The bar is also free from conditioners and other chemicals that can slow down the locking process.
You also get a great combination of natural ingredients, including peppermint, tea tree, and rosemary extracts. The only thing is don’t apply the soap directly to your hair.
Instead, rub the soap in your hands to create lather and then work it in your locks. The only downside is this shampoo bar can be challenging to use on thick, long dreads. Otherwise, it is an excellent choice if you’re just starting to grow your dreads.
Dollylocks Nag Champa Dreadlock Shampoo
- Excellent shampoo for mature locks
- Residue-free locs shampoo
- Contains a great mix of natural ingredients
- Doesn’t lather up as much, so it is difficult to tell how much shampoo you need
Caring for colored dreads can be difficult. Most lock shampoos also remove the color from your hair. But, this Dollylocks Nag Champa Shampoo cleanses your locs and leaves your beautiful color intact.
It has an excellent mix of natural ingredients, including grapefruit seed extract, castor bean oil, olive oil, and almond oil. This Dollylocks shampoo also smells great. It smells surprisingly similar to Nag Champa, which is incredible.
If you’re already skeptical, this shampoo won’t leave any residue on your hair. It also has excellent moisturizing qualities. It’s an exceptional choice for people with dry hair. The only complaint is that this shampoo doesn’t lather up as much as regular shampoo.
This can make it challenging to work out how much product to use in your hair. Otherwise, it smells great, doesn’t leave residue, and works incredibly well for mature locks.
PURA D’OR Original Gold Label
- Helps restore thinning hair
- Soothes sensitive scalps
- Helps to strengthen damaged hair
- May leave some residue
First, a disclaimer. This shampoo isn’t primarily designed for locks. But, it is one of the best shampoos you can use if you have particularly brittle hair. Also, it doesn’t contain any sulfates; putting it right up there with shampoos that are specially formulated for dreads.
This shampoo contains extracts designed to rejuvenate thinning hair. As a result, you can expect to see less breakage and fuller, thicker hair when you start using this shampoo. The shampoo also helps with common dreadlocks problems, including dandruff and folliculitis.
Similarly, we recommend this shampoo for people with sensitive scalps. It contains natural ingredients to soothe your scalp, including pumpkin seed oil and black cumin.
Another reason to recommend this shampoo is it doesn’t leave much residue for ‘regular’ shampoo. On the downside, this PURA D’OR Shampoo is a little pricey. Also, the shampoo is only a good option for combating thinning. Therefore, we don’t recommend it as your main locs shampoo.
So, What’s the Best Shampoo for Locs?
Hopefully, you’ll have found at least one shampoo that ticks all the boxes for your situation. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect locs shampoo. There’s only the ideal shampoo for your scenario.
Also, don’t be afraid to stock up and use a couple of different products. Some days your hair will need a deep cleanse to remove product residue. Other days, you just need a quick wash before going out. It is useful to have a few different shampoos handy for the kind of day you’re having.