Straightening shampoo won’t take the place of your trusty flat iron, but it will cut your straightening time in half and leave your locks silky and sleek. Find out how it works and see our top 7 products in this guide.
Why Buy Straightening Shampoo?
Let’s get a few things straight. For those of us with curly, wavy, coarse, or frizzy hair, achieving that pin-straight, sleek look with a flat iron alone is next to impossible.
We need an army of frizz-fighting serums, moisturizing conditioners, heat protectant, and multiple passes with a super-heated flat iron to get hair that’s somewhat straight – until the humidity gets to us. It’s incredibly frustrating!
Many of us abandon straightening altogether when we find it’s too hard to get the look we want. This, my friends, is where straightening shampoo makes a gallant entrance.
It’s a game-changer if you want shiny, sleek locks with no frizz in sight. A good straightening shampoo turns hard-to-straighten hair into smooth, sleek tresses that have plenty of slip and shine.
But understanding how straightening shampoo works – and what it will and won’t do for your hair – is important before you buy a bottle to try. We’re giving it to you straight in this guide.
You’ll learn what straightening shampoo is, effective ingredients to look for in these shampoos, what kind of results you can expect when using it, and the seven best products on the market right now.
We’ll also debunk a few misconceptions about what straightening shampoo does for curly or wavy hair. So, what are you waiting for? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about these sleek-ifying shampoos.
What Is Straightening Shampoo?
Straightening shampoo is a general name given to shampoos that are formulated to make hair smoother, sleeker, and shinier as a preparation step before flat ironing. These shampoos may not actually straighten wavy or curly hair, but they enhance your results when using a flat iron.
A good straightening shampoo…
- Reduces frizz and flyaways
- Loosens waves and curls
- Eliminates tangles and makes hair easier to brush
- Reduces flat iron styling time
- Reduces required styling temperature
- Increases shine and slip
- Makes flat iron results last longer
Straightening shampoos should be a pre-styling step to make your hair easier to flat iron in less time. They will enhance your results, giving you sleeker, straighter hair without frizz or tangles.
Since these shampoos make flat ironing more effective, you can get better results by using a more gentle, lower temperature setting on your flat iron. This prevents a lot of heat damage to your locks!
Straightening shampoo can even be used to help maintain the results of chemically straightened hair as long (as they don’t contain sulfates or sodium chloride).
How Straightening Shampoo Works
Straightening shampoos work by coating your hair with smoothing polymers, silicones, and moisturizing ingredients that bind to the hair. Unlike regular shampoo, straightening shampoo doesn’t fully rinse out.
The conditioning and smoothing ingredients in these shampoos form a protective lightweight coating on the hair that isn’t disturbed by rinsing.
The smoothing silicones, moisturizers, and polymers in straightening shampoos not only create a coating with lots of slip (preventing tangles) – they also help gently weigh strands down to prevent pesky frizz and flyaways.
That gentle but substantial weight on each strand also prevents waves and curls from fully taking on their natural shape. The result is a much looser wave or curl.
The coating also offers good heat protection for your locks when you blow-dry and flat iron your hair.
If you have very fine hair, you’ll have to be a little more careful in your search for a good straightening shampoo. Since they lightly coat the hair with silicones and heavy conditioning ingredients, fine hair is at risk of being weighed down. We found a great straightening shampoo that is lightweight enough for fine hair – you’ll see it below in our product roundup!
You’ll find ingredients like guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, keratin, silicone quaternium (like quaternium-80 or polyquaternium-7), ceramides, and natural conditioning ingredients like shea butter and marula oil in straightening shampoos.
These ingredients provide intense conditioning, seal moisture into strands, or create additional slip in the hair. That’s what makes it such a valuable pre-flat iron step!
Does Straightening Shampoo Straighten Curly Hair?
Without flat ironing, no, straightening shampoo does not straighten curly hair. It’s possible for straightening shampoo to straighten slightly wavy hair (type 2A).
But the most likely result is looser waves that require less time to flat iron. Straightening shampoo won’t straighten your hair, but it will make your hair so much easier to straighten.
It’s important to have the right expectations before you try one of these products. If you go in expecting results similar to a Brazilian straightening treatment, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
But if you go in expecting it to cut your flat iron styling time in half (or less!), make your hair smoother and shinier, and help you achieve the absolute sleekest look with a flat iron, you’re going to love this stuff.
Let’s look at the best products on the market.
7 Best Straightening Shampoos
We’ve selected the best straightening shampoos in 7 categories. We found the top products in the following categories:
- Best Budget-Friendly – OGX Ever Straightening & Brazilian Keratin Therapy Shampoo
- Best Professional Quality – MATRIX Total Results Mega Sleek Shampoo
- Best Premium Brand – Acure Organics Coconut Straightening Shampoo
- Best at Fighting Frizz – John Frieda Frizz Ease Flawlessly Straight Shampoo
- Best Overall Value – Pantene Argan Oil Shampoo
- Best for Fine Hair – GIOVANNI 2chic Ultra-Sleek Straightening Shampoo
- Best for Coarse Hair – TRESemmé Keratin Smooth With Marula Oil
We looked at the ingredients, product formulations, customer reviews, and results to choose the best smoothing shampoos in each category.
1. Best Budget-Friendly Straightening Shampoo
Our favorite budget-friendly pick is OGX Ever Straightening + Brazilian Keratin Therapy Smoothing Shampoo. OGX makes many affordably priced hair products, and we’ve never tried one that we didn’t like.
This straightening shampoo is your best option if you’re on a budget and want to achieve straighter, smoother hair. It’s under $6!
The formula contains keratin (protein) to smooth over any gaps in your hair structure to make hair smoother and stronger. It also contains moisturizing natural ingredients like cocoa butter, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
The result is shiny, loosened curls and waves resistant to tangles and frizz. It’s sulfate-free and paraben-free, so you can use it if you’ve had a chemical straightening treatment. Did we mention that it smells ah-mazing?
2. Best Professional Straightening Shampoo
We’re loving MATRIX Total Results Mega Sleek Shampoo for salon-quality results that last for days. This shampoo is made by Matrix, one of the leading professional hair care companies in the U.S. And you can definitely tell it’s a quality product.
Mega Sleek eliminates frizz like a champ, increases shine, reduces tangles, and enables you to achieve super-straight locks in less time. It contains shea butter to condition and moisturize your hair.
Then, it seals it in with lightweight silicones and polymers that aren’t easily rinsed out. Because it’s a professional, salon-quality product, this one contains allll the silicones, polymers, and conditioning ingredients.
Yes, there are sulfates – it’s what helps the shampoo lather up reliably. It also contains sodium chloride. So do not use this shampoo if you’re sensitive to sulfates or have had a recent chemical straightening treatment!
3. Best Premium Straightening Shampoo
If you’re looking for a premium brand that doesn’t use sulfates, parabens, silicones, or anything unnatural, check out Acure Organics Simply Smoothing Coconut & Marula Shampoo.
It is sulfate-free, paraben-free, and phthalate-free. It also contains no synthetic fragrances, petroleum, PEG, or silicones. You might like the sound of that but wonder if it’s still effective without the ingredients many of the leading shampoos have.
Because this formula replaces those “nasties” with natural alternatives, it is surprisingly effective. It still coats the hair, adds shine, reduces tangles and frizz.
The formula is heavy enough to ensure there’s no frizz or flyaways in sight, but not so heavy that it’ll make your hair look greasy. Still, it’s best for medium to coarse hair.
4. Best Frizz-Fighting Straightening Shampoo
Curly girls, you know that Frizz Ease is not a product but a way of LIFE. Well, the natural next step is using John Frieda Frizz Ease Flawlessly Straight Shampoo as your first line of frizz defense!
It works like the Frizz Ease serum, but it penetrates and coats the hair to start combating frizz from the moment you rinse your shampoo out.
The lightweight silicone and polymer ingredients form a thin coating over each strand that won’t rinse out easily. Then, moisturizing ingredients are sealed into the hair shaft to fight frizz and prevent flyaways.
When you run a flat iron over your hair after using Frizz Ease Flawlessly Straight Shampoo, you’re going to notice that it takes fewer passes over each section to achieve pin-straight hair. It also reduces the time you’ll spend flat ironing.
5. Best Value Straightening Shampoo
Looking for a straightening shampoo that is affordable, comes in a larger bottle, and gives excellent results? Look no further than Pantene Smooth and Sleek Argan Oil Shampoo.
This shampoo can be found at almost any store that sells hair care products, and it’s wildly popular. It’s the perfect pre-flat iron prep step. It reduces frizz, loosens wave and curl, and gives hair plenty of slip for tangle-free flat ironing.
Smooth and Sleek shampoo does weigh the hair down a bit, so ladies with fine hair should avoid it. But if you have medium or coarse textured hair, this is 100% what you need. It literally smells like flowers, wild berries, and vanilla cream. Luscious!
6. Best Straightening Shampoo for Fine Hair
Looking for a straightening shampoo when you have fine hair can be a frustrating thing. Most of these shampoos are heavy formulas that make fine hair look greasy, weighed down, and lifeless.
We finally discovered GIOVANNI 2chic Ultra-Sleek Shampoo, and it is the perfect straightening shampoo for fine or oily hair!
Get this: 2chic Ultra-Sleek shampoo formula cleanses oil from the scalp to keep things lightweight while providing lots of moisture to ends, so they don’t dry out.
Then, the keratin proteins and nourishing vitamins and oils help seal in healthy moisture to prevent frizz and flyaways.
You won’t get that slippy, coated feeling with this straightening shampoo, but you don’t want that anyway if you have fine hair. It’s the perfect pre-flat iron step.
This one is color-safe and sulfate-free (also vegan friendly and cruelty-free), so it’s safe for most people to use. Customers rate it positively, giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars. You can’t miss out on this if you have fine hair!
7. Best Straightening Shampoo for Coarse Hair
If you have coarse hair, of course, you need a good straightening shampoo that softens the texture, adds shine, cuts out frizz, and makes hair easier to straighten.
That’s why you need to try TRESemmé Keratin Smooth with Marula Oil Pro Collection Shampoo. Keratin, one of the main ingredients, is a great smoothing protein to create a more even surface on every strand.
Combined with marula oil, a great moisturizing, and protective oil, you get hydrated hair with moisture sealed into every smooth strand.
No knots, no frizz, just soft and supple shiny locks that are ripe for straightening. After you use this shampoo and flat iron, you can expect the results to stick around for up to 3 days.
Do you hear me?? THREE DAYS of sleek, straight locks from one shampoo. We think every woman with coarse hair needs to try this smoothing shampoo.
It gets a solid 4.6 out of 5 stars from customers on Amazon, so this is a well-loved product! Definitely give it a try if you have coarse hair.
Before You Use Straightening Shampoo…
There are a few things you should know before you start using a straightening or smoothing shampoo. Here’s how you can get the best results and avoid damaging your hair in the process.
- Alternate with clarifying shampoo to avoid buildup. If you’re using straightening shampoo that leaves a silicone coating on the hair, you’re going to experience buildup eventually. But not if you take charge right away and alternate your straightening shampoo with a good clarifying shampoo! Once or twice a week, swap your smoothing shampoo for a clarifying one or an apple cider vinegar rinse to remove any silicone buildup and start fresh.
- Grab a good heat protectant. Yes, straightening shampoos can offer some heat protection benefits. But they’re not as protective as an actual heat protectant spray. You still need to spend a few bucks to grab a good heat protectant and ensure you thoroughly spray your hair before you blow-dry and flat iron it. Find a list of the best heat protectants here.
- Invest in a good flat iron. Straightening shampoos get you halfway there, but you’ll still need a good flat iron to completely transform your hair into sleek, straight locks. It should be able to reach the ideal temperature for your hair type without damaging it. We picked out the best flat irons for each hair type here.
- Combine with a straightening balm for ideal results. A good straightening balm will only enhance the results you get from using straightening shampoo. Many of the shampoos that made our list have matching straightening balms or serums in the product line. We really like Brazilian Blowout Thermal Straightening Balm if you’re looking for a tried-and-true favorite!
Straightening shampoos may not physically straighten wavy or curly hair, but they’re the best prep step you can take to get sleek, frizz-free straight locks with lots of shine.
If you struggle with frizz, dryness, flyaways, or hair that is hard to straighten, you really need a good straightening and smoothing shampoo in your product lineup.
Any of the shampoos on our list are great choices, but be sure to choose one that meets your hair’s specific needs.