Shampoos: The Good, The Bad, and The Undecided

We spend a significant amount of time on dreadlock forums and one of the most common question we see people asking is “Is –[insert product brand/name here]– good to use on dreads?”

Well, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of shampoos that we either think are good, bad, OR we’re undecided on. The “undecided” list are shampoos that are in something of a queue for us to test out and get back to you about!

(Check out the page about Shampoos & Soaps to learn more about WHY these products are or aren’t recommended.) So here they are:

The Good The Bad The Undecided

The Good:

So, ALL of that said, here is a list of shampoos that we DO recommend (the first two we carry at our studio for purchase). PLEASE NOTE that each item in this list is a link to where it can be purchased online, so simply click on the orange text for more information on each product:

1) Vital Goods Dreadlock Shampoo(s) (bar OR liquid)
2) My Tangled Knots (foaming liquid)
3) Sundari Creations (clay-based bars)
4) VooDoo Soaps and Beads (bar)
5) Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo (liquid; available at Trader Joe’s)
6) Weird Sistas LokkBlokk (bar)
7) DreadHeadHQ Dread Soap (liquid and ‘organic’ — contains SLES)
8) California Baby Tea Tree Lavender Shampoo (liquid; available at Target)
9) Pure Coconut Oil Soap (liquid)
10) Dreads UK Original Forumla Shampoo (liquid) (Not yet available for online sale!)
11) Alaffia African Black Soap (liquid; available at Whole Foods)
12) Shea Moisture Deep Cleansing Shampoo (liquid; available at Target)
13) Dread Empire Shampoos (bar OR liquid)
14) Dollylocks Shampoo (liquid OR bar)
15) Tropical Traditions Foaming Coconut Oil Soap (foaming liquid)
16) California Baby (liquid; available at Target)

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The Bad:

In the course of doing what we do we’ve come across a LOT of shampoos and soaps that some folks use that, on the other hand, we do NOT recommend for one reason or another. Here is an ever-growing list of RED-FLAGGED shampoos/soaps that that we DO NOT recommend using on dreadlocks. We add to this list regularly, so check back as needed! (Check out the page about Shampoos & Soaps to learn more about WHY these products are not recommended.)

  • Dr. Bronner’s (liquid OR bars; see note below; if you’re dead on using it, please consider bars over liquid as they are less likely to cause issues)*
  • Jamaican Mango Lime products
  • Knotty Boy (see note below)**
  • Organix brand shampoos
  • Suave brand shampoos (including their Daily Clarifying shampoo!)
  • Hempz brand shampoos
  • Herbal Essences brand shampoos
  • Garnier Fructis brand shampoos (including their “Pure & Clean” shampoo!)
  • Wen
  • Hair One
  • Head & Shoulders
  • Selsun Blue
  • T-Gel
  • The shampoos from www.dreadlockshampoo.com***
  • Maylee’s Garden***
  • Ivory bar soap
  • Dover bar soap
  • Pantene Pro-V
  • Alberto Balsam Shampoos (and conditioners)
  • (… AND MANY, MANY MORE!!!!)

*Regarding Dr. Bronner’s: You will no doubt read on MANY dreadlock websites that Dr. Bronner’s is recommended. There are many people out there who swear by it, but we can’t stress enough that you should NOT use it for your dreadlocks! It’s a great soap for many other things, just not dreadlocks! If you are reading this is and you already use it and you can’t believe we would suggest someone not use it, we know we will not persuade everyone. If we can’t dissuade you, we encourage you to at least be sure you are diluting it properly. For use on dreadlocks the proper dilution ratio is only 1 part soap to 12 parts water. If you are in a pinch and you absolutely MUST use something different because none of the above (or other safe shampoo according to the criteria above) is available it won’t destroy your dreadlocks, BUT you should plan to do a wax/oil removal cleanse as soon as possible (and should do one also before switching to a different, safer shampoo from Dr. Bronner’s as well so you are starting over “clean”.).

**Regarding Knotty Boy: Knotty Boy is a product line I have struggled with because if you go by the ingredient list alone then, yes, it should be residue-free.HOWEVER, I have seen enough clients and people who use it to see and feel firsthand that it does NOT rinse out clean for all folks. The limited research I just did quickly suggested that its the sodium borate (thickening agent) they use in their liquid shampoo that is likely causing build-up as it is not entirely water soluble. Typically the folks I see problems in are those that use the liquid shampoo rather than the bar shampoo so that matches up to what I’ve seen.

For folks with whom I’ve seen an issue with them using the Knotty Boy bar, the likely cause is that they use castor bean oil and olive oils in their bars. Castor oil is a humectant which means it attracts and can trap moisture in the hair which can have a lubricating effect. Olive oil has a tendency to have a greasy feeling as well which can have a lubricating effect as well. Because I can’t possibly determine why it leaves residue for some and not others, I simply can’t recommend it and generally suggest to steer clear.

*** In regards to the shampoos from dreadlockshampoo.com and Maylee’s Garden shampoo bars, well, first of all let me (Amy) explain my method for testing new shampoos. I am extremely paranoid about residue build up and, therefore, extremely cautious about trying anything new. Before I’ll even consider using it on my dreadlocks I first use it as a body wash. I have a couple small children and, therefore, quite a collection of bath toys in the bottom of my tub. (I’m coming around to a point here, I promise, LOL.) If a shampoo leaves a visible build-up on the bath toys in the tub I don’t even want to think about the grime it would have left behind in my locks. If, and only if, a shampoo passes this initial test will I move onto the next step of using it on my locks. (This process means doing a deep cleanse prior to trying it, using the shampoo for at least 4 weeks, and doing another deep cleanse to see what, if anything, the shampoo left behind in my locks.) And for all you folks paying attention and doing my research, I happen to know I don’t NOT have hard water so the residue can’t be blamed on that!

The dreadlockshampoo.com bars did not even pass the initial body wash test and left a VERY visible build-up. I LOVE the smell of it and still use it occasionally as a body wash, but I will never let it touch my hair!

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The Undecided:

  • Dr. Wood’s Castile Soap
  • Kirk’s Castile Soap
  • Lush Shampoo (bars)
  • Nature’s Gate Shampoos
  • (… AND MORE!!!)

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