What is Low Poo Shampoo & is it Curly Girl Approved?

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Low poo shampoo is shampoo which is free from sulphate but may still contain other surfactants to clean the hair. Not all low poo shampoo products are Curly Girl approved. In this post I explain exactly what low poo is and how to find good low poo shampoos that are approved for the Curly Girl Method, and suitable for all hair types.

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What Exactly is Low Poo Shampoo?

Low Poo Shampoo is shampoo that is free from sulphates such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). These are anionic surfactants which cause your shampoo products to create a lot of lather. They are effective cleaning agents and will leave your hair squeaky clean.

Whilst sulphates may clean your hair well they can also strip away the hair’s natural oils leaving it more prone to damage. Using sulphates regularly on your hair can leave your hair dry and your scalp irritated. Low poo shampoos are a good choice if your hair has become dehydrated and lacking in moisture.

If you are following the Curly Girl Method however using a low poo shampoo may not be the answer. Although low poo shampoos are free from sulphates, they usually contain other surfactants and ingredients which may not be curly girl approved.

There are four different types of surfactant: anionic, cationic, nonionic and amphoteric. The table below further explains the different types and what they are generally used for in hair care.

Types of Surfactant

Type of SurfactantCharge it CarriesExamplesUse in Hair Care
AnionicCarries a negative charge when ionisedSodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Olefin SulfonateProvide lather and detergency in the shampoo.  This group of surfactants produces the most lather. Hair is left squeaky clean.
CationicCarries a positive charge when ionisedBenzalkonium, Benzethonium, Methylbenzethonium, CetylpyridiniumMostly used in conditioners as they are not easily removed from rinsing and form the basis of conditioning. They produce mild/low lather.
NonionicHas no charge to the moleculeCocamide MEA, Coco glucosidePrimarily used to modify the level of foam and aid in solubility
AmphotericCarries both positive and negative charges when ionisedCocamido propyl betaine, Cocamido betaineVery mild and often used in low poo shampoo or baby shampoos. Decreases the irritancy of a formula and increases the quality of lather. They produce some lather.

Which Surfactants are in Low Poo Shampoo?

The main surfactants used in Low Poo tend to be amphoteric surfactants which are mild cleansers and produce some but low amounts of lather. Having said that there are some Low Poo Shampoos such as the Maui Moisture Hair Thickening Bamboo Fiber Shampoo (pictured above) which is sulphate free but contains the anionic surfactant Olefin Sulfonate.

Olefin Sulfonate is often used as an alternative to SLS or SLES. It is not a sulphate, but is still an anionic surfactant which can dry the hair and strip the hair of its natural oils. It also causes the shampoo to lather.

Lather is not Part of the Curly Girl Method

The Curly Girl Method does not recommend using shampoos that lather since they usually cause the hair to become dry and frizzy, as well as strip moisture from the scalp.

Removing the sulphates from a shampoo means it won’t lather as much as a regular shampoo, but it will still form some lather due to the other surfactants in the formula.

Other Non Curly Girl Approved Ingredients in Low Poo Shampoos

As well as containing ingredients that cause lather, many low poo shampoos also contain lots of conditioning ingredients to hide the drying effects of the surfactants. Some of these conditioning ingredients can build up on the hair, and are not Curly Girl approved.

Which Low Poo Shampoos are Curly Girl Approved?

The Curly Girl Method recommends that a conditioning cleanser should be used instead of a shampoo. This product, also known as a co wash, should be free from sulphates, silicones, alcohols, waxes, non-natural oils and other non-soluble ingredients.

When it comes to alcohol, hydrating alcohols are allowed. These include cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, lauryl alcohol, and behenyl alcohol.

Curly Girl approved shampoo products use more natural ingredients to clean the hair such as aloe vera, essential oils, coconut oil, avocado oil, shea butter, soothing chamomile and an apple cider vinegar rinse.

There are some good low poo shampoos available which are curly girl approved and free from all harsh surfactants. I have listed below my top 5 recommended low poo shampoos that are all curly girl approved.

5 Best Curly Girl Approved Loo Poo Shampoos!

Imbue Sulphate Free Shampoo – Curly Girl Compliant

This hydrating sulfate free shampoo can be used on all hair types and is packed with natural oils and butters including coconut and cupuaçu. The formula is vegan and free from silicones, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, drying alcohols, mineral oils, and mineral waxes.

This shampoo moisturises the hair and helps to create definition in your curls. It works for any curl type including wavy hair. If you have frizzy hair this is a good choice to replace your traditional shampoo since it’s full of natural ingredients that are deeply moisturising and hydrating to the hair.

The formula contains cupuaçu which is rich in vitamin C, and vitamins B1, B2, B3, as well as fatty acids and amino acids. Cupuaçu butter is good for nourishing the hair follicles and encouraging healthy growth. Low poo shampoo products with cupuaçu butter are popular among curly-haired people since cupuaçu seals moisture into the hair strands, making curls more defined and reducing frizz.

Imbue Curl Liberating Sulphate Free Shampoo - Vegan and Curly Girl Compliant, 400ml
  • A hydrating sulphate-free cleanser that lifts your build-up without stripping
  • Suitable for daily use our curl liberating sulphate free shampoo is the foundation of your wash day,...
  • Gently cleanses hair and scalp whilst nourishing with plant oils for definition and shine
  • Always: Vegan and curly girl friendly, with natural oils or butters. Never: contains oil based...
  • Massage into a wet scalp and rinse thoroughly, letting the suds glide through to the ends

Last update on 2021-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Sulphate Free Co-Wash

This is a lovely creamy cleanser which gently removes excess oil and dirt from the hair, as well as heavy product build up. It is recommended for all hair types including curly, coily or wavy hair.

The formula contains pure shea butter which is extremely moisturising and excellent for dry hair and maintaining good scalp health. Shea butter is composed of five types of fatty acid: palmitic, stearic, oleic, linoleic, and arachidic, which all help to make the hair less frizzy and more hydrated and shiny. This is a good choice if your hair porosity is low since your hair will need extra moisture.

If you live in a hard water area (like most of the UK) you will need a shampoo which removes mineral build up. This is because hard water can leaves minerals like calcium and magnesium on the hair, making it look dull. The Cantu Shea Butter co-wash is a good low poo shampoo for removing residue from hard water.

Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Conditioning Co-Wash, 10 Ounce by Cantu
  • Cantu Shea Butter for Natural Hair Conditioning Co-Wash, 10 Ounce by Cantu
  • (1 Pack)

Last update on 2021-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

As I Am Coconut Sulphate Free CoWash

The As I Am Coconut CoWash is one of my favourite low poo shampoos to use as part of the Curyl Girl Method. It is a light conditioning cream, formulated with coconut oil and castor oil. It’s very easy to spread throughout the hair and the best shampoo for detangling.

If you have longer hair you may find this is the best low shampoo for you since it’s very easy to distribute along the hair strands. It also works for straight hair if you just need a gentle low poo shampoo to remove residue build up on the hair.

As I Am Coconut CoWash Cleansing Conditioner 16 oz./454 g
  • Cleanses hair
  • Maintains curls and coils
  • Light conditioning cream
  • Promotes hair growth
  • 454g/16oz Tub

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Jessicurl Sulphate Free Hair Cleansing Cream

The Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream is another good low poo alternative to your normal shampoo. It is free from harsh detergents and will help to remove product build-up. This product is be better suited to thicker, drier hair types that need more moisture.

The formula contains Cocamidopropyl Betaine which is derived from coconut oil and is effective at softening and moisturising the hair, as well as helping to reduce static.

This shampoo also contains avocado oil which is good if you have greasy hair. Avocado oil is good for stimulating blood flow in the scalp, cleansing blocked hair follicles and removing excess oil and grease from the hair. For the best results make sure you apply to sopping wet hair and massage the product well into the scalp.

Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream, 8 Fluid Ounce
  • A gentle, moisturizing cleanser that doesn't create tons of lather but will clean your hair and...
  • It's best suited for thicker, drier hair types that need more moisture, and is also safe for color...
  • No fragrance added

Last update on 2021-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Activilong Acticurl Hydra Sulphate Free Gentle Co-Wash

My final recommendation is the Activilong Acticurl Hydra Co-Wash Gentle Cleansing Cream. It is suitable for all hair types and packed with natural ingredients including Aloe Vera and Pitaya which is the fruit of several different cactus species. Pitaya is rich in vitamin C and helps to strengthen the hair fibre and increase its resilience.

If your hair has become brittle and prone to breakage this would be a good replacement to your regular shampoo. If you have low porosity hair and require extra moisture this low-poo shampoo contains humectants like Glycerin to restore essential moisture to your hair.

Activilong Acticurl Hydra Co-Wash Gentle Cleansing Cream Pitaya Glycerin Aloe Vera 240 ml
  • ACTICURL Co Wash is a mild non-foaming cleansing cream for daily use
  • Its innovative and 98 % natural formula cleans the hair gently without attacking the hair fibre
  • The cream can be used on its own and does not require the use of shampoo and a conditioner
  • For all curl types. 98 % Natural origin. NO Paraben, silicone, sodium laureth sulfates, or mineral...

Last update on 2021-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Final Thoughts on the Curly Girl Method

The Curly Girl Method is a method of looking after curly hair that originated from the curly girl handbook written by Lorraine Massey. If you haven’t already read the book it’s available to buy on Amazon.

Curly Girl, the Handbook
  • Massey, Lorraine (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 10/18/2021 (Publication Date) - Workman (Publisher)

Last update on 2021-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Curly Girl method is a unique approach that involves using the right gels and conditioners on your hair and removing anything that could dry or damage your hair from your haircare routine. If you wanted to start the method you should throw away your regular commercial shampoo and start investing in hair products that are more natural.

All hair care products recommended in the Curly Girl approach are sulfate free and don’t contain any harsh ingredients that could either dry or build up on the hair. You start by doing one final wash with a clarifying shampoo, to remove any product residue, before beginning your new haircare routine.

The low poo method is not sufficient, as this post has demonstrated, if you want to following the CG method strictly.

Are you following the Curly Girl Method? Have you tried any of these shampoos? Please leave me a comment below and let me know how you got on!

This post was all about Low Poo Shampoo


Olivia Herlihy

Olivia is the owner of UK Beauty Room and founder three other successful websites. She gained an online following after creating a natural haircare routine which completely transformed her hair. Olivia has since written an eBook on Ayurvedic hair care to help others use the same formula to improve their own hair.

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