Cleansers are a much contested product category in the curly world. Notorious for their tendency to strip the hair of its natural oils, leaving strands feeling dry and brittle, many curly community members have chosen to forego shampoos in their regimen entirely (known as the no-poo method ). Others find workarounds such as using cleansing conditioners and infrequent clarifiers. We know the risks associated with a bad shampoo experience, just ask our editor Nikki, who had to involuntarily big chop her hair after a run-in with a cheap shampoo and a bad matting situation. So we took great care in testing the best cleansers on the market for every curl pattern.

Every year in the NaturallyCurly offices, the Editors spend months diligently testing all of the new releases, the old tried and true Holy Grails, and the new-to-us products that we receive from over a hundred different brands. As you can imagine, the testing gets pretty intense. Our team of 13 editors, ranging in hair type from Type 2a-4c, divide into groups of wavy, curly, curly coily, and coily and passionately deliberate on the standout products that have earned their spot on our crowded bathroom shelves. In some cases the winners have dethroned our Holy Grails, while others have entered the Hall of Fame for products that win year after year.

What we look for

Here are a few (but not all) of the criteria we used to make our decision:

  • Does the product cleanse my hair of buildup without leaving it feeling stripped or dry?
  • Would the product replace your Holy Grail product in that category?
  • Ingredients
  • Does the product do what the packaging claims it will do?
  • Does the product have added benefits not listed? What are they?
  • Ease of use and product distribution
  • Packaging and product functionality
  • Innovation
  • Scent

If you're on the search for a cleanser that will work for your curl pattern, check out our 2016 Editors' Choice award winners - and what we loved about them.

Best Shampoo

Wavy - Honey Baby Naturals Honey Child Moisture & Scalp Balance Gentle Shampoo

This sulfate-free shampoo keeps my hair moisturized, and soft. Plus, I love all the natural ingredients it contains. - Julissa, Type 2b

Curly - Briogeo Rosarco Reparative Shampoo

This is a luxurious shampoo that cleanses without stripping my hair. I love the smell! - Jamie, Type 3b

Curly Coily - Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream

This cleansing cream was gentle, has great ingredients, and smell amazing. It's doesn't lather. It's also really moisturizing. I wasn't sure at first if it was a conditioner or a cleanser. I didn't think I could have both. - Nikki, Type 3c

Coily - Jessicurl Gentle Lather Shampoo

Jessicurl Gentle Lather Shampoo is great for cleansing the hair and scalp without worrying about tangles. The lather is not overwhelming, so it does not take long to rinse out and your curls are left clean without feeling stripped. - Amanda, Type 4a

Best Clarifying Shampoo

Wavy - Elucence Volume Clarifying Shampoo

Rarely do any volumizers work on me, but this clarifyer actually makes my hair feel fuller after using it. I love how clean my scalp feels and it's not too drying at all. - Susonnah, Type 2a

Curly - Jane Carter Renewable Difference Detox Shampoo

With all the styling products I use, I need to clarify on a regular basis. This is one of the best clarifying shampoos I've used. It gets rid of the gunk without making my hair feel like straw.- Michelle, Type 3b

Curly Coily - Elucence Volume Clarifying Shampoo

It's just a timeless true cleansing shampoo. It removes all the gunk and build up but doesn't make your hair feel like would break if you touched it. It's gentle, but powerful - Ellery, Type 3c

Coily - Alikay Naturals Moisturizing Black Soap Shampoo

Whenever a cleanser actually softens my hair, I know it's a keeper. It completely removes product buildup without matting and tangling my hair. The twist top is brilliant and makes shampooing coily hair much easier. I get the best "naked hair" when I use this! - Evelyn, Type 4c

Best Shampoo Bar

Our wavy editors do not use shampoo bars
Curly - Soultanicals Honey, I Shrunk the Frizz Poo Bar

Sometimes shampoo bars can be hard to use and your hair doesn't feel like it gets the same benefits as traditional shampoos. This one really works, smells great and I have to admit I'm a sucker for a clever name.

Curly Coily - Folie Apothecary Honey Marshmallow Root Shampoo & Body Bar

Nikisha got this one right. I don't really use shampoo bars for various reasons but this one was really great at being a creamy slippery rinse for my hair. Also the ingredients are simple and it smells great. - Nikki, Type 3c

Coily - Soultanicals Honey, I Shrunk the Frizz Poo Bar

If you are looking for a clarifying shampoo that does not leave your coils dehydrated, this is the cleanser you want. I rub it directly on my wet scalp, massage it in to lift dirt and debris, and allow the lather to run down the hair shaft. To preserve this shampoo bar I cut it into squares and store it in a small Tupperware container to prevent the soap from disintegrating in the shower. - Amanda, Type 4a

 Best Cleansing Conditioner

Wavy - NYC Curls by Carlos Flores The Curl Cleanser

An effective cleansing conditioner can be tricky to find for wavy hair, most of them leave my hair looking flat or weighed down - but not this one. My curls feel both cleansed and conditioned whenever I use this product. - Cristina, Type 2c

Curly - Matrix Biolage Cleansing Conditioner for Curly Hair

I love everything about this cleansing conditioner. It distributes well, refreshes and cleanses my hair and smells great. - Fran, Type 3b

Curly Coily - DevaCurl No-Poo Decadence

It has no lather, and applies evenly to my coarse, dense hair. I love how soft it instantly makes my hair feel after rinsing it out. - Devri, Type 3c

Coily - Alikay Naturals Cowash Me Cleansing Conditioner

My scalp was so clean! This left no residue but didn't completely dry my hair out. - Kami, Type 4b

We voted on products in every category from cleansing conditioners to edge tamers, to see the rest of the Editors' Choice winners click here for a full list.

What's your favorite cleansing of 2016? Share yours in the comments below!