Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo Ingredients + Review

Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo Ingredients + Review

Check out the Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo Ingredients + Review in my article below and find out is Cantu Shampoo bad for your hair.

After years of straightening my hair, I decided it was time to embrace my natural type 4b hair. And this journey brought me to the Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo.

Like many of my other natural hair compatriots, I followed the Curly Girl Method (a popular hair care routine designed for curly/natural hair that advocates the use of sulfate-free, nourishing products) and found products that are compatible with my routine. 

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One such Curly Girl Method-friendly brand is Cantu and I’ve been using their Cleansing Cream for a while now. 

I like it better than using a co-wash as I still like to remove some of the buildup on my hair from all the sprays and creams.

So is this product good for natural hair? Well, here’s the deal.

Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo Ingredients + Review 

Let’s first start off with the ingredients. The top ingredients in this shampoo are explained as follows. 

Key Ingredients

Water (Aqua, Eau), Sodium Alpha Olefin C14-16 Sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cocamide Mea, Acrylates Copolymer, Glycol Distearate, Steareth-4, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum), Glycerin, Polyester-11, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Polyquaternium-39, Sodium Hydroxide, Panthenol, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium Edta, Sodium Chloride, Polysorbate-20, Citric Acid, Benzyl Benzoate.

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Ingredient Name What It Does
Aqua (Water) solvent
Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate surfactant/​cleansing
Cocamidopropyl Betaine surfactant/​cleansing, viscosity controlling
Cocamide MEA surfactant/​cleansing, viscosity controlling, emulsifying
Acrylates Copolymer viscosity controlling
Glycol Distearate emollient, emulsifying, viscosity controlling
Steareth-4 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Phenoxyethanol preservative
Parfum (Fragrance) perfuming
Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter emollient, viscosity controlling
Glycerin skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/​humectant
Sodium Hydroxide buffering
Panthenol soothing, moisturizer/​humectant
Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride viscosity controlling
Disodium EDTA chelating
Ethylhexylglycerin preservative
Polysorbate 20 emulsifying, surfactant/​cleansing
Sodium Chloride viscosity controlling
Citric Acid buffering
Benzyl Benzoate solvent, perfuming, antimicrobial/​antibacterial

What Do These Ingredients Do?

Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate

No, don't get surprised. This ingredient is a “sulfonate” ; it's not the same as sulfates. 

Yes, it’s a surfactant. But it’s much milder and doesn’t remove scalp’s natural oil or hair dye pigments from hair like sulfates do. 

It’s also an emulsifying agent and adds a lot of foam to the shampoo making it easier to use. 

I do feel like the surfactant is much better than sulfates. However, it’s still highly cleansing and might have a drying effect on scalps that are already dry or sensitive. 

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Cocamidopropyl Betaine or CAPB is a type of cleanser that is derived from coconut oil. 

It’s often used in shampoos in place of harsh surfactants like Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Both of which can strip hair dye, remove moisture and irritate scalp skin.

CAPB however is milder and gentler and even has moisturizing properties. 

Most sulfate-free shampoos do not lather well or clean hair very thoroughly as this shampoo contains this natural cleanser, it’s very good for removing grease and dirt from deep within your scalp without stripping it of moisture. 


Glycerin is used in shampoos to act as a humectant. These attract moisture to your strands, hydrating them and then preventing the moisture from escaping. 

This makes glycerin an excellent ingredient to use on low porosity hair, dehydrated hair, damaged hair, etc. 

Hydrated hair is generally more elastic and less prone to breakage, hence glycerin helps reduce hair fall this way. 

Shea Butter

Shea butter is rich in nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin E, and essential fatty acids. It has a high content of fatty acids and emollient properties which supply adequate moisture to your hair. 

These substances are easily absorbed into your hair and scalp to give you quick results. Shea butter creates a healthy moisture barrier around your hair which will lock in the moisture and protect your hair from dehydration. 

This is why it is a major ingredient in a lot of products for dry hair. It also helps to make your hair more manageable and shiny. 

cantu sulfate free cleansing cream shampoo review

My Review of the Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo 

I usually use a co-wash for my type 4b hair which is essentially a conditioner that you can wash your hair with. But lately I had noticed there was a lot of buildup on my tresses and that my scalp was getting too greasy as well.

So I found the Cantu Cleansing Cream shampoo when looking for a good sulfate-free shampoo for my curls. 

I have been using it for the past 8 weeks and I’d say it does a wonderful job at cleaning my hair.

It’s mild of course as it’s free of both sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. However, it has several milder, natural, coconut-derived cleansing agents (like cocamidopropyl betaine) to help keep your hair clean.

I could feel that extra bounce in my curls after I washed my hair with this shampoo. But my curls didn’t feel too dry either. 

I liked that apart from shea butter, the chief ingredients here are avocado oil and coconut oil which are lighter than most heavy creams and butters used in products for natural hair.

This might be a double-edged sword as the shampoo might then not be too helpful for people with high porosity, dehydrated or really dry, type 4c hair. 

So I’d say stick to it only if you have between type 3b to type 4b hair. The packaging on the shampoo makes it seem that it might suit type 2 wavy hair textures as well. But I do not recommend this as your hair will get too greasy too soon especially if it’s very fine. 

Coming to the pricing of the shampoo, Cantu is one of few drugstore brands that cater to African American hair textures. So I got this shampoo for a very affordable $4.99 for a 13.2 Fl Oz. bottle. 

Now let’s talk about where I think this shampoo missed the mark - perfumes! Yes, this cleansing cream shampoo is very heavily scented with artificial perfumes. 

If you have a scalp issue like eczema or seborrheic dermatitis, etc. this shampoo would be a no-go. Same if you suffer from perfume allergies.

Also this was kind of disappointing as perfumes can actually dry out your hair in the long run. So I wish shampoo and skincare brands would stop using these! 

Pros and Cons of the Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo 

After using this Cantu Sulfate-Free Shampoo for a while, here are the chief pros and cons of the product I’ve found.

is cantu shampoo bad for your hair

What I Liked

  • The first thing I noticed about this shampoo obviously was that it was sulfate-free which means it’s good for dry, curly and colored hair.
  • But apart from this, the shampoo is also free of other harsh chemicals like phthalates, mineral oil, alcohol, etc. and also doesn’t use silicones which can cause buildup on hair. 
  • What really impressed me is that the shampoo manages to be both moisturizing and extremely effective at cleansing your hair without using either SLS or SLES. 
  • I also noticed that it foams easily 
  • You don’t need a lot of product to get a lather, so a medium-sized bottle can easily last you 2 months (varying with hair length, of course). 
  • The shampoo contains ingredients like avocado oil that help penetrate low porosity hair easily
  • The shampoo also contains water-soluble polymers that instantly reduce frizz and smoothen hair but also do not cause buildup like silicones. 

What I Disliked

Despite being sulfate-free, it still has a lot of cleansing agents like Cocamide MEA, Sodium Alpha Olefin C14-16 Sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Together, these ingredients can be quite harsh on your hair.

My biggest pet peeve in a shampoo is the use of Parfum (synthetic perfume). It can dry your hair if used for a long time and also triggers sensitivities if you have a scalp issue like dermatitis or eczema.

The heavy ingredients make it difficult to use Cantu for straight hair textures.

How To Use The Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo 

You can use this shampoo the same way you use any other shampoo. Don’t be mistaken, it’s not a co-wash. It’s just a sulfate-free cleanser.

However, you can choose to use this product after using a clarifying cleanser on your hair if it’s a monthly wash day. Or you can simply use it weekly like a regular-old shampoo. The choice is yours and must be tailored to what suits your hair. 

I also recommend using the Hydrating Shea Butter Cream Conditioner from the same brand after using this shampoo. 

is cantu shampoo for curly hair

My Ratings For The Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream Shampoo Ingredients 

Design & Packaging 4/5
Texture 4/5
Ability to cleanse 4/5
Fragrance & scent 4/5
Price 4.5/5
Moisturizing/Hydrating Ability 4.5/5
Gentleness 5/5


To sum it up, I think the Cantu Sulfate-Free Cleansing Cream shampoo is excellent if you want the benefits of shampoo without compromising your Curly Girl Method hair care routine.

This product sufficiently clarifies your hair but doesn’t leave it too dry or strip hair as it is sulfate-free.

I also liked that the product doesn’t contain mineral oil, alcohol, paraffin, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde or other harsh chemicals. 

And all of this for a very low, affordable price too! 

However, I do want to say that this is a slightly more nourishing version of a regular sulfate-free shampoo, if your 4c hair is used to co-washing and the “no-poo” method it can feel too much initially.

Also I really wished this product didn’t use artificial perfumes. If they didn’t they would have been a perfect 5 in my book. 

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