Fun fact: the skin is the body’s largest organ. It absorbs whatever is put on it, and some of this will wind up in the bloodstream. This is why it’s important to think twice about baby products, and why we recommend choosing non-toxic baby shampoo.
From soaps and lotions to diaper cream and wipes— all of it touches your little one’s skin, so you want it to be as safe and clean as possible. While babies aren’t always bothered by the chemicals found in baby care products, those same substances can accumulate in the body and cause issues later on in life.
The good news is that you can take action to avoid the harsh ingredients simply by knowing what to look for and what to avoid. Typically, a baby’s first encounter with a cosmetic product is a shampoo or body wash. There are so many delicious-smelling soaps and shampoos on the market, but mama beware: most aren’t clean enough for your baby’s developing system and their gentle skin.
Through my search for the best organic baby shampoos for my own kiddos, I’ve found some good brands and rounded up a list of the best and the safest shampoos for your baby.
Why Are Most Mainstream Baby Shampoos Unsafe?
If you’ve ever looked at the ingredient list for commercial baby shampoos, you will see a long list of chemicals, some of which are pretty concerning.
For example, take Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo. While it might have that tempting nostalgic aroma, you’ll be surprised to know that it’s also pretty toxic! A few years ago, research concluded that the shampoo contained two carcinogenic ingredients: quaternium-15 and 1,4 dioxane.
The ingredient, Quaternium-15, releases formaldehyde, which has been linked to serious illnesses as well as eye, skin, and lung irritation. And 1,4 dioxane is listed as a probable carcinogen by multiple agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
So, in short: no, mainstream or popular baby shampoos are not necessarily safe. You can’t assume that a well-known product is good for your baby. I know, it’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing (maddening, actually!) but I have put this list together to save you time.
In the case of Johnson & Johnson, they did reformulate to omit the two carcinogens and minimize the number of ingredients. All-in-all though, their efforts are a combination of greenwashing and strong marketing work. While the bottle might say phthalate, paraben, triclosan, and formaldehyde-free, Johnson & Johnson says that it has only been able to reduce 1, 4 dioxane by 70% due to impurities in the materials used.
On top of this, you will still find a slew of questionable ingredients in the shampoo like “fragrance.” Fragrance is definitely a catch-all term for a set of proprietary ingredients that are often linked to immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and allergies. You’ll also find other ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine, associated with allergies and immunotoxicity. No thanks!
Unsafe Ingredients in Baby Shampoos
So, what’s a mama to do? The best thing you can do is to avoid certain ingredients that have been proven to be unsafe for babies.
- Fragrance. As always, fragrance is a catch-all term used to describe proprietary, undisclosed ingredients. These usually include harsh ingredients and synthetic fragrances, as well as phthalates. Often, these ingredients can include allergens and even DEP, a commonly used phthalate in cosmetics. And thanks to a loophole in labeling laws, manufacturers don’t even have to disclose what’s in their fragrance (typically a “toxic chemical soup”).
- Propylene Glycol. This ingredient enhances skin absorption in products. And it’s also linked to allergies and is classified as a probable carcinogen with long-term exposure. Studies show that high doses of this ingredient can lead to toxicity. While your baby shampoo might not have high amounts, the ingredient is something to stay away from.
- 1, 4 Dioxane. This carcinogen won’t be listed on the ingredient label, which is why it’s difficult to knowingly avoid. It’s simply a contaminant. The FDA suggests that contaminated ingredients often include PEG, Polyethylene, Polyethylene glycol, Polyethylene, -eth, or -oxynol.
- PEGs. Polyethylene glycol is a petroleum-based softener that becomes contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane (carcinogens). It can also cause skin irritation.
- Mineral oil. This is a petroleum byproduct that while keeping the skin moisturized. It also kind of traps the skin which can lead to irritation. Overall, this is a really dirty ingredient, and you’re best off avoiding it.
- Japanese honeysuckle. This is a popular ingredient found in a lot of greenwashing products. Some brands will use honeysuckle as a preservative in their “paraben-free” product. There is speculation that Japanese honeysuckle can function as a paraben, and even naturally-derived parabens build up in the body and can cause hormone disruption. The evidence on this is a bit up in the air, but I think it’s smart to play it safe and avoid this ingredient until we know more.
- Sulfates/sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS, SLES). This common surfactant is used in personal care products. Not only is this harmful if swallowed, but it can also release 1,4 dioxane, a known carcinogen.
- Polysorbate 80. This is a surfactant and a solubilizer that helps a product look better. But it also has some risks that come with it. Polysorbate 80 can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide. Both of these contaminants are carcinogens and are listed as high hazards on EWG.
- Parabens. Parabens are preservatives you’ll find in a lot of cosmetic products. You can recognize them with the -paraben at the end of the ingredients name. For example, methylparaben. Parabens can irritate your baby’s skin, but the biggest concern is that they are endocrine system disruptors and linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Phenoxyethanol. This is another popular paraben replacement ingredient, but it doesn’t make the product any safer. Short-term exposure can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs. And both short and long term impacts include effects on the central nervous system.
- Sodium Benzoate. This is a preservative found in food, cosmetics, and babycare products. You would think this would be safe, but it’s a synthetic compound that can be harsh on a baby’s skin. Some studies have identified this as an allergen, while other studies have shown it to promote oxidative stress.
- Potassium Sorbate. This is another common preservative found in both food and cosmetics, but it is a skin allergen for some—especially a baby’s delicate skin.
- Gums. Gums are often added to baby care products to thicken and stabilize lotions and soaps. I always suggest avoiding this in baby care products because it is another allergen that sensitive little ones can’t always handle.
The Best Organic Baby Shampoo and Body Wash Brands
Now that we’ve gone over what to avoid in a baby shampoo, let’s talk about the safest brands of non-toxic baby shampoos. We want safe, gentle baby shampoos that are made with natural ingredients and made without harsh preservatives. Is that too much to ask? No, thankfully!
And I’ve compiled a list of the best and safest organic baby shampoos I’ve found on the market. Here you go — these are all clean brands to choose from!
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Microbiome-friendly and gentle enough for the most sensitive of babies, Little Biomes Gentlest Baby Shampoo is a top choice for an organic-based and gentle baby shampoo. Made with organic calendula and rose hydrosol water, this baby shampoo is ultra hydrating and moisturizing, making it a great choice for babies with dry or eczema-prone skin. Even for babies who aren’t sensitive, you’ll love how pure and gentle this shampoo is, while also working really well and leaving your baby’s skin hydrated and nourished.
Little Biomes is part of my personal brand, Biomeology, and I’m pleased to say that I personally hand-selected the ingredients. I’m incredibly proud of this product and am guilty of using our baby shampoo myself as a body wash and even as a shaving gel. Try it and please let us know what you think (and help us get the word out) by leaving a review!
Ingredients: Aqua, Potassium Cocoate, Decyl Glucoside, *Rosa Damascena (Rose) Hydrosol Water, *Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Hydrosol Water, *Glycerin (Palm-Free), Sorbitan Oleate, *Pyrus Malus (Apple Cider Vinegar) Fruit Extract, Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Fruit Extract, *Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (Aloe Vera), Guar Gum, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract. *USDA Certified Organic Ingredient
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This organic baby shampoo is ultra-gentle and made from certified organic plant, vegetable, flower, and tree extracts. The scent is light and comes from organic sweet pea essence. Like you would expect from a safe, organic shampoo, it’s free from parabens and synthetics, as well as soy, while still being completely vegan and cruelty-free. It doesn’t leave the hair dry, which tends to be a problem with a lot of baby shampoos. I also appreciate that it’s 100% biodegradable, doing no harm to rivers, lakes, and oceans.
Ingredients: filtered aqua, elaeis guineensis (palm) oil, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, vegetable glycerin, pinus banksiana (pine) extract, matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) flower extract, urtica dioca (nettle) leaf extract, taraxacum officinale (dandelion) leaf extract, trifolium pratense (clover) flower extract acetic acid (Apple Cider Vinegar), olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) seed oil, lathyrus odoratus (sweet pea) flower extract.
This is a body wash that can be used for everything: shampoo, body wash, handwashing— and good for the whole family! I love this particular formula because it’s unscented, so it won’t cause irritation. It’s a castile-based soap that also contains calendula which is known to have soothing and calming properties. You’ll love that it comes in a variety of sizes, all the way up to 34 fluid ounces. You’ll be set for a while! And, because it has multiple uses, it’s a great way to stick to a budget while also ensuring you’re using a safe, non-toxic soap for your little ones.
Ingredients: organic potassium cocoate, contains organic potassium olivate, aloe barbadensis (organic aloe) leaf juice, kosher vegetable glycerin, butyrospermun parkii (organic shea) butter, potassium citrate, calendula officinalis (organic calendula) flower extract.
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Soap should be simple — this is one of the company’s central messages, and it seems that they truly mean it. This soap, which comes in a 16 fl. oz. bottle for a very approachable price, has only a few ingredients: distilled water, saponified olive oil, and pure essential oils (you can choose lemon, lavender, or no scent at all). That’s it! Wow!
Its packaging is recyclable and BPA free, and the liquid is biodegradable and safe for septic systems. There is no headache with this one. We have used it for years (it was great for my son’s eczema) and loved it.
Ingredients: distilled water and potassium olivate (saponified olive oil), pure essential oils of lavender or lemon (or unscented).
This brand belongs to an old family of soapmakers (dating back to 1948). Their Pure Castile Liquid Soap is said to have as many as 18 uses – all in one! Not only can it be used as your baby’s body and hair wash (just note that it’s not tear-free), but it can also do the trick for cleaning dishes, mopping, laundry—pretty much everything! This soap is super gentle on a baby’s skin, especially if your little one suffers from eczema. Its ingredients are simple, safe, and 90% of them are organic. The brand encourages you to dilute its liquid and provides directions on proportions depending on what it will be used for.
Also, the brand never tests on animals and is completely cruelty-free, while the bottle is made of 100% recycled plastic.
Ingredients: water, organic coconut oil, potassium hydroxide**, organic olive oil*, organic fair deal hemp oil, organic jojoba oil, citric acid, tocopherol.*Certified Fair Trade Ingredients **None remains after saponifying oils into soap and glycerin.
Are you looking for a low-waste option when it comes to your baby’s shampoo and body wash? Consider the Crunchi Littles 3-in-1 bathtime bar! Made with certified organic ingredients, Crunchi’s bathtime bar is a liquid-free option for your baby’s bathtime. This makes it gentle and preservative-free. Note: this product does contain oats, so it is not recommended for babies with eczema who have not started solid foods and have not been exposed to oats.
One of the biggest changes in organic shampoo can be that there are typically no suds or foam. Mainstream commercial shampoos create those satisfying suds with SLS. However, Made Of is one of the few organic shampoos that still makes foam without harmful chemicals. The brand’s website offers an in-depth explanation for each ingredient used to make you feel more confident when opting for this product. I love that the formula contains chamomile and calendula, known for soothing properties. Note: this is not a tear-free formula.
Ingredients: organic glycerine, organic calendula, organic sunflower oil, organic jojoba oil, organic comfrey oil, caprylic acid, decyl glucoside, sodium lauroyl lactylate, glyceryl caprylate.
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Shoosha Organic’s Sensitive Baby Wash and Shampoo is creamy and made of 95% pure organic food-grade ingredients and 5% water. It’s good for the baby and for your whole family, pets included. It’s hypoallergenic and non-drying, as well as tear-free. This is one you can definitely use on your newborn from day one without a single worry!
The brand creates its products in Canada, and they are USDA certified organic. You’ll find that the company complies with the highest standards of quality and safety. They also encourage you to give them your feedback as customer satisfaction is one of their priorities. Great job, Shoosha!
Ingredients: aloe barbadensis leaf juice*, coconut oil*, sucrose*, arrowroot powder*, potassium hydroxide**, calendula flower extract*, lavender essential oil*, vanilla leaf extract*, guar gum*, non-GMO xanthan gum.
*USDA certified organic ingredient.
Babo Botanicals is a safe and effective formula that is unscented, gentle, and non-irritating even for eczema-prone babies. It contains oat proteins, shea, and cocoa butter, as well as calendula all of which have excellent healing properties. Note: this is not tear-free.
Ingredients: purified water, coco-glucoside, glycerin, heptyl glucoside, sodium chloride, coconut (cocos nucifera) oil*, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter*, theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter*, aloe barbadensis leaf juice*, avena sativa (oat) kernel extract, glyceryl caprylate, caprylhydroxamic acid, citric acid, pueraria lobata (kudzu) root extract*, calendula officinalis flower extract*, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) rlower extract*, nasturtium officinale (watercress) flower/leaf extract*, spiraea ulmaria (meadowsweet) flower extract**certified organic ingredients.
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The healthy formula has several all-natural soothing ingredients, perfect for all skin types. They also create their stock in small batches so that you receive the freshest product. All around a great option.
Ingredients: purified water, decyl polyglucose, lauryl polyglucose, cocos nucifera (coco de cream)*, chondrus crispus (seaweed) extract*, pelargonium graveolens (rose geranium flowers) infusion, pelargonium graveolens (rose geranium leaf) infusion, lavandula officinalis (lavender flowers) infusion*, symphytum officinale (comfrey root) infusion*, fragaria (strawberry leaf) infusion*, calendula officinalis (pot marigold) infusion*, avena sativa (oatstraw) infusion*, chamomilla recutita (chamomile flowers) infusion*, hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn) CO2*, calendula officinalis (pot marigold) CO2*, citrus paradisi (grapefruit) extract *certified organic.
The Honest Company shampoo and baby wash is a 2-in-1 product to make your life a bit easier. It’s formula is not over-drying and offers a few different light scent options. It comes in one size, 10 fl.oz. bottle, but it lasts a while! It is also tear-free, but that begs the question of what chemical makes it tear free?
Ingredients: water (aqua/eau), aloe barbadensis leaf juice*, sodium lauryl glucosides hydroxypropyl sulfonate, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, sodium chloride, sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate, calendula officinalis flower extract*, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower extract*, anthemis nobilis (roman chamomile) flower oil, glycerin, hydrolyzed jojoba protein, chenopodium quinoa extract, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil*, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, lauryl glucoside, caprylyl glycol, coconut acid, disodium coco-glucoside citrate, sodium citrate, caprylhydroxamic acid, citric acid, sodium benzoate, sodium phytate.
Which Baby Shampoo Is The Safest?
All of the brands above have clean, safe, and gentle ingredients. However, your baby will always have his/her own needs, so take a close look at the ingredients to decide which one might be the best fit for your little one. For example, if your baby needs extra moisture, you might look for oil-based ingredients like coconut oil. Also, consider its uses. Some of the products can be used for shampoo, body wash, and even house cleaning! And finally, you’ll want to think about your general preferences about scents, bottle size, and price tag.
Which Brands are Greenwashing You?
There are a number of companies that might use labeling to make you think they are safe and non-toxic. “All-natural” and “organic” are commonly used terms that aren’t always accurate. Take a look at the biggest greenwashing brands on the market.
- Nature’s Baby. This natural baby shampoo is touted as being organic and free of sulfates, gluten, and parabens. But, you will also see that it has ingredients with contamination and additive concerns. Some ingredients are also linked to endocrine system disruption and organ system toxicity. For example, cocamidopropyl betaine is a sensitizing allergen and considered unsafe if not fully rinsed off. Health concerns include allergic skin reactions and contact dermatitis. Not something you want on your baby! They also say that this product is organic when there is not a single certified organic ingredient in the shampoo!
- Baby Mantra 3-in-1. This product is marketed with everything you want to hear: it’s EWG verified, natural, and free of sulfates, parabens, dyes, synthetic fragrance, and phthalates. But it also has some pretty harsh ingredients I would never use on my baby: potassium sorbate and benzyl alcohol. The main problem with potassium sorbate is that it is both a respiratory and skin irritant. While it’s commonly thought of as a safe preservative, it’s definitely something to think twice about. Benzyl alcohol is typically used as a fragrance and preservative, often synthetically produced. While it is a useful preservative in products, it’s also hugely sensitizing and irritating to a baby’s skin.
- Burt’s Bees Baby Shampoo. Burt’s Bees has a good reputation in the marketing world. Pretty much everyone recognizes their name, but they are one of the largest contributors to greenwashing. The biggest red flag with this one is fragrance. While proprietary, fragrance is always an immune system toxicant and allergen. It can cause irritation or even a painful allergic reaction. Beyond this, phenoxyethanol is another big one I always try to avoid. It basically replaces parabens but doesn’t make the product any safer. Phenoxyethanol has toxic capabilities that can cause central nervous system damage to babies. Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to alarming ingredients in this shampoo. Avoid it!
- Babyganic Baby Shampoo. Babyganics is another popular brand with some concerning ingredients. I always avoid this brand with my own children and recommend others stay away from it, too. From phenoxyethanol to coumarin and sodium hydroxide, these are ingredients that can cause allergies and even affect the immune system.
- Puracy. Puracy does a pretty good job using gentle and effective ingredients. But they still include potassium sorbate, a respiratory and skin irritant. Sodium Benzoate is also in this shampoo, again used as a preservative. But it can definitely be rough on your baby’s skin and cause irritation. So, all-in-all, while this shampoo is decent, the ingredients could be better.
- Baby Bum Shampoo and Wash. Again, Baby Bum markets to natural-minded parents and the label makes you think it’s a safe product. But it also has a lot of irritating-laden ingredients. Red flags include fragrance (immune system toxicant and allergen), decyl glucoside (allergic dermatitis, irritant), and sodium benzoate (irritation).
Have more questions about choosing a natural or organic shampoo for your baby? Read on!
Is there such a thing as tear-free baby shampoo?
The answer to this is both yes and no. Sure, many companies claim their products are tear-free because they avoid using certain ingredients. But the truth is that babies will cry when they get soap in their eyes either way – it’s a reflex, after all. If you choose a shampoo that is not tear-free, you do need to make sure to avoid getting it into the eyes because it seriously can sting the eyes. Though, keep in mind, your baby may cry when anything gets into his eyes!
Also, there are many mainstream “tear-free” products on the market that claim to be tear-free because they use chemicals that might suppress tears. This is on the avoid list, for sure.
Can I use baby shampoo daily on my baby?
Yes, you can use baby wash daily, but it’s generally not recommended to do so. Most babies will not need daily washing. In fact, using any kind of soap that often can lead to irritated, dry skin. As your baby gets older, you will find that you might increase shampooing from once per week to two or three times per week (particularly when they are into solid foods or are getting into messes outside).
Most baby shampoos are formulated for daily use, but I am always cautious about that, particularly if a baby has a history of eczema. If you notice your baby’s hair or scalp getting dry or irritated, cut back on the shampooing. Use a microbiome-friendly baby shampoo or one of the gentle choices we’ve listed here.
Can I do water-only baths for my baby?
Of course! Some babies, particularly when they are newborns, don’t need any soap. That said, when they spit-up or have diaper blow-outs, you’ll want to use a baby soap/shampoo to clean their skin and hair. As babies get older, you will probably find it necessary to use baby soaps or shampoo at least once per week.
When should I begin washing my baby daily?
There is no set time, but in general, your baby will need a good washing once your baby begins solids. Think: puree in the hair, dirt in the groves of their fingernails, gunk behind their ears – it really gets everywhere! Keep in mind, you can just use water most days and other days, use one of the body washes we recommend here.
Other Resources for Bed and Bath Time:
- How to Create a Bedtime Routine for Your Baby
- 22 Children’s Bedtime Story Books That Are Popular for a Reason
- The Best Organic Baby Sleep Sacks and Wearable Blankets
- DIY Detox Bath Recipe for Babies and Toddlers
- 6 Best Non-Toxic Baby Bathtubs
- The Best Non-Toxic Bath Toys: Plastic-Free Toys for Safer Bath Time Play