Are you sometimes overwhelmed by all the choices we have as consumers? You would think that a large variety would make it easier to choose. However, I have noticed that the more choices we have, the more difficult it is to decide. We are bombarded with doubts and questions: why this one and not that one? How do I know that this is the right choice? This best baby shampoo guide will make your life easier when it comes to choosing a safe baby shampoo. You will learn about non-toxic baby washes and, most importantly, learn why they are the safest. Also, you will find out that some popular baby wash products are not what they seem to be.
My method of research
To begin, this guide is a result of a baby wash and shampoo survey I conducted on Facebook and Instagram. To clarify, I asked my followers what they were using and received 60 different brands in response. Out of these 60 products, I have compiled a list of those that received at least 15 votes. Keep in mind that I was extra careful because these are baby products.
Further, even though I consult the EWG Skin Deep database, I do not form my final opinion based solely on their ingredient ratings. Neither do I follow the ThinkDirty app to judge the safety of a personal care product. Instead, I go directly to sources of scientific information, including:
- Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) reports
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health PubMed
- A paid online library of scientific journals deepdyve.com
- American Contact Dermatitis Society
- European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) database
- European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety reports
In short, using multiple sources allows me to have a comprehensive perspective and avoid biased opinions.
What is not a safe baby shampoo
In the search for the best baby shampoo, we will look at four categories – worst, bad, better, and best. Knowing all the information, you can make an informed decision and have peace of mind.
The worst baby shampoo
In my opinion, some of the popular baby shampoos suggested for the survey belong to the worst category because of the following ingredients:
- Ethoxylated ingredients
- Cocamidopropyl betaine
Let’s discuss each of them briefly.
Firstly, fragrances are mixtures that create or mask a specific scent. According to the International Fragrance Association, there are 3,999 ingredients that may be used in fragrances. However, some of these ingredients are associated with allergy or even cancer. Importantly, the FDA doesn’t require the disclosure of fragrance ingredients, so we must be very careful about them.
It doesn’t mean, though, that if you’re using products with fragrance, you are now sick or will be soon sick because of that. Nevertheless, I choose not to use or promote products with fragrance for the following reasons.
- We have a right to know a full list of ingredients, so we can make informed decisions.
- Also, there are many other similar products with better ingredients.
- Besides, baby products do not need any scent, in my opinion.
You can read more about fragrance in my post called Is Natural Fragrance Safe?
Thus, you will not find fragrance among the ingredients of any safe baby shampoo in this best baby shampoo guide.
Secondly, ethoxylated ingredients are the ones we are trying to avoid. That is to say, look for PEGs, ingredient names ending with -eth, a number or the word “polysorbate” followed by a number. What makes them undesirable as ingredients is the fact that they may contain residues of carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane as a result of their production process. Also, you can read more about them in my post called Hidden Ingredients In Best Baby Wipes.
Again, even though you won’t increase the risk of cancer from using products with ethoxylated ingredients, I choose not to use or promote products with them mainly because:
- In my opinion, we should not use products with ingredients made with carcinogenic chemicals to begin with.
- Besides, there are many other similar products with better ingredient choices.
Finally, cocamidopropyl betaine is a surfactant that makes products lather. Nevertheless, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel recognizes that it has the potential to cause sensitization. It is most likely due to the contaminants DMAPA and Amidopropyl Dimethylamine (Amidoamine). Consequently, the Panel advises manufacturers to reduce concentrations of the sensitizing impurities.
Further, the American Contact Dermatitis Society lists it as an allergen, even in concentrations as low as 1%. Above all, in 2004 the Society named cocamidopropyl betaine the Allergen of the Year (source).
Although using products with this ingredient will not automatically cause an allergic reaction, I do not use or promote products with it mainly because:
- Firstly, I want to be extra careful and do what I can to avoid common allergens.
- Secondly, there are many other similar products with better ingredient choices.
Which products are the worst?
Thus, in my opinion, a safe baby shampoo in this best baby shampoo guide should not contain fragrance, ethoxylated ingredients, and cocamidopropyl betaine.
The bad baby shampoos
What is the difference between the worst and the bad baby shampoos?
Well, even though some baby products that made it to the “bad” category do contain some of the ingredients discussed above, they do not have all of them at once.
Also, these baby washes are in the “bad” category because they have the following concerning ingredients:
- Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract (GSE)
- Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine
Let’s talk about them briefly.
Firstly, phenoxyethanol is a common preservative in cosmetic products and a fixative in fragrances. According to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Panel, it’s made by the reaction of highly corrosive phenol with carcinogenic ethylene oxide. As a result, tiny residues of these substances can remain in it.
Secondly, the American Contact Dermatitis Society lists phenoxyethanol as one of its core allergens, even in concentrations as low as 1% (source).
As for me, I call it a “middle of the road” preservative. Although, it isn’t the worst preservative, and I would rather see phenoxyethanol in products than no preservatives at all. Nevertheless, I choose not to use or promote products with it mainly because I don’t believe we should use ingredients made with carcinogenic chemicals.
If you want to know more about the use of Phenoxyethanol in Skin Care, check out my post about it. Definitely, though, phenoxyethanol is not one of the ingredients of a safe baby shampoo in this best baby shampoo guide.
Citrus Grandis seed extract
It is important to know that independent studies have shown that Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract may be contaminated with the chemical substances. For instance, they are benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, triclosan, and methylparaben, and they act as preservatives (source and source).
While grapefruit itself has some preserving properties, it is not powerful enough to act as a preservative without the help of other preservatives in the formulation of citrus paradise (source). For instance, the company that makes WaterWipes has started disclosing that their wipes contain benzalkonium chloride. As a matter of fact, if you are looking for safe baby wipes, you can benefit greatly from my post WaterWipes Baby Wipes.
In other words, I choose not to use or promote products with Citrus Grandis grapefruit seed extract when it’s used as a preservative for the following reasons:
- Firstly, I believe manufacturers should be proactive and, in the presence of scientific studies, should either test GSE or not use it.
- Secondly, there are many other similar products without controversial ingredients.
Isn’t it interesting, though, how the name of this ingredient can be misleading? Thus, some ingredients are not always as they seem to be. I think it is best for a safe baby shampoo in this best baby shampoo guide to have no questionable ingredients.
To begin, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine is a surfactant that makes cleansing products lather. However, it is structurally related to cocamidopropyl betaine which we pinned as the “worst” category shampoo ingredient. That is to say, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine is not as perfect as it is often advertised. Personally, I consider it an ingredient of concern, and you can find out why in my post entitled Is Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine Safe?
Unfortunately, it is not easy to find a shampoo with surfactants that have absolutely no concerns. Because cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine seems a bit safer than cocamidopropyl betaine, it belongs in the “bad” category shampoo ingredient list, not the “worst.”
What are the bad products?
There are five brands that in my opinion belong in the category of “bad” shampoos. I also believe that with some changes of their formulation any shampoo can become a safe baby shampoo in this best baby shampoo guide. In the meantime, the bad shampoos are
- Burt’s Bees
- Shea Moisture
- Young Living
Firstly, the products that contain phenoxyethanol are Burt’s Bees baby shampoo and wash and Babyganics conditioning shampoo and body wash. In addition, Burt’s Bees contains fragrance and limonene listed as an allergen by the EU.
Another shampoo that contains fragrance is Shea Moisture Raw Shea Chamomile and Argan Oil baby wash and shampoo. Even though I contacted them to confirm if their fragrance consists of 100% essential oils only and nothing else, I haven’t received any confirmation yet. Additionally, Shea Moisture has cocamidopropyl betaine.
Next, Young Living KidScents bath gel contains Dimethicone PEG-8 Meadowfoamate, which is an ethoxylated ingredient. Besides, it has Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract. On the other hand, Young Living Seedlings baby wash and shampoo does not have these ingredients and is, in my opinion, safe, if you do not mind essential oils in your non-toxic baby wash. Frankly speaking, I was shocked to see ethoxylated dimethicone in Young Living products. It is because I know that their consultants are passionate about healthy living. Perhaps the consultants can talk to the management to see if there has been a mistake.
Finally, the scented versions of Honest baby shampoo and body wash have limonene or linalool. To clarify, the EU lists them as “allergenic” substances. On the other hand, the unscented Honest shampoo and body wash is in the better category.
What constitutes a safe baby shampoo
The baby shampoo brands that I consider safe enough to belong in the categories of “better” and “best” baby shampoos. I give you all the necessary information so you can make up your mind as to which non-toxic baby wash and non-toxic baby shampoo is right for your baby.
The great news is that these baby products do not contain ethoxylated ingredients, phenoxyethanol, fragrance, GSE, or cocamidopropyl betaine. Thus, if you switch to one of them from the worst or bad categories, you are making a big improvement.
The baby shampoos and washes that I put in the better category still contain a few ingredients of some minor concern.
The better baby shampoos
The major difference between better and best baby non-toxic shampoos and washes lies in in the presence of the preservative caprylhydroxamic acid and essential oils.
A lot of companies that seem to care about the safety of their ingredients choose to use caprylhydroxamic acid as a preservative. Unfortunately, like the majority of new ingredients, it does not have much safety data. If you look in the Skin Deep Database powered by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), you might think it is safe. (When you look closer, you will see the EWG rates ingredients without safety data as “1” out of 10, with 10 being the worst. If in doubt, the EWG gives a chemical a safe rating.) Unlike EWG, I am more circumspect.
In fact, in 2019 the CIR panel issued a statement saying that they began reviewing this ingredient because of sensitization reactions reported in Finland. However, they do not have enough information to form an opinion. Thus, they are requesting additional information.
Furthermore, in 2016, Finnish dermatologists determined that caprylhydroxamic acid was a new contact allergen (source). Consequently, some lotions with this ingredient were recalled in Finland (source).
As I have already mentioned, I was extra careful in compiling this best baby shampoo guide because these are baby products. That is to say, I don’t have a problem with essential oils or lavender oil in adult products. Nevertheless, I excluded essential oils from the list of ingredients of a safe baby shampoo, because they belong on the list of allergenic substances in Europe. Therefore, in the “best” category, I only included products without any essential oils.
What are the better washing products?
The baby shampoo brands in the “better” category are
- Hello Bello
- Pure Haven
Firstly, Everyone Baby Bath Chamomile + Lavender contains cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine and essential oils.
Secondly, two other products that contain cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine are Hello Bello Shampoo and Body Wash and Puracy Natural Baby Shampoo. In addition to cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, Puracy has caprylhydroxamic acid.
Finally, Pure Haven baby wash and shampoo has none of the concerning ingredients discussed above except for lavender essential oil. And Weleda 2-in-1 Gentle Shampoo and Body Wash has essential oils, too.
The best baby shampoo suggestions
Now, I am excited to share with you the best safe baby shampoo options. The brands that made it in the “best” category are as follows:
- Earth Mama
- Dr. Bronner’s
- Babo Botanicals
Let’s look at their ingredients to see why I put them into the best baby shampoo category.
Earth Mama castile washes
Earth Mama Non-Scents Castile Baby Wash: Water, Organic Coconut (Cocos Nucifera) Oil, Organic Olive (Olea Europaea) Fruit Oil, Potassium Hydroxide*, Vegetable Glycerin, Citric Acid, Organic Shea (Butyrospermum Parkii) Butter, Organic Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Flower Extract, Organic Aloe (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice (*None present in final product).
Earth Mama Sweet Orange Castile Baby Wash: Water, Organic Coconut (Cocos Nucifera) Oil, Organic Olive (Olea Europaea) Fruit Oil, Potassium Hydroxide*, Organic Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia) Fruit Extract, Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Sweet Orange (Citrus Aurantium Dulcis) Oil, Citric Acid, Organic Shea (Butyrospermum Parkii) Butter, Organic Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) Flower Extract, Organic Aloe (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice (*None present in final product).
I like that the botanical oils, extracts, butters, and juices are organic. Hence, there should not be pesticide residues. I also like that these are soap-based washes. In my opinion, soap is the safest to use on babies.
Dr. Bronner’s castile soap
Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Pure Castile Soap: Water, Organic Coconut Oil*, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Palm Kernel Oil*, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol. *Certified Fair-Trade Ingredients, **None remains after saponifying oils into soap & glycerin.
You might be familiar with Dr. Bronner’s soap-based shampoo. Also, you can use it for washing dishes and cleaning the house because soap has many uses. It is concentrated so you should follow the company’s dilution suggestions. Keep in mind that for best baby shampoo, I recommend the unscented formulation only.
Babo Botanicals and Pipette baby shampoo + wash
Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Shampoo and Wash – Fragrance Free: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate (From Coconut Oil), Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate (Sugar Based), Lauryl Glucoside (From Sugar & Coconut), Sodium Chloride, Coco Glucoside (From Sugar & Coconut), Glyceryl Oleate (From Sugar & Coconut) , Hydrolyzed Oat Protein, Calendula of Cinalis Flower Extract*, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract*, Nasturtium Officinale (Watercress) Flower/ Leaf Extract*, Pueraria Lobata (Kudzu) Root Extract*, Spiraea Ulmaris (Meadowsweet) Flower Extract*, Citric Acid, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Vegetable Glycerin, Sodium Gluconate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut Oil), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter. *Certified Organic Ingredients
Pipette Baby Shampoo+Wash: Water, Lauryl glucoside, Sodium lauroamphoacetate, Glycerin, Glycolipids, Squalane, Magnesium Chloride, Sodium Gluconate, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Pelargonium Graveolens (Rose Geranium) Flower Oil, Phenethyl alcohol, Pogostemon Cablin (Patchouli) Leaf Oil, Triethyl Citrate, Rosa Damascena Extract.
Unlike the first two, these best baby shampoo products are soap-free. Instead of soap, what makes them lather are the surfactants lauryl glucoside, sodium lauroamphoacetate, sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate, and coco glucoside. To clarify, on the spectrum of surfactants, these are some of the safest. That is to say, they are mild, which means that they should not irritate the baby’s eyes. However, to be super picky, glucoside surfactants are not as flawless as we once thought. Hence, some sensitive babies may react to them if the products are not formulated to reduce the risk of reactions. You can read more about that in my Are Glucosides Safe? post. By the way, Pipette has other baby products that I like such as baby lotion and baby balm. I use their baby balm for my feet.
The safe baby product that we use
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that because people are so different, it is hard to find a product that will be 100% safe. As I have stated above, people may be allergic to even the most innocent ingredients, and babies even more so.
To be on the safe side, I recommend using baby washes and shampoos with as few ingredients as possible. It is easy to do when your baby has short hair.
For eight years now, the best baby shampoo for my son’s hair and body has been bar soap, and my son has never had any problems with it. Currently, we are using Meliora Bath and Body soap bar for the whole family. To clarify, it is environmentally friendly and has no plastic in its packaging.
For my other favorites, visit my Shop where you can find many non-toxic options for your body and house.
Finally, if you have questions about the safety of products (including hair dyes) you use or consider using, please know that you can book a phone consultation in 15-minute increments to gain instant clarity.
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