Updated May 2022
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Buying guide for Best baby shampoos

When you hold newborns for the first time, it's hard to resist touching their delicate skin and soft hair. Baby skin and hair need special care to prevent irritation and stay clean. Baby shampoos are specially formulated to clean without being overly harsh on new skin. In an effort to make bath time easier, these shampoos have also been designed to be gentle on the eyes and reduce tears.

As more and more options enter the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for your baby. However, you’ve come to the right place. Here at BestReviews, we’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to. We’ve put together this shopping guide to help you find a baby shampoo that checks all the boxes on your list.

So cuddle up with your little one or take some time to yourself while you browse through our guide to find the perfect baby shampoo.

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Some shampoos moisturize better than others. Those that dry the hair and scalp may leave behind more tangles. If your baby has thick, full hair, moisturization should be a primary consideration.

How are baby shampoos different?

All shampoos use surfactants to clean hair by cutting through dirt and grease. Shampoos formulated for adults use lauryl sulfate, alcohol, and other ingredients that can be too harsh for a baby's skin.

Baby shampoos contain milder surfactants called amphoteric surfactants that don't burn the eyes. They're not as effective at removing grease, nor do they lather like a sulfate. However, most babies don't get dirty enough to need a stronger formula. Because amphoteric surfactants are less harsh, the natural moisturizers remain intact and the hair is left feeling soft.

See below for other harsh ingredients that you might want to watch out for as you shop for baby shampoo.

Types of baby shampoos


All-natural and/or organic products continue to grow in popularity for two reasons. First, they're more likely to contain ingredients that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. And second, certified organic products are exposed to fewer chemicals during the growing, harvesting, and manufacturing processes. Both reasons make all-natural and/or organic baby shampoos a popular choice. These shampoos come in fragrance-free or natural scent options like orange blossom or calendula.

Shampoo/body wash combos

It's simply easier to use a single bottle for all your baby's washing needs. Shampoo/body wash combos are formulated to clean your baby's skin and hair to simplify the bath time routine.


Alcohol-free labels can be somewhat misleading because there are both good and bad alcohols used in shampoos. The kind you want to avoid are called short-chain alcohols. These alcohols dissolve oil while helping other shampoo ingredients mix and work together. Unfortunately, short-chain alcohols mix so well with water that they quickly dissolve both oil and water from the hair, leaving it dry. Without natural oils, your baby’s scalp can easily become dry and irritated. Alcohol-free shampoos avoid short chain alcohols such as the following:

  • Ethanol

  • SD alcohol

  • SD alcohol 40

  • Alcohol denat

  • Propanol

  • Propyl alcohol

  • Isopropyl alcohol

Most baby shampoos avoid these ingredients anyway because they can be eye irritants. However, if the formula doesn’t say alcohol-free, check the label to see what kind of alcohol it contains, just to be safe.

Special formulas

Certain skin and scalp conditions may necessitate using a specially formulated shampoo. You can find options for all of the following:

  • Cradle cap: While cradle cap doesn’t pose a medical risk to your baby, cosmetically it can be troubling to parents. Cradle cap formulas contain butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and salicylic acid to break up the distinct cradle cap patches. Many of these formulas also contain climbazole to prevent cradle cap from returning.

  • Dry scalp: Moisturizing baby shampoos can help eliminate dry, flaky skin on the scalp. These shampoos may contain synthetic and/or natural moisturizers.

  • Dandruff: Yes, babies can get dandruff, too. Baby dandruff shampoo has ingredients to moisturize and gentle medications to reduce dandruff.

  • Eczema: Dry, red, itchy eczema can be hard to get rid of or may be irritated by some shampoos. Specially formulated shampoos and body washes can clean eczema-prone skin without causing a breakout. Many of these formulas are also hypoallergenic.

  • Calming: Calming baby shampoos are typically infused with lavender. If you have a particularly fussy baby, you might want to give one of these shampoos a try close to bedtime.
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SLS concentration has a big impact on the irritation it causes. Even minute amounts of such an irritant could be too much for a baby.

Baby shampoo features to consider

Dispensing ease

Pump dispensers are the easiest to use and allow you to keep one hand on your baby. Keeping a hand on your baby is more important in the first few months of life when your little one can’t hold his head up or sit independently. However, as your child gets older and more playful in the bathtub, you might need one hand to keep him from squirming away while you get the shampoo.

Your other option is a flip-top lid, which could require both hands. Dispensing ease isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re having a hard time deciding between two shampoos.


These shampoos are designed to reduce allergic reactions. Any formula from eczema to dandruff control can be hypoallergenic. If your baby has already been diagnosed with allergies or allergies run in your family, a hypoallergenic shampoo is probably the right choice.


Babies are more sensitive to environmental conditions. Their skin is also prone to drying out if they are bathed too frequently. Baby shampoos often contain natural and botanical moisturizers like aloe and coconut oil.


You have to be careful when it comes to fragrance. Fragrances are often infused into beauty products with chemicals. Opt for natural fragrances like citrus and lavender. However, you might need to look for a fragrance-free shampoo if your baby has sensitive skin.

Your baby’s skin and hair

Part of your choice will depend on your baby's natural skin and hair. Thick, long hair might require two washings or a shampoo/conditioner combo, though these combos aren't as gentle on the eyes as a baby shampoo without conditioner. And, of course, babies with sensitive skin, allergies, dandruff, eczema, and/or cradle cap may require a special baby shampoo.

Baby shampoo prices


Inexpensive baby shampoos start around $0.30 per ounce or less. These shampoos are formulated with gentle cleansers for fewer tears. However, you’ll want to check the ingredients list for any short-chain alcohols that might cause more tears than you’d like.


All-natural baby shampoos that are tear-, alcohol-, and sulfate-free appear in the $0.50 to $0.75 per ounce range. Plant-based ingredients and natural fragrances are common among these shampoos.


All-natural, organic, sulfate-free, paraben-free, alcohol-free, cruelty-free, and gluten-free formulas come in at over $0.75 per ounce. These pricey shampoos may have a very limited number of ingredients to reduce exposure to synthetic ingredients.

Baby shampoo ingredients to avoid

We’ve talked a lot about the ingredients you want to find in baby shampoos, but here are a few that you would be better off without, such as the following:

Sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate (SLS)

SLS is a common surfactant, emulsifier, and detergent that’s included in skincare products to help them lather. While it’s derived from coconuts, after going through the manufacturing process it contains several harmful chemicals, two of which are classified as carcinogens. It can cause eye and skin irritation, so you definitely don’t want a baby shampoo that contains it.

Synthetic/chemical fragrance

Most baby shampoos have a mild fragrance, but some fragrances are chemically based, which can be a problem for babies with respiratory problems.


Cosmetic manufacturers use parabens as a preservative. Basically, they help limit bacterial growth in an open container. However, they’ve been linked to hormone disruption, so they should be avoided in baby shampoos.

Other preservatives

Parabens aren’t the only preservatives that might find their way into a baby shampoo. Phenoxyethanol is another that used to be included in nipple creams until it was discovered that it was ingested by and could be harmful to babies.

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The term “organic” isn’t strictly defined for personal care products. Some brands are open about what they consider organic and how they source ingredients. If you want an organic baby shampoo, check the manufacturer’s website or contact them for more information.


Q. Can adults use baby shampoo?

A. Baby shampoos are formulated to be milder than adult products. Babies simply don’t get as dirty as adults. Adults produce far more oil and sweat and, consequently, need stronger shampoos. However, adult shampoos can strip the hair of good oils and natural moisture, which baby shampoos leave behind. Adults can use baby shampoo, but you might have to wash your hair two or three times to get it adequately clean.

Q. Can baby shampoo be used on toddlers and preschoolers?

A. Baby shampoo can be used on children of any age. It will still do a good job cleaning older children. However, you might need to add a separate conditioner if your child has thick or long hair.

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