Updated: November 2016
Hair washing was a pretty pointless exercise for Felix for the first several years of his life; he was bald until 2. Wolfie has a bit more hair, so we use a tiny dab of Farmaesthetics Fine Herbal Cleanser as a shampoo for him about once a week.
Even once they are sporting longer tresses, babies and toddlers really don’t need baby shampoo at bath time. As babies, both my kids have gone weeks without anything other than warm water in their hair, and their scalps never were greasy–honestly! I will admit that sometimes their little heads did smell slightly like a puppy, but I sort of like it.
Now that Felix is 6, he likes to shampoo his hair every time he showers. The natural baby shampoo brands listed below (under The Good Stuff tab) are perfect for babies and kids alike (and even grownups, if you aren’t that picky!).
I don’t use shampoo on my kids often, but when I do, my pick is Babo’s line of safe, delish-smelling shampoos.
The Truth About Tear-Free Natural Baby Shampoo
When avocado blobs (or worse) end up in your little one’s peach fuzz, reach for a natural baby shampoo that doesn’t brag “tear-free” on the label. “No cry” shampoos typically–though not always–contain a formaldehyde-releasing chemical called 1,4-dioxane. Note that most of the baby shampoos recommended below are eye irritants.
Natural Baby Shampoo Equals Natural Body Wash
In general, there is no need to buy different products to clean different parts of your little one (with the exception of his teeth, if he’s got any). The shampoos below will work just fine on your baby’s body.
(If you do opt for soaps or bubble baths in addition to baby shampoo, read about their safety in our Safe Baby Wash, Soap & Bubble Bath Guide.)
The Good Stuff: Natural Baby Shampoo
Babo’s line of natural shampoos and washes are my go-to for Felix, who now also needs conditioner since his hair easily tangles and frizzes. Babo’s products, which are produced on an organic farm in upstate New York, come in a variety of very pleasant, 100% natural fragrances, and their shampoos all double as washes and/or bubble baths. Some of Babo’s line does contain sodium benzoate, but we do not carry these products in our online store.
Where to Buy: The Good Stuff online store
An extra gentle and tear-free baby shampoo and body wash formulated with certified organic plant, vegetable, flower and tree extracts and scented with organic sweet pea essence. This formula lathers less, rinses easily, and leaves no irritating residue, making it gentle enough for even a newborn’s delicate scalp.
This shampoo (which comes either unscented or coconut) is a pricey option ($21.95 for 8 ounces), but will be safe on even the most sensitive of skins, given that’s it’s made of just water and organic saponofied coconut oil.
Where to Buy: Amazon and other online retailers.
This shampoo is packaged in phthalate– and BPA-free plastic, so you don’t need to worry about these toxins leaching into the product, which itself does not contain any worrisome chemicals. This is good for those of you who want an unscented, no-frills shampoo for baby.
California Baby makes a safe line of baby shampoo/body wash that is available in tons of stores. Note that theirs are tear-free but do not contain a 1,4-dioxane. California Baby shampoos contain sodium benzoate, a controversial–although food grade–preservative. In the concentrations present here, I feel okay about it, but we have chosen to offer only products free of sodium benzoate in our online store.
Where to Buy: Amazon and many brick and mortar stores. You’ll pay around $23 for a 17.5-ounce bottle.
EMAB makes scented and unscented certified organic baby shampoo/body wash from natural castile soap. This is not a “no-tear” product and contains no fragrance, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), artificial preservatives, parabens, phenoxyethanol, or phthalates.
While this shampoo does contain more ingredients than the brands listed above–and not all of them are natural or organic–Beautycounter is a brand that really does it’s research, and even tests its products after production to ensure purity.
What about Beautycounter’s Gentle All-Over Wash?
I would feel comfortable using this wash on my own kids, as it has a short ingredients list and Beautycounter is committed to testing all their products for purity. However, this wash contains sodium benzoate, an ingredient that Skin Deep rates a 3 and about which I have some concerns. For this reason, I would call it Okay Stuff rather than Good Stuff.
Pleni sent us some samples and we really enjoyed the smell and overall performance of the product. While it’s not an all-natural option, the synthetics it does contain are of low concern.
Made’s Of’s Baby Shampoo & Body Wash is free of phthalates, parabens, sulfates, and synthetic fragrances. The surfactant (foaming agent) it uses is decyl glucoside, which is much safer than the more common cocamidopropyl betaine.
While not officially a tear-free option, Poofy claims that this Baby Shampoo/Body Wash won’t sting little eyes. I like it for its nice short list of ingredients, which includes organic apple cider vinegar. The surfactant used in this shampoo is decyl-polyglucose, which appears to be safe, but about which studies are lacking.
The Bad Stuff
I received a bunch of Mustela products at my baby shower, and they were appealing to me at first: they’re pricey, French, and even sold in some health food stores (check, check, check!). Sadly, it seems they are among the most toxic products you can use on your baby, for hair washing, poop wiping, or skin moisturizing. Almost all of the ingredients in their baby shampoo are concerning (including fragrance and parabens), and the Skin Deep ranks their Bebe Baby Shampoo as a “high hazard” product. What confuses me is this: On their website, Mustela claims that all of their products are free of parabens and phthalates, while the same site lists one the “main ingredients” of their shampoo as methylparaben. Until I can get a straight answer out of them, I will avoid Mustela. L’Occitane is another expensive French skincare line to be avoided (with the exception of one or two products); their Shea Mom & Baby Cleansing Gel contains dozens of ingredients, among them fragrance and PEG-7 glyceryl cocoate.
L’Oreal Kids line of shampoos should be avoided, despite the “now paraben free!” claim on the bottle. The rest of the ingredient list is devoid of anything safe–from fragrance to PEG chemicals to sodium laureth sulfate. This is the worst of the worst.
Aveeno’s skincare line for babies leaves much to be desired. The Baby Wash & Shampoo contains fragrance, sodium laureth sulfate, PEG-150 disterate (Skin Deep score: 3), and PEG-80 (Skin Deep score: 5).