When I first wrote this post on non-toxic shampoo, I also stopped using shampoo. I was closeted “no-pooer” for a while, and you can read about the no poo method here.
Despite the fact that my hair genuinely looks better when I’m not washing it (see the picture on the left), I can’t seem to stick with it and really miss a nice lather when I’m in the shower.
If you don’t want to skip the suds yourself, you might want to become familiar with the problematic ingredients in conventional—and many of the “natural”—shampoos on the market:
- Surfactants. All soaps and detergents need a surfactant to be effective (surfactants basically facilitate water’s ability to do its dirt-removing job). Many surfactants found in conventional shampoos–such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), cocamidopropyl betaine, and cocamide DEA—come with environmental and human health concerns. Some natural shampoos use these questionable surfactants as well. Safer surfactants that you’ll find in non-toxic shampoos include decyl glucoside and laurel glucoside.
- Preservatives. To extend shelf life, shampoos typically contain controversial preservatives, such as parabens, benzyl alcohol, methylisothiazolinone, and methylchloroisothiazonlinone. Click any of those hyperlinks to go to our glossary and read all the scary details about these chemicals, which you won’t find in a truly non-toxic shampoo.
- Fragrance. When we were newlyweds, the lush, floral scent of Biolage lingered in our apartment for hours after my husband took his morning shower. Unfortunately, that strong smell is probably the result of phthalates, which usually hide in “fragrance” or “parfum” in a shampoo ingredients list, unless the label specifically says something like “scented with only essential oils” or “100% natural.” Phthaltes are known hormone disruptors and hard to avoid–but an easy way to slash your exposure is by avoiding scented personal care products. UPDATE: Daylon has found a non-toxic shampoo that he loves!
- Retinyl Palmitate: Most shampoos on the market contain the probable carcinogen retinyl palmitate, which is a synthetic form of palm oil.
- Sulfates. Many of our readers ask about sulfate-free shampoos. Most shampoos contain sulfates, which are types of surfactants (see above). A “sulfate-free” shampoo probably doesn’t contain any of the three most common sulfates: Sodium lauryl (SLS), sodium laureth (SLES), and ammonia laureth (ALS). Sulfates can be natural or synthetic, and aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves. SLES is the most concerning sulfate in my opinion, as it is often contaminated with carcinogenic 1-4, dioxane. The same concern exists to a lesser degree about ALS. To make it simple, you can rest assured that all of the Good Stuff below are sulfate-free shampoos.
The Good Stuff
The brands listed below represent some of the only non-toxic shampoo out there–they are free of phthalates, parabens, SLES/SLS, and toxic preservatives.
The truth is that my hair looks best using the no poo method, but when I’m too lazy to deal with that, I reach for one of these guys.
This shampoo contains no ingredients of concern, and doubles as a body wash. In addition to saponified coconut for a nice lather, Botanical Therapeutics shampoo contains other natural ingredients like apple cider vinegar and extracts of nettle, clover, and olive fruit.
Green Goo has long been one of our favorite brands, and we are thrilled that they’ve branched into haircare! Their shampoo features a blend of coconut oil and other botanicals with no Bad or Sneaky Stuff!
Hugo Naturals shampoos are available at Whole Foods, Amazon, and a variety of natural foods stores for around $10 for 12 ounces. I find that when I use this shampoo I have to wash my hair more frequently.
John Masters provided me with samples of their shampoo and conditioner, but as always, samples don’t affect my reviews. I love John Masters products. You’ll pay $16 for an 8-ounce bottle of shampoo, and you can buy it on Amazon, as well as in select natural foods stores and salons.
Acure shampoos are available in our online store and cost $9.99 for a 8-ounce bottle. I have found that Acure provides the best lather of the natural bunch, and all of them smell delicious. I use the Moroccan Argan Oil & Stem Cell formula since my hair tends toward being dry.
I love the way Beautycounter’s shampoo smells, and it’s solid in the performance department, too. The only ingredient of concern is the sodium benzoate; it’s a food grade preservative that I don’t like in products that I use for my kids, but which I’m okay with in stuff for myself. Beautycounter shampoo has a long ingredients list, and a lot of it is not natural. That said, Beautycounter tests all their products for purity after production, and carefully researches every single thing that goes into their line.
Carina sent me some samples of their shampoo–which of course did not affect my positive review, as I don’t accept product samples that contain ingredients I consider Bad or Sneaky Stuff. Carina’s vegan, sulfate-free shampoo is made with organic ingredients, and unlike most shampoos—even some of those that I consider the Good Stuff—Carina’s line is 100% natural. The Extra Gentle formulation is perfect for babies and kids.
Juice Organics’ line of sulfate-free shampoos contain natural and organic ingredients, none of which rank higher than a 1 on Skin Deep.
A bottle of Juice Organics shampoo costs around $10.
Living Nature is my new favorite brand of non-toxic shampoo, because it smells wonderful and is easier on my hair than most natural shampoos (which often leave it a weird combo of greasy roots and dry ends). I was hesitant about this New Zealand-based brand because it’s pricey, but I know think it’s well worth the extra cost.
People ask about Shea Moisture products all the time, and while I wouldn’t call the entire line Good Stuff, I do like their sulfate-free shampoos. These all contain organic ingredients, and not too many of them.
You’ll pay around $12 for a bottle of Shea Moisture shampoo.
Poofy makes several shampoos, all of which have a nice short list of ingredients (including some interesting ones like apple cider vinegar and yucca extract). I’ve not tried any Poofy shampoos, so let me know if you have, and how they work!
I love Plaine for their commitment to the environment–their bottles are not made of plastic, and better yet, you send them back to be cleaned, sterilized, refilled, and returned to you! The fact that this shampoo is also totally clean (no phthalates, SLES or SLS, or toxic preservatives) makes Plaine shampoo some of the Best Stuff.
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