Best Baby Shampoo

The best shampoo for baby should be tear free and gently clean with the fewest natural ingredients that are hypoallergenic—and without using potentially carcinogenic chemicals (such as formaldehyde-releasing 1,4-dioxane), sulphates or phthalates.

We prefer scent free or lightly scented shampoos and don’t recommend trendy herbal ingredients (like lavender). Why? These can cause potential allergic reactions. Yes, it is ironic: many “natural” and “organic” baby care shampoos and lotions contain HIGHLY allergenic ingredients (example: almonds, chamomile). Our advice: avoid any baby care products with milk, almonds or peanuts (also called arachis oil).

FYI: Baby shampoos can typically be used as body wash on most babies.

Priced reasonably, Puracy is made with coconut-based cleansers, which based on our independent research are gentler on baby’s skin and scalp than traditional detergents. The ingredients also include sea salt (yes, Himalayan Pink sea salt), pink grapefruit oil and a bunch of natural, plant based and biodegradable preservatives.

But what do parents think? Is it gentle on baby’s skin? Is it “tear free”? Yes, most of our readers thought the shampoo was gentle with only a few reports of rash or other irritations—and that was verified with our own hands-on tests.

However, we should point out that a significant minority of our readers didn’t think Puracy is as “tear free” as stalwarts like Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo.

Interestingly, the company addresses these complaints with by saying this:

“When it comes to being ‘tear-free,’ we did test this product to be gentle and non-burning to the eyes. We first tested it on ourselves (employees) and only afterward on our little ones. We made many revisions along with many discussions before labeling our product as such. Our formula does not contain any eye numbing agents like most tear-free shampoos.

Instead, it contains a very gentle blend of cleansers and moisturizers. If you notice any discomfort, it is possible that the cleansers are attempting to clean the mucous from your eyes. This could result in some friction (less mucous acting as a lubricant) and, therefore, discomfort. It is typically very short-lived and eradicated by rinsing out with some fresh water.”

Bottom line: despite the small numbers of folks who think this shampoo isn’t as tear-free as it should be, we think Puracy is an excellent choice for parents looking for a safe, effective baby shampoo.

Best Non-Drying Shampoo

Aveeno Baby Wash and Shampoo is a great second choice for baby shampoo. Aveeno’s claim to fame is that it “cleanses without drying,” thanks to its soap-free and tear-free formula that includes oatmeal.

And we would agree after testing. Our own tests confirmed this—Aveeno Baby Wash worked well, is affordable and has a pleasant smell. Another pro: Aveeno Baby Wash is widely available.

One caveat: our readers tell us that this shampoo works fine for babies with normal skin, but those with eczema or very dry skin may be find it too drying.

Yes, Aveeno is now owned by Johnson & Johnson, but traces its roots to 1945 when it debuted its first product (a bath treatment). The Aveeno Baby care line was launched in 2001.

Bottom line: Aveeno Wash and Shampoo is a great option for baby shampoo if you can’t find our top pick . . . or think it is too pricey!

Best Budget-Friendly Baby Shampoo

If you had to pick just one iconic brand synonymous with baby care, Johnson’s Baby Shampoo would probably fit the bill. First debuting in 1953, Johnson’s Baby Shampoo makes it one of the most affordable baby shampoos on the market (about 30% less expensive than our top pick, Puracy).

To say Johnson’s “no more tears” formula was successful is an understatement—as recently as the late 90’s, Johnson’s had a whopping 75% share of the baby shampoo market.

The smell of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo is also iconic—the perfume may remind generations of grandparents of baby bathtime, but some find it overwhelming.

In the past few years, Johnson’s has been dogged by controversy over certain chemicals in their baby shampoo. Those ingredients under question included formaldehyde-releasing chemicals, phthalates and other potential carcinogens. The good news: Johnson’s reworked its formula in 2014 and dropped the questionable ingredients . . . or reduced them to trace amounts.

Let’s be honest: Johnson’s Baby Shampoo will not win awards for the most all-natural ingredients. Making it mild and tear-free requires chemicals like 1,4-dioxane, which has been linked to cancer in animal studies. Johnson’s says their new formulation reduces that chemical to a trace mount (one to four parts per million).

We realize that for many readers the fact that Johnson’s Baby Shampoo still contains preservatives like Phenoxyethanol will turn them off to the brand—that’s understandable.

In our hands-on testing, we found Johnson’s Baby Shampoo worked well—the only caveat is that parents tell us it left some babies with dry-feeling hair. We didn’t personally see that in our testing, but it is a concern for a few folks.

Best Shampoo Splurge

Do the grandparents want to splurge a little on items for baby? Then you might want to add Mustela baby shampoo to your baby registry. Sure, it is picked as a bargain by no one, but readers who use it tell us they love it. And in our testing, we see the appeal.

Yes, Mustela is from France, but interestingly, at least in France, the brand is viewed by French parents like Americans see Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Shampoo (that is, a basic, inexpensive option).

So what do parents like about Mustela? The biggest deal: many parents swear Mustela cleared up or at least improved their babies’ cradle cap. What’s cradle cap? The Mayo Clinic defines it this way: “crusty or oily scaly patches on baby’s scalp.” This common condition doesn’t hurt baby or itch, it just looks unpleasant. Mustela appears to have some curative effect for quite a few parents we’ve interviewed.

One caveat to Mustela’s use for cradle cap: it is no quick fix. A few weeks of continued use is required to see a decline in cradle cap plaques.

Our tests of Mustela as a baby shampoo confirm the kudos it wins from fans—the smell is pleasant but not overwhelming. It doesn’t irritate the eyes. We also like that Mustela baby shampoo comes in several different forms: liquid, gel or foam. You can also use it as a body wash.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing baby products since 1994. As publisher and co-author of the Baby 411 book series, we partnered with renowned pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown to create a detailed guide to baby care. Our advice on shampoo, lotions and soaps are based on hand-on inspections and tests, plus the advice we give in our books.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. We’ve been writing and reviewing baby gear since 1994. Yes, that long!

How we picked a winner

We evaluate shampoos, lotions and soaps by washing scores of babies, friends, and, yes, even ourselves (someone has to figure out if “tear free” really is, well, tear free).  We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print), tracking toiletries on quality and price. Besides interviewing parents, we also regularly talk with pediatricians about their real world shampoo recommendations to patients.

5 Things No One Tells You About Buying Shampoo!

1. Every single baby shampoo has caused some adverse reaction at some point to someone’s baby.

What kind of reaction? Anything from eczema and dry skin to rashes to hives to irritated eyes. Why? Because each baby is different. (Ok, you knew that!) So when you try a new shampoo, soap or lotion rinse thoroughly and keep a close eye on your baby after use. If your baby is super sensitive, we suggest first testing a new shampoo on your baby’s skin on the inside of his elbow or on your own skin first to check for reactions.

2. Newborns and infants don’t get very dirty.

Newborns aren’t jumping in mud puddles or eating messy solid foods yet. So you really don’t need to bathe them very often–every three or four days is fine. Some doctors say you can even wait a week between baths. Just be sure you’re cleaning the diaper area well each time you change your baby. If your baby has dry skin or eczema, bathe once a week (the fewer the baths, the less chance of drying out the skin).

3. Baths can be soothing for babies.

Yep, you might find that your baby enjoys a warm bath as much as you do! In case your baby isn’t excited about bathing, you might want to consider a new method called swaddle bathing. Do an online search for swaddle bathing by UC Health Colorado for details. And don’t forget a nice relaxing infant massage after bath. Everyone loves a massage!

4. “Natural” doesn’t actually mean anything.

That’s right, just because a product touts that it is “all-natural” doesn’t mean it’s better. In fact, some ingredients like citrus and herbs (lavender and calendula, for example) can be allergenic to some folks. And the government doesn’t have a standard for what is “natural”—some natural baby care products may have petroleum jelly or mineral oil.  Remember: just because all baby care products are made from chemicals doesn’t mean they’re harmful to baby or the environment. Do an search for Deborah Blum’s “Chemical-free nonsense” for some good insights into this subject.

5. Cradle cap only looks ugly.

It doesn’t hurt your baby or cause itching, but we can understand if you are put off by the appearance. See our earlier discussion of Mustela baby shampoo for a possible solution to cradle cap.

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