The Best Baby Shampoo, Lotion, Soap 2020
Best Baby Shampoo, Lotion, Soap 2020
Last updated: Best Baby Shampoo, Lotion, Soap 2020. We lathered up 20 babies with over 20 different brands of baby shampoo/body wash to find the Best Baby Shampoo, Lotion and Soap—and the winner is . Puracy Natural Baby Shampoo & Body Wash ($20.99). For our picks for best lotion and best soap for baby, click here.
Scroll down for our picks for Best Budget-Friendly Baby Shampoo, Best Baby Shampoo Splurge, Best Treatment for Cradle Cap, Best Baby Lotion and Best Baby Soap for Eczema.
New to crib shopping? Read our 7 Things No One Tells You About Buying Shampoo, Lotion and Soap for Baby for advice and tips.
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). Avoid any products with milk, almonds or peanuts (also called arachis oil).
FYI: Baby shampoos can typically be used as body wash on most babies. If your baby has eczema, check out our recommendations for best baby soaps below.
Priced at a reasonable 66¢ per ounce, 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 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 it was 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, Puracy is an excellent choice for parents looking for a safe, effective baby shampoo.
Also Great: 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.
Our readers tell us that the Baby Wash and Shampoo works fine for babies with normal skin, but those with eczema or very dry skin may be find it too drying. Our own tests confirmed this—Aveeno Baby Wash worked well, is affordable ($8.99, which is about 50¢ per ounce—20% less expensive than our top pick) and has a pleasant smell. Another bonus: Aveeno Baby Wash is widely available in grocery stores and at big box discounters.
Yes, Aveeno is now owned by Johnson & Johnson, but traces its roots to 1945 when it debuted its first product (soothing bath treatment). The Aveeno Baby care line was launched in 2001. Bottom line: Aveeno Baby Wash and Shampoo ($8.99) 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 runs 47¢ per ounce, which 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.
We’re betting most people have had their hair washed at least once with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. And besides the price, it’s the “no more tears” formula and familiar smell that attract parents.
In the past few years, Johnson’s was plagued by controversy over the 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 and dyes like Yellow #6 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 hair feeling dry. We didn’t personally see that, but we realize that is a perception for some 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. At $2.45 per ounce, it’s no one idea’s of a bargain, but readers who use it tell us they love it.
Yes, Mustela is from France, but interestingly, at least in France, the brand is like a French version of Johnson & Johnson’s (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 cradle cap as “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 were positive—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 soap.
Best Treatment for Cradle Cap. If you haven’t been around newborns much, you may be surprised to find that some babies can develop weird skin conditions. Most of them are benign and go away on their own.
Cradle cap is definitely in the “no big deal” category—it is basically patchy scales or flakes on baby’s scalp. It freaks out parents who don’t like how it looks . . . and we can understand that.
Dr. Ari Brown, pediatrician and co-author of the Baby 411 book series has a recommendation: olive oil. That’s right, head to the kitchen and grab the can of olive oil. Doesn’t matter if it’s extra virgin either. We recommend Zoe Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil in case you need to buy some.
It’s a great olive oil for cooking and works as a cradle cap cure too. Just massage it into baby’s scalp, leave for a little while and use a comb to lift up the plaques. Then you can shampoo out the oil during regularly scheduled bath time. Also, as we mentioned above, many parents swear by Mustela Baby Shampoo for relief of cradle cap.
Best Baby Lotion. Parents often assume they need to put lotion on their baby every day, but unless your baby has very dry skin or eczema, you really only need a moisturizer after baby’s bath (see more on how often to bathe your baby in the 7 Tips below).
Our top choice for a basic lotion: Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion for Dry Skin. If you prefer to use a lotion without petroleum or mineral oil, consider Cetaphil Baby Daily Lotion. It’s a bit more expensive at 67¢ an ounce.
If your baby has eczema, the general advice is “lube ‘em up.” That’s right, use the thickest, greasiest stuff you can stand. Our Dr. Ari Brown, co-author of Baby 411 recommends Vaseline Intensive Care Jelly Cream (pictured at right; $1.39 per ounce) as her top choice.
Other options: Eucerin cream (lanolin is an ingredient–may cause an allergic reaction; 74¢ per ounce), CeraVe (95¢ per ounce) and Cetaphil (80¢ per ounce). As Dr. Brown notes: “You need to lube your child up several times a day. As soon as you get your child out of the bathtub, apply the moisturizer (I’m serious–have the tube ready).”
Best Soap for Babies with Eczema. What is eczema? It’s a skin condition that causes itchy, red and inflamed skin. Some babies are born with it; others develop it after birth. About 30 million Americans suffer from eczema.
Eczema can be related to certain allergies (including food allergies). We recommend visiting with both a dermatologist and an allergist if your child’s condition is severe. In the meantime, our top recommended soap for babies with eczema, mild or severe is plain old Dove. That’s right. Stick with a mild, moisturizing soap with no dyes or strong scents. Dove fits the bill and is very affordable at around $1 per bar.
Other great soap options are made by Cetaphil ($5.40 per bar), Vanicream ($3 per bar) or CeraVe ($9.18 for three bars). But stick with bar soaps, no liquids. To create liquid soap, manufacturers add alcohol as an ingredient and alcohol can have a drying effect. Anti-bacterial soaps can be drying as well. Follow it up with the lotion/cream recommendations above.
Why Trust Us
We’ve been rating and reviewing baby products since 1994. As publisher and co-author of the Baby 411 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 Dr. Brown’s 20 year experience as a practicing pediatrician in Austin, TX.
We also evaluate consumer reviews posted on sites like Amazon, as well as our own message boards.
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 lots 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, price and chemical make up. Besides interviewing parents, we also regularly talk with pediatricians about their real world recommendations to patients.
7 Things No One Tells You About Buying Shampoo, Lotion and Soap!
1. Every single baby shampoo/body wash and baby lotion 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. We suggest testing on your baby’s skin on the inside of his elbow or on your own skin first, if you prefer.
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 (see above). For more information, check out this article from UC Health in Colorado about swaddle bathing. 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 listed as an ingredient. Just because all baby care products are made from chemicals, doesn’t mean they’re harmful to baby or the environment. We think this article from the Los Angeles Times offers some food for thought about chemicals in consumer products.
5. Eczema is a bitch.
Sorry for swearing, but we’ve been through it here ourselves at the home office and it’s no fun. Mild eczema causes itchy, raised red plaques. Severe eczema can cause blistering as well as unbelievable itching. It can be so itchy baby will scratch holes in their skin. Eczema typically appears on the face; in the folds of the neck, arm pits and groin; and on feet and hands although it can cover even more of baby’s skin when severe.
The general rule: avoid liquid soaps (they have alcohol in them, a drying agent), perfumes, dyes or antibacterial soaps. You should only bathe your baby once a week (unless she’s really dirty for some reason) See our recommendations above for lotions and soaps to use on babies with eczema.
For itching, you can try over the counter hydrocortisone (1%). If you can’t control it with these tips, see your doctor for stronger medicine and new therapies.
6. 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. We have treatment recommendations above.
7. Most babies don’t need baby lotion.
Or any lotion at all. If you do want to use a light lotion after bath time or when doing a bit of baby massage before bed (we highly recommend this–who doesn’t like a relaxing massage?), stick with the lotions we mentioned above.
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