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During your pursuit for the perfect hair product, someone may have recommended that you use a “mild” shampoo.
If you’re not really sure what that means, don’t fret. We’ll break it down for you.
Mild shampoos are shampoos that contain gentler and generally weaker cleansing agents (detergents and surfactants) compared to other shampoos.
Cleansing agents help remove oil and dirt from hair, but shampoos that contain typical cleansing agents can leave the hair rough, frizzy, and prone to tangling.
On top of mild cleansers, mild shampoos also contain conditioning agents and often natural oils or botanical extracts to keep hair soft.
A mild shampoo can be a great choice for any of these criteria:
- You need to wash your hair every day.
- Your hair is damaged, either by chemicals or heat.
- Your hair is dry or brittle.
- You have fine hair.
- You have dandruff.
- You’re experiencing hair loss.
Mild shampoos can still remove oil and dirt but are able to do so without damaging your hair.
What sets a mild shampoo apart from a stronger shampoo is the absence of strong cleansing agents known as surfactants and detergents. Surfactants and detergents are soap-like ingredients that get rid of residue, oil, and pollution in your hair.
Stronger cleansing shampoos (like clarifying shampoos) often contain one or more of the following cleansers:
- ammonium lauryl sulfate
- ammonium laureth sulfate
- sodium lauryl sulfate
- triethanolamine lauryl sulfate
- triethanolamine laureth sulfate
- disodium oleaminesulfosuccinate
- sodium dioctylsulfosuccinate
Because of these strong cleansers, clarifying shampoos are really meant to be used less frequently, when you need extra cleansing.
Mild shampoos still contain surfactants and detergents, but they aren’t as strong as the cleansing agents used in clarifying shampoos.
Examples of surfactants and detergents used in mild shampoos include:
- cocamidopropyl betaine
- long-chain amino esters
- cetyltrimethylammonium chloride
- polyoxyethylene fatty alcohols
- polyoxyethylene sorbitol esters
- sodium lauraminopropionate
On top of the milder cleansing agents, mild shampoos contain additional conditioning agents in the form of natural oils, silicone, or proteins. Examples include:
- hydrolyzed silk and animal protein
- amino acids
- propylene glycol
- natural or essential oils
- plant extracts
- shea butter
- vitamins like panthenol and provitamins
The ingredients used in mild shampoos offer many benefits. Mild shampoos:
- don’t irritate the scalp
- cleanse the scalp, but don’t overdry it
- won’t cause hair loss
- will condition damaged or dry hair
Mild shampoo for dry hair
Dry hair develops when your hair doesn’t retain enough moisture. Mild shampoos are an excellent choice for dry hair as they provide mild cleansing and good conditioning, but won’t strip your hair of its much needed natural oils.
If you have dry hair, always use a conditioner after you shampoo and consider applying hair oils or leave-in conditioners after you shower.
Mild shampoo for hair loss
Though not all hair loss can be prevented, especially as you get older, you may be able to slow down hair loss by treating hair follicle inflammation. Using a mild shampoo can keep you from irritating and damaging the follicle over time.
If you’re experiencing hair loss or thinning, use a mild shampoo to prevent breakage and drying out of your scalp. Harsher formulas may dry hair and cause it to break, leading to greater hair loss.
Mild shampoo for oily hair
If you have oily hair, you probably want to use a stronger shampoo at least once weekly. In the meantime, a mild shampoo still has enough cleansing power to remove excess oil and would be appropriate for daily use.
You may want to avoid mild shampoos that contain silicones (like cyclomethicone and dimethicone). Although they can add gloss, they may make your hair feel extra greasy.
Mild shampoo for thin hair
Mild shampoos are also a good option for thin hair to prevent breakage and to keep the hair soft. Look for a mild shampoo that also contains a thickening agent, such as:
Mild shampoo for curly hair
Curly or wavy hair tends to be dry since oil can’t coat the strands as easily as it can straight hair. Curly hair needs more moisture to stay soft and prevent frizzing.
People with curly hair should use a mild shampoo to prevent frizz and keep their curls defined, but they should try not to shampoo every day.
Mild shampoo for colored or chemically treated hair
Mild shampoos are great for colored or chemically treated hair as they don’t contain harsh cleansing agents that often strip color or damage hair any further.
Mild shampoo for dandruff
Strong surfactants can worsen dandruff by drying out your scalp and making the underlying cells produce more oils.
To combat dandruff, look for a mild shampoo that contains zinc pyrithione as an additive. It slows the production of skin cells and prevents flaking.
A mild shampoo is recommend for babies since their scalps don’t produce a lot of oil. Specially formulated baby shampoos tend to be even more mild than adult shampoos and may contain ingredients that help numb the eyes to prevent irritation.
Mild shampoo isn’t always labeled “mild,” but a mild shampoo isn’t difficult to find at supermarkets, drugstores, or online.
Look for shampoos that don’t contain sulfates (such as sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate), but do contain conditioning agents, like silicones, proteins, and oils.
Mild shampoos typically cost more than normal or strong shampoos, at about $5 to $10 at your local drugstore. They’re sometimes cheaper if you buy in bulk. Of course, some brands cost significantly more (upward of $30 a bottle).
There are hundreds of mild shampoos on the market. Here are a few of the most popular mild shampoos, all of which exclude the agents of typical shampoos:
- Kiehl’s Amino Acid Shampoo with Pure Coconut Oil
- SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo
- Aquaphor Baby Wash & Shampoo
- Mild By Nature Thickening B-Complex + Biotin Shampoo
- Pure Nature Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo
- L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Moisture Shampoo
- OGX Hydrate and Repair + Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo
For chemically treated or colored hair, you might want to see your stylist for specific product recommendations.
Mild shampoos provide cleansing without damage or irritation and offer extra conditioning to your hair, unlike normal or clarifying shampoos.
If your hair is oily or dirty, you should still use a stronger, clarifying shampoo, but you should use it just once a week. On other days, you can use a mild shampoo.
Many shampoos are marketed based on the type of hair for which they’re meant. Shampoos for oily hair have stronger detergent properties, while those for colored, chemically treated, bleached, or dry hair use milder surfactants to reduce oil removal.
Baby shampoos are usually the mildest and won’t irritate the eyes.
Still, you’ll want to check the ingredients listed on the label so you know you’re selecting the type of shampoo that works best for your hair.