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Many of us are becoming more aware when it comes to the chemicals and ingredients in our daily use products (seriously, reading labels in the cosmetics aisles now feels like spending time in a library). This is especially important when you’re looking at substances that will come into contact with your baby.

Baby skin is much more sensitive than ours, and their tiny bodies may be more susceptible to harm from chemicals. That’s why it’s important to know what products you’re using on your baby’s delicate skin.

On one hand, babies don’t stink like we do (who doesn’t love that new baby smell?!) so they don’t need to bathe as often. But diaper blowouts, spit-up, and baby food messes are all inevitable and can send you running to the bathtub with your little one.

During the early newborn weeks, plain warm water is enough to clean your baby. For the first week or so, until the umbilical cord stump falls off, stick to sponge baths (no submerging your baby in water).

Around 4 to 6 weeks old, you can start using a few drops of a gentle baby shampoo on their hair (if they have any) and body. You only need to use a tiny, pea-sized bit — you want to leave their skin’s protective oils intact as much as possible.

As your baby gets older and grows a full head of hair, you may begin to use a little more shampoo to get their hair clean. Baby skin is thinner and dries out much faster than adult skin, so choosing a gentle, baby-friendly shampoo can help keep their skin from getting dry and itchy.

Some babies have particularly sensitive skin that may be prone to eczema and rashes. To protect their delicate skin from irritation, here are some ingredients you may want to avoid when selecting a baby shampoo:

  • parabens and phthalates are harsh and possibly dangerous chemicals often found in adult toiletry products and plastics
  • formaldehyde— yep, the same stuff used in science labs (yuck)
  • fragrance can irritate skin and is sometimes used as a broad label that includes other potentially harmful ingredients
  • dyes, which some babies are allergic to
  • sulfates, which may irritate skin and eyes
  • alcohol is often labeled ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, which dries out the skin

It’s advisable to keep shampoo out of your baby’s eyes whenever possible, as the eyes are especially sensitive. Tear-free formulas will help with this, but still, bath time will be more pleasant if you tip your little one’s head back and rinse the shampoo away from their face.

And of course, no matter what shampoo you use, the most important step to keeping your baby safe at bath time is to never, ever leave your little one unattended in the bathtub. Try to place everything you’ll need (shampoo, washcloth, towel, toys, diaper, etc.) within reach ahead of time so that you can stay hands-on with your baby.

There are endless baby shampoos on the market, so narrowing down what to look for can help. In addition to avoiding the harsher (and possibly unsafe) ingredients listed above, some key features to consider include:

  • tear-free, because babies are inevitably going to squirm and shampoo might get in their eyes
  • plant-based or natural ingredients — such as fruit and seed oils
  • fragrance-free

It’s essential to keep in mind that every baby is an individual, so while a shampoo or wash that’s made of natural ingredients may work fantastically for some, it may cause irritation for others.

There’s no way to definitively say which shampoo is perfect for your baby, so there may be a little trial and error involved, though everything on our list is designed to be gentle.

We tested a few products ourselves, polled real-life parents, conducted extensive online research related to ingredient safety, and read reviews to gather our top 13 baby shampoos. Read on to keep your baby safe and smelling sweet!

Price guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$15
  • $$$ = over $15

Most highly rated baby shampoo

Cetaphil Baby Wash & Shampoo with Organic Calendula

  • Price: $
  • Paraben-free: yes
  • Fragrance-free: no

This baby shampoo and body wash, from well-known brand Cetaphil, claims to be tear-free and contains some nice skin-friendly ingredients such as calendula (a flower oil), aloe vera, and vitamins E and B5 (panthenol).

It gets great reviews overall from parents, who love the light scent and say this shampoo is gentle on baby’s skin and hair. However, its fragrance may be a downside for some.

This option is also not sulfate-free, so it gives a good lather but may irritate your baby’s skin if they are extra sensitive. Several parents also reported that it did irritate their baby’s eyes, despite being labeled tear-free.

Pros

  • This is an affordable, easy-to-find baby shampoo.
  • The wash has a light, pleasing scent from the calendula, that is also gentle on skin.
  • Cetaphil is a reputable, dermatologist-tested brand.
  • Cetaphil’s wash gets great reviews from parents.

Cons

  • This wash contains fragrance and sulfates (soap), so it may not be ideal for very sensitive skin.
  • Some parents reported their babies experienced eye irritation, even though the shampoo is labeled tear-free.

Best natural baby shampoo

Attitude 2-in-1 Baby Shampoo & Body Wash, Unscented

  • Price: $$
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: yes

The Canadian-based company Attitude is all about good ingredients, and their Baby Leaves shampoo and wash is at the top of the list when it comes to ingredient safety and gentleness.

This shampoo contains blueberry leaf and moringa seed, which are natural and likely to be gentle on baby skin. This product is truly fragrance free, so whether you have a baby with extra sensitive skin or just want to make sure you’re using natural ingredients, this may be a great choice for gentle cleansing.

Pros

  • The shampoo’s ingredients are considered generally safe and natural.
  • The shampoo is fragrance-free, which is good for sensitive skin and means no hidden ingredients.
  • The product is vegan, cruelty-free, and produced in an environmentally conscious way.

Cons

  • This formula is not moisturizing, so it may be too drying for very dry skin.
  • A few parents reported eye irritation, even though it’s a tear-free formula.

Best 2-in-1 baby shampoo

Pipette Baby Shampoo + Wash

  • Price: $
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: yes

While many baby shampoos do in fact double as a body wash, we love this particular shampoo/body wash combo from Pipette because it covers all the bases when it comes to super gentle, clean ingredients.

This is also the most environmentally conscious option on our list. On the negative side, some parents said they actually wished it had more of a scent, and others felt it was a little pricey for the amount you get. Otherwise, it gets rave reviews (especially from parents of babies with skin concerns, such as eczema or atopic dermatitis).

Pros

  • Pipette’s Baby Shampoo + Wash is environmentally friendly.
  • It’s truly fragrance-free.
  • The wash is highly rated by parents, even those with babies with sensitive skin.

Cons

  • Some parents feel it is too unscented or has a slightly unpleasant smell.
  • It’s a bit pricier on a per ounce basis than some of the other options on this list.

Best baby shampoo for dry scalp

CeraVe Baby Wash & Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: yes

This gentle baby shampoo from dermatologist-developed CeraVe has the National Eczema Association’s seal of approval. It doesn’t have any of the yucky stuff (parabens, sulfates, and fragrances), and includes a blend of vitamins and ceramides that help protect your baby’s skin barrier instead of drying it out.

This shampoo gets great reviews from almost all parents, and especially those whose babies have extra dry scalps or skin. This is also a more budget-friendly option that still has clean ingredients.

Pros

  • CeraVe is a well-respected brand that was developed by dermatologists.
  • It contains moisture-protecting ingredients that are good for babies with dry skin.
  • The National Eczema Association seal of approval means it’s a good choice for babies with eczema.

Cons

  • This soap only comes in an 8 oz. bottle, so you may have to repurchase it frequently.
  • The wash could cause eye irritation if it comes in direct contact with eyes.

Cantu Care for Kids Tear-Free Nourishing Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: no

Whether your little one is just starting to get wavy locks, or already has a full head of curls or coils, this tear-free shampoo from Cantu Care for Kids is a great option for naturally straight or textured hair. Parents give it great reviews for enhanced curl definition and overall hair softness.

Infused with shea butter, honey, and coconut oil, it is highly moisturizing for thirsty hair. It’s also free of parabens, sulfates, and mineral oils. The only potential downsides of this shampoo for those with sensitive skin are the presence of fragrance, and an ingredient called methylisothiazolinone that can be irritating to sensitive skin.

Pros

  • The shampoo is designed with ingredients that benefit curly or textured hair.
  • It’s free of sulfates and parabens.
  • This is one of the most affordable options on our list, at less than $5 per bottle.
  • The shampoo has a pleasant smell and leaves hair soft.

Cons

  • It may be irritating for sensitive scalps.
  • The shampoo contains fragrance.

Best baby shampoo for cradle cap

Mustela Foam Shampoo for Newborns

  • Price: $$
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: yes

If you’ve been wondering what those crusty yellow scales on your precious babe’s head are, it could be cradle cap. This very common newborn skin complaint will not harm your baby, but it is unpleasant to look at and can be oily and itchy.

Using a cradle cap brush (buy one online), plus a medicated shampoo, can easily help restore your baby’s silky smooth scalp. This foaming shampoo from Mustela is soap-free and formulated with mostly plant-based ingredients and gets great comments from parents.

It does have a tiny bit of salicylic acid in it (an exfoliant commonly found in adult acne treatment products), which helps clear off the scaly skin. However, some parents reported that this irritated their baby’s scalp, so watch for redness or rashes. You should also carefully avoid getting this product in your baby’s eyes, despite the fact that the formula claims to be tear-free. Salicylic acid can be irritating to delicate eye tissue.

Pros

  • The foam is an effective shampoo for cradle cap.
  • It contains mostly plant-based ingredients.
  • The wash is gentle enough for even young babies.

Cons

  • The wash could cause skin or eye irritation.
  • It is recommended to leave the shampoo on for 1-2 minutes before rinsing, which may be tricky if you’re bathing a squirmy or fussy baby.

Best baby shampoo that adults can use too

Baby Dove Tip to Toe Wash

  • Price: $
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: no

This shampoo and body wash from Baby Dove is designed to be gentle and rich, and is a favorite among parents. It is moisturizing, budget-friendly, and free of parabens and phthalates. This formula does have fragrance, but there is a fragrance-free version available as well.

According to reviews, a number of adults actually prefer to use baby shampoo for themselves as well, as it’s gentler on hair and free of many chemicals that are found in adult products. If you suffer from dry hair or a dry scalp, you may have good results using this moisturizing baby shampoo yourself.

Pros

  • The price is affordable.
  • It’s sweet smelling.
  • The shampoo has a moisturizing, creamy formula that’s helpful for dry skin or hair.
  • Many adults find this shampoo to be gentle and effective for themselves as well.

Cons

  • Some parents felt the fragrance was too strong.
  • Creamy formulas are sometimes harder to rinse from hair than clear shampoos.

Best baby shampoo for bedtime

Babo Botanicals Calming Shampoo, Bubble Bath & Wash

  • Price: $$$
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: no

Babo Botanicals is a company well known for their commitment to ingredient purity and safety. This sweet-smelling shampoo contains many skin-loving ingredients such as shea butter and coconut oil.

It also contains natural lavender flower oil, which has been shown to have some calming properties that may help babies sleep better (sign us up!). Parents rave about this shampoo for its versatility, gentleness on sensitive skin, and of course the pleasant smell. Plus, it also doubles as a bubble bath, which is sure to be a big hit with baby.

Pros

  • It contains skin-friendly natural moisturizers, like shea butter and coconut oil.
  • This product is a 3-in-1 and can be used as a shampoo, body wash, and bubble bath.
  • This wash is scented with lavender oil, which may help calm or soothe babies before bed time.

Cons

  • Even though this is a hypoallergenic formula, some babies with allergies or sensitive skin may still react to the plant-based ingredients, including lavender.
  • It’s a bit more expensive than some of the other options on our list.

Best on-the-go baby shampoo

Mustela No-Rinse Cleansing Water

  • Price: $$$
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: no

For those who travel frequently, or for cleaning up on the go (because of course the diaper blowout is going to happen when you’re at a restaurant with no bathtub in sight), there are “shampoos” available that can clean your baby without water.

This no-rinse micellar water cleanser from Mustela is a fan favorite. The ingredients are everything you want (think: lots of plant-based goodness), and none of the stuff you don’t. Many parents actually use it as a skin treatment for baby acne, for cleaning up their baby after meals, or with regular diaper changes to ensure no residual poo smell.

Worth noting: A few parents reported the fragrance is too strong, and rashes or worsening of baby acne, so you could try a spot test for a few days to see how your baby’s skin reacts.

Pros

  • No-rinse cleanser is great for keeping your baby fresh on the go or between baths.
  • The bottle has a convenient pump dispenser.
  • It may help clear baby acne for some infants.
  • Adults writing reviews have also found it’s an effective cleanser.

Cons

  • The cost, on a per ounce basis, is expensive.
  • Some parents find the fragrance too strong.
  • The wash worsened some babies’ rashes and/or baby acne.

Best budget-friendly baby shampoo

Johnson’s Baby Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: no

Because many of the products on our list are highly rated for ingredient quality and safety, they can also be a bit pricey. If you are looking for a great, classic baby shampoo that does the job, smells great, and has generally safe ingredients, it may be hard to beat Johnson & Johnson’s updated tear-free baby shampoo.

While the company received a lot of public attention a few years ago for unsafe ingredients in their baby shampoo, they have since revamped their formula to get rid of all the parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and dyes.

The shampoo does still contain fragrance, and may not be the best choice if you have a baby with super sensitive skin. But the smell is classic, sweet baby smell, and at around $6 for a big huge bottle, the price is impossible to beat.

Pros

  • At less than $9 per bottle, this shampoo is one of the most affordable options on the list.
  • It’s been reformulated, and harmful ingredients were removed.
  • The shampoo is gentle and has a tear-free formula, which is great, because it’s likely that at least a little shampoo will get in baby’s eyes when you’re rinsing their hair.

Cons

  • The fragrance added to this shampoo could make it drying or irritating for babies with especially sensitive skin.
  • A few users said the bottle lid broke easily.

Best baby shampoo for eczema

Noodle & Boo Eczema Care – Newborn 2-in-1 Hair and Body Wash

  • Price: $$$
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: yes

Parents of babies with eczema know the frustration of trying product after product — or elimination diet after elimination diet — in an effort to clear up their little one’s red, itchy skin. Noodle & Boo is a company based in the United States that was founded by a mom who knew these woes, as her babies had very sensitive, eczema-prone skin.

Certain soaps, fragrances, and other ingredients can worsen skin irritation for eczema-prone babies, and the company’s focus is making products that work for kids with sensitive skin.

Ingredients for their products are chosen based on historical data, and certified organic when possible, according to the company. But, the research and high-quality ingredients come at a price, making this one of the most expensive options on our list.

Pros

  • This wash is free of harsh ingredients, harmful chemicals, and fragrances.
  • Noodle & Boo offers a 100% money-back guarantee.
  • It’s designed to be non-irritating for eczema prone babies.

Cons

  • This wash is expensive compared to other products.
  • While this product is fragrance-free, some Noodle & Boo products do have fragrance(s), so read labels carefully if you’re looking for other eczema care options on the site.

Best baby shampoo for sensitive skin

Vanicream Free & Clear Shampoo

  • Price: $$
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: yes

If you have a baby with super sensitive skin, Vanicream’s Free & Clear shampoo could be a great choice. The wash is a soap-free shampoo with minimal ingredients that comes recommended by pediatricians and dermatologists.

This shampoo doesn’t have fragrances, masking fragrances, dyes, parabens, lanolins, preservatives, formaldehyde, or formaldehyde releases. The soap also doesn’t contain sodium laureth sulfate, or SLES, a milder and less irritating form of sodium lauryl sulfate.

Vanicream’s shampoo is specifically designed with sensitive scalps in mind and hopefully should allow you to clean the oil, grime, food, and more from your baby’s hair without irritating their sensitive skin. Plus, you may be able to get samples of Vanicream products from your pediatrician to see how they work for your baby.

It is one of few products that’s truly fragrance-free and has no scent.

Pros

  • Vanicream has a huge “free of” list that makes this shampoo suitable for sensitive skin.
  • The shampoo is pediatrician and dermatologist recommended.
  • The shampoo is truly scent-free.
  • Free samples may be available from your pediatrician.

Cons

  • It may still irritate some baby’s skin, particularly those with severe eczema.
  • Doesn’t have a “baby fresh” scent, which may be a downside to some, but is a good thing for super sensitive babies.

Best moisturizing baby shampoo

Aveeno Baby Daily Moisture Gentle Body Wash & Shampoo

  • Price: $
  • Paraben free: yes
  • Fragrance free: no

This gentle body wash and shampoo from the well-known brand Aveeno is a great choice if your baby is prone to dry skin, or you live in a dry climate. Aveeno’s key ingredient is natural oat extract, which helps the skin retain moisture. Oatmeal is known to help soothe the itching and dryness caused by eczema, so this could be a good option if your baby has eczema.

This shampoo is gentle and affordable, and often recommended by pediatricians for babies with dry or scaly skin.

Although this shampoo is only lightly scented, it is worth noting that some babies are sensitive to even small amounts of fragrance. Additionally, some parents reported that it leaves a bit of a residue or texture in hair if not rinsed very thoroughly.

Pros

  • Oat extract is an ingredient, and it can help moisturize skin and soothe itching.
  • The shampoo is free of many harmful ingredients.
  • Aveeno designed this shampoo with sensitive skin in mind.

Cons

  • This shampoo is lightly scented, which could bother some babies.
  • The shampoo may leave residue in hair if it’s not rinsed thoroughly enough.
  • The bottle is a bit hard to squeeze according to some parents.

What does tear-free baby shampoo mean?

Just like babies have more delicate skin than adults do, their little eyes are very delicate as well.

While it might be surprising, babies don’t have as much tear production as adults. This makes it harder to clear irritants from their eyes, and many chemicals, fragrances, and substances used in cosmetic products are very irritating to the eyes.

A “tear-free” baby shampoo uses more gentle cleansing ingredients that, theoretically, should not cause as much redness and stinging if it comes in contact with the eyes.

You should still try to tip your baby’s head back when rinsing to get as little shampoo as possible in their eyes, but it will happen. Tear-free shampoos can help cause less eye irritation than other options that may have harsher ingredients.

If any shampoo gets in your baby’s eyes — even if it’s a tear-free formula — you should rinse immediately with lukewarm water to avoid irritation.

How long does baby shampoo last?

How long shampoos last will mainly depend on the size of the bottle. You only need a pea-sized amount of shampoo for a very young or bald baby. Plus, you don’t need to bathe young infants daily — over-bathing can dry their skin out and strip it of important natural oils.

Having said that, a bottle of baby shampoo could last for several months or more. As your baby gets older and moves into toddlerhood, you may need to use more shampoo and bathe them more frequently, so bottles may not last quite as long at that point.

As far as the actual product expiring, most baby shampoos have a shelf-life of a couple years. However, for products with naturally-derived ingredients, which have grown in popularity and availability, this window could be different.

If you have a specific bottle you’re worried about, it’s worth checking for an expiration date on the bottle itself.

When to switch from baby shampoo to kid shampoo?

Technically, your child could use baby shampoo all the way to adulthood if they’d like.

However, as your child gets older and their hair gets thicker and more oily (and definitely when they start going through puberty), you may want to switch to a kids’ or adults’ shampoo, depending on their age. Kids’ shampoos should still be pretty gentle, but may also have some more oil-fighting ingredients to help get hair cleaner.

Usually, you’ll want to make the switch once your child can wash their own hair without getting shampoo in their eyes. This will depend on your individual child, but sometime around 8 to 10 years old is a good estimate. Of course, you can also ask your pediatrician for guidance.

What do I do if the baby swallowed shampoo?

You should keep cosmetics and any other chemical-containing products locked or out of reach of children. If your child somehow manages to swallow some shampoo — which can happen during bath time as babies love to chew on their washcloths — Poison Control says it’s unlikely to cause harm.

If they swallow a significant amount they may experience vomiting or diarrhea. If your child swallows what you think is a large amount of shampoo, or is having persistent gastrointestinal symptoms, call Poison Control or your pediatrician immediately for further guidance.

Bath time can be a sweet bonding experience for you and your baby — watching them discover their toes and splash in the water is just plain fun.

While babies don’t need as many baths as adults, you can keep them clean and sweet smelling with a safe, gentle baby shampoo made just for them. And then you get to enjoy those baby-scented cuddles!