The New Mom’s Guide to Chemical-Free Baby Shampoos & Washes

Avoid harsh chemicals with these gentle baby-safe washes.

Guide to baby shampoo & body washWhen it comes to baby’s bath time, there are so many different products out there that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Unfortunately, many of those contain nasty chemicals that you probably don’t want anywhere near your child. You might have heard about the controversy with Johnson & Johnson using formaldehyde in their baby shampoos.

That’s right: the chemical they use to embalm bodies. In shampoo for babies.

Needless to say, you have to be very careful when it comes to picking out a shampoo or body wash for your little one.

This is where I come in: I’ve done all of the research for you already, and will tell you exactly what you need to know, and which shampoos are safe bets. This doesn’t need to be complicated!

The common nasty stuff to avoid in shampoos and body washes.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)

You may have heard of SLS. It’s a surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier used in tons of cosmetics and personal hygiene products. You can find SLS in virtually all shampoos and body washes as well as things like laundry detergents, mouth washes, and many skincare products. You’d probably be shocked to learn that it’s also found in industrial cleaners.

The main purpose of SLS in shampoos is that it acts as a lathering agent. Without it, your shampoos and soaps just wouldn’t lather up, and would therefore be pretty poor cleaners.

SLS is a cheap solution, and it’s true that it originates from coconuts, but that doesn’t mean it’s natural! It’s anything but: the process of manufacturing SLS results in it being contaminated with 1,4 dioxane and Ethylene oxside, both carcinogens.

SLS has been proven to cause skin and eye irritation in both animal and human trials. They did conclude that the concentration of SLS in the product was directly related to how much irritation it caused, but when we’re talking about young children and babies, any amount is too much.

There doesn’t seem to be any scientifically-proven link between the use of SLS and cancer. However, the fact that it’s contaminated with the two previously-mentioned carcinogens should be enough to cause concern.


Chemical fragrance

It might sound (and smell) nice, but you should avoid baby shampoos that contain chemical fragrances if you can avoid it.

These fragrances can not only be irritating to a baby’s respiratory system, but many of them have been known to cause things like disrupted hormone activity as well as liver and breast cancers.

In fact, the fragrance industry uses over 3000 different chemicals in their blends that end up in the final product, and these chemicals are most often hidden from the consumer.


Parabens (chemical preservatives)

Parabens are used in so many different personal care products. They’re used as a chemical preservative, inhibiting bacterial growth. Parabens are used in a variety of forms, and you might find them listed as the most common: butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben.

Parabens have been shown to mimic estrogen in the body. Estrogen disruption is thought to play a role in cancer growth, and in fact a recent study has shown that 99% of breast cancer tissues sampled contained traces of parabens.

Although parabens are so widely used—in over 85% of cosmetics by some estimates—many brands have started creating paraben-free products due to customer concerns. You can definitely find good shampoos that don’t have these potentially deadly chemicals.


Five baby shampoos & washes you can trust

If you’re as concerned as I was after I learned about how chemical-filled baby bath products can be, never fear: the following shampoos and washes can be trusted.

They’re chemical free, safe and natural, and you can use any of them worry-free.

#1. Dr. Bronner’s: My favorite!

Dr. Bronner's Let me just say this: I’m an absolutely huge fan of Dr. Bronner’s soaps!

Even before I discovered their mild baby formulations, we used Dr. Bronner’s (click here to check price) all the time. I would never go back to another product, and I think you’ll be the same way once you try it. I bet you’ll even use it as a body wash; it’s just that great.

Their products are just awesome. All of the ingredients are certified organic, and the bottle is also 100% recycled material, which is the bonus cherry on top.

There are several different scents available, but for your little one, I’ll recommend the unscented, mild shampoo just to be safe. However, feel free to go with one of the scented versions, because it’s all natural fragrances.

Dr. Bronner’s is heavily concentrated, so dilute it with water and one bottle is going to last you a very long time.

Just be warned that this is not a no-tear shampoo, so be careful around baby’s eyes: it will sting a bit if it makes contact. Other than that, it’s mild and gentle on sensitive skin, won’t dry out the hair, and is just all-around amazing.

#2. Babo Botanicals: vegan and chemical-free

Babo BotanicalsBabo Botanicals (click here to check price) makes a great line of safe, natural and gentle shampoos and washes that are a safe bet.

I love that all of their products are manufactured on an organic farm in upstate New York, and are made with natural, fair trade ingredients.

All of their washes are vegan, and are clinically tested and proven to be tear-free and non-irritating.

Rather than sulfates, which are chemically-produced lathering agents, Babo use sulfonates, which have an important and distinct difference: they are naturally occurring and chemical-free!

They also have no chemical fragrances added, yet they still smell really nice. The Berry Primrose bath and body wash for example has a pleasant berry smell.

Babo’s products are highly recommended!

#3. Earth Mama Angel Baby: easy to use and tear-free

Earth Baby Angel MamaAnother great choice, Earth Mama-Angel Baby makes natural and organic shampoos and washes (click here to check price).

Containing no synthetic fragrance, antibacterial chemicals, phthalates, parabens or harsh sulfates, their products are a great choice for those looking for a safe and natural baby bath product.

Do be warned however that this is not a tear-free shampoo, so avoid getting it in the eyes (which you should really avoid with any wash.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates Earth Mama Angel Baby a 1 (the lower the better) which is an excellent score. It only contains 7 ingredients in total.

In terms of smell, I was surprised to find that it lives up to its No-Scents name: it literally has no smell at all. Zilch, nada.

Another great thing to love about this soap is that it has a pump, and it comes out of the bottle in a foam, which makes it way easier to use and avoid getting it in the eyes of a baby who probably doesn’t enjoy bath time very much.

#4. California Baby: widely-available and popuolar

California BabyCalifornia Baby’s line of products is available in tons of stores, making it easy to find, especially if you don’t want to buy online.

They have a few different versions available, but I’ll be covering the Calendula shampoo & body wash (click here to check price), which has a great EWG score of 1.

It’s made from the extract of the Calendula flower, which has been used for centuries to naturally sooth skin, and contains now harmful chemicals or additives. It does have a pleasant smell, but it comes from natural essential oils, not chemical fragrances.

The only downside I’ve seen to this shampoo is that the pump puts out more shampoo than you actually need, so it might run out quickly. If you use California Baby, try squeezing out only half a pump at a time.

This is a no-tear shampoo, and doesn’t contain any numbing agents.

#5. Nature’s Paradise: organic and very few ingredients

Nature's ParadiseOne of the most natural shampoos you’ll come across, Nature’s Paradise (click here to check price) is made mostly from water and organic coconut oil, sunflower oil, apple cider vinegar and green tea.

Being mostly organic (I say that because the apple cider vinegar isn’t labelled as organic) makes it a great, safe choice and also good for the environment. It has a pleasant smell that some people do seem not to like, but in any case, it fades quickly.

On the downside, Nature’s Paradise is rather expensive, but they have one of the most worry-free products there is. Also know that this isn’t a tear-free shampoo, so be careful around baby’s eyes.

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Comments

    • Rae
    • June 8, 2016
    Reply

    what about burts bees shampoo and wash?

    • Pamela
    • September 30, 2016
    Reply

    Have you used Bronners soap as laundry detergent? Combined with baking soda is that safe for babies?

    1. Jennifer Taylor
      • Jennifer Taylor
      • October 2, 2016
      Reply

      I haven’t actually ever tried using Bronners as a laundry detergent. This post on Lisa Bronner’s site shows a recipe for it that you could give a try.

      • Geena
      • October 17, 2016
      Reply

      I’ve been researching this too, I found that baking soda can break down bamboo rayon fibers, otherwise it’s fine. You may need to use the unscented dr bronners to avoid irritating baby’s skin.

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