Squeaky Clean: 9 Best Baby Shampoo and Wash Options

The dirty truth? Not all baby shampoos and washes are created equal.
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By Lynsey Eidell, Contributing Writer
Updated January 20, 2023
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Whether your little one was born with barely any peach fuzz or blessed with a luscious, full head of hair, caring for those precious locks takes a gentle approach. That’s where baby shampoos and washes come in. These cleansers are specially designed to keep baby fresh and clean without irritating their sensitive skin and delicate hair. But with tons of available options, confusing ingredient lists, and labels galore, it can be tricky to make a selection for baby without lots of trial and error. Here, we dive deeper into the wide world of baby shampoos and washes—taking out most of the guesswork and leaving you with expert advice and bath time tips. Ready to get the lowdown? Keep scrolling for all the info, then browse our picks of the best baby shampoo options to meet your cutie’s bath time needs.

How Is Baby Shampoo and Wash Different Than Regular Shampoo?

For starters, you might be wondering what baby shampoo even is—and how it differs from plain old regular shampoo. “Baby cleansing products are designed to be milder on the skin,” explains Anna Kirkorian, MD, chief of dermatology at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., adding that less lather is formed, and they’re not irritating to the eyes.

Additionally, the pH level in baby shampoo is closer to neutral versus most adult shampoos, which are slightly more acidic, says Brittany Craiglow, MD, a pediatric dermatologist based in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Not only is baby shampoo gentler than adult shampoos, it’s also typically combined with body wash to form an all-in-one product. “It’s sufficient for most babies until they have thicker hair,” explains Kirkorian. “Babies don’t need a separate shampoo,” she adds.

What to look for in a baby shampoo

Kirkorian says that the most important thing to seek out in a baby shampoo and wash is a label that says “fragrance-free.” Some infants—for example, those with eczema—are sensitive to fragrance, so you’ll want to avoid it altogether. While you’re at it, look for a “tear-free” label, says Craiglow. “Products that are labeled fragrance-free and tear-free are likely to be quite gentle, so those are worth looking for,” she adds.

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Baby Shampoo Ingredients to Keep an Eye Out For

In addition to fragrance, there are other ingredients that parents might want to avoid if possible when selecting a baby shampoo.

  • Parabens: Parabens are commonly used preservatives used to extend the shelf life of various foods, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products—including shampoos and cleansers. They can be a source of skin irritation; furthermore, according to research, long-term exposure to parabens can affect the endocrine system.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates are another group of chemicals frequently found in products that come into contact with plastics during production, packaging or delivering. According to research, phthalates are considered endocrine disruptors and can have a negative long-term impact on development and affect the reproductive systems of children and adolescents. Children are also much more sensitive and vulnerable to phthalate exposure.
  • Sulfates: Shampoos and body washes often contain sulfates. One in particular to avoid is sodium lauryl sulfate, a cleansing agent that can cause irritation to both the eyes and skin, notes Craiglow.
  • Dyes: Artificial coloring and dyes are also potential irritants to baby’s skin and hair.

So what should you seek out in a baby shampoo and wash? Kirkorian says there’s no specific ingredient to actively scour labels for. As long it’s made for babies and is fragrance- and tear-free, it’s fair game for consideration. “Baby products are extensively tested and are safe,” she adds.

When to Use Baby Shampoo and Conditioner

Whether you opt for an all-in-one baby wash or standalone baby-friendly shampoo, use it sparingly, advises Kirkorian. She recommends shampooing baby’s head once weekly (and even less frequently if they have minimal hair). What’s more, cleansers should be used in the diaper area only. “Babies and children don’t need soap on all of their skin; bathing daily with water is fine if that works for parents,” Kirkorian says.

Best Baby Shampoo to Buy

Before you suds up your little one, take a look at our favorite baby shampoo options and baby washes.

Overall best baby shampoo

Eucerin Baby Wash and Shampoo
Image: Target
What We Love
  • It contains pro-vitamin B5 and natural shea butter to keep baby’s skin and hair nourished and moisturized
  • With a gentle formula, its tear-free, fragrance-free and dye-free
  • A little goes a long way; the 13.5 oz. bottle will last for a long time
Things To Consider
  • You may want to follow up with a separate lotion to keep skin moisturized

Sometimes the simplest option is the best—such is the case with Eucerin’s baby wash and shampoo. This drugstore find is a favorite of Craiglow’s as its gentle, fragrance- and tear-free. Plus, it doesn’t have any ingredients that could be irritating to baby’s hair and skin, like soap, fragrances, dyes and drying alcohols. It’s no wonder that Eucerin is a top-recommended brand by pediatricians and dermatologists.

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Best baby shampoo and conditioner pairing

For Your Plant Baby Shampoo + Body Wash and Conditioner + Lotion
Image: My Hair Print
Buying Options
My Hair Print|$42
What We Love
  • Ingredients derived from berries, fruits, seeds, leaves and petals
  • One of the only baby shampoo and conditioner combos without fragrance
Things To Consider
  • Expensive option
  • Only available online

Little ones with lots of hair might benefit from a baby shampoo and conditioner pairing. Our favorite is this duo from Plant Baby. Both the baby shampoo and conditioner are made with 100 percent plant-based ingredients, and everything included gets a top rating from the EWG. Both of these Plant Baby products contain zero fragrances or man-made chemicals; instead, what you’ll find are nurturing and soothing ingredients such as coconut milk, calendula and bamboo.

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Best cradle cap shampoo for babies

Mustela Foam Shampoo for Newborns
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • Formulated with mild, plant-based surfactants that cleanse without overdrying baby’s scalp
  • Free of fragrance, parabens, phthalates and phenoxyethanol
  • Made from 99 percent naturally derived ingredients
Things To Consider
  • Using the shampoo alone might not entirely eradicate cradle cap

Cradle cap is a type of seborrheic dermatitis that causes scaly, greasy patches on baby’s scalp, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. Though most cases resolve within a few months, washing with certain baby shampoos can help speed up the process; Mustela’s Foam Shampoo for Newborns is a top pick for this purpose. Ingredients like avocado polyphenols and sunflower seed oil help to loosen the flaky patches on baby’s scalp and prevent them from recurring.

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Best organic baby shampoo

What We Love
  • Organic plant-based ingredients include natural oat protein to protect dry skin; calendula to soothe dry patches and coconut, shea and cocoa butters to moisturize
  • Babo Botanicals boasts cruelty-free products
Things To Consider
  • It can be difficult to find in stores

This organic baby shampoo and wash combo from Babo Botanicals is good for and the environment. The hypoallergenic, gentle formula is free of any potential skin irritants, including fragrance, gluten, soy, dairy, parabens, phthalates, petroleum and sulfates. Plus, Babo Botanicals is a certified B corporation with socially responsible and environmentally sustainable business practices. From its extra-sensitive formula to its ethical principles, Babo Botanicals is a product you can feel good about purchasing and using.

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Best baby shampoo for curly hair

Dove Curl Nourishing Shampoo
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • It’s formulated to moisturize and care for curls, coils and waves
  • The super-gentle baby shampoo formula is tear-free and contains no parabens, sulfates, dyes or phthalates
Things To Consider
  • It’s got a subtle fragrance, so if you’re looking for a truly scent-free option, this one’s not for you

Baby’s delicate skin and sensitive scalp deserve some TLC. And if they’ve got curls, those moisture-loving locks need love too! This super-rich, tear-free baby shampoo provides lots of gentle and nourishing hydration and enriching nutrients to leave baby’s hair looking and feeling healthy as can be. Dermatologist-tested, this baby shampoo is free of the bad stuff (parabens, phthalates and sulfates!). Need even more primping for baby’s luscious curls and waves? Try the complementary Curl Nourishing Detangler Cream.

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Best baby shampoo for Black and biracial babies

Cara B Natural Baby Shampoo and Body Wash
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • No artificial colors, fragrances or preservatives
  • All-natural ingredients make this gentle shampoo and body wash combo an ideal pick for babies with eczema or sensitive skin
  • Purchasing supports a Black female-owned business
Things To Consider
  • Naturally scented with chamomile

Babies with textured hair require special care, and Cara B’s products go the extra mile to ensure those sweet strands remain healthy and intact. The entire line of baby products is formulated with all-natural ingredients, and the baby shampoo and body wash is free of anything potentially harmful or harsh, including parabens, sulfates, phthalates, petroleum and mineral oil. What Cara B’s baby shampoo and body wash does have is vitamin E, coconut oil and aloe to gently nourish baby’s hair and keep it in tip-top shape.

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Best baby shampoo for eczema

Cerave Baby Wash and Shampoo
Image: Amazon
What We Love
  • This mild baby shampoo and wash won’t strip baby’s skin of moisture
  • Ceramides help to maintain the natural barrier on baby’s skin, while vitamin E provides extra moisture
Things To Consider
  • You’ll still need to pair with a separate eczema lotion to treat patches

Cerave’s Baby Wash and Shampoo is free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, dyes and fragrance—all of which can be especially irritating to babies with eczema. But it does contain ceramides, which are a crucial part of the skin barrier, explains Craiglow. What’s more, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E help moisturize and soothe dry baby skin. Another bonus: This baby shampoo and wash is not only developed by pediatric dermatologists, but it also receives a seal of approval from the National Eczema Association.

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Best baby shampoo for sensitive skin

EllaOla Superfood Baby Shampoo & Body Wash
Image: EllaOla
Buying Options
What We Love
  • Formulated with 14+ essential vitamins and minerals
  • No fragrances, parabens, phthalates, essential oils or sulfates
  • Extra-gentle formula for sensitive skin
  • Seal of approval from the National Eczema Association
Things To Consider
  • It’s a pricier option

Created by pediatric dermatologists, and formulated with vitamin- and mineral-rich superfoods, this extra-gentle formula contains protective and hydrating plant-based ingredients, like a signature marine algae blend to keep baby’s sensitive skin clean, smooth and soft as can be.

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Best moisturizing baby shampoo and wash

Puracy Baby Shampoo and Body Wash
Image: Target
What We Love
  • Puracy is tear-free, chemical-free, residue-free and gluten-free—while also being vegan, hypoallergenic and biodegradable
  • Puracy is made without sulfates, salicylates, parabens, petroleum-based ingredients, animal by-products, perfumes or dyes
  • Puracy never tests their products on animals
Things To Consider
  • Natural fragrance is an ingredient

The baby shampoo and body wash from Puracy is just as good for the earth as it is for baby’s hair and skin. It’s made of nearly 99 percent all-natural ingredients, including sea salt to purify and balance baby’s skin; vegan coconut-based cleansers to provide a gentle, non-irritating lather and fruit and vegetable-derived moisturizers to nourish and hydrate. Plus, Puracy’s baby shampoo rinses completely with just one cup of water and comes in refill pouches, saving plastic, water and energy.

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About the experts:

Brittany Craiglow, MD, is a pediatric dermatologist based in Fairfield, Connecticut. She earned her medical degree at the Yale School of Medicine.

Anna Kirkorian, MD, is the chief of dermatology at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. She earned her medical degree from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

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