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Last updated on August 8, 2017

The Best Baby Shampoo

Formulas that won’t leave either of you in tears
The 30-Second Review

The best baby shampoo should be as gentle as possible, leaving hair clean but avoiding ingredients that could dry or irritate delicate skin — or lead to bath-time tears. After talking with dermatologists and chemists, digging into the ingredients labels of 87 options, and testing 16 of the most promising brands on our own heads, we found our top picks: a range of products from national chains and up-and-coming companies that deliver.

Best Overall

A gentle formula from a tried-and-true name in baby care. This shampoo relies on plant-based surfactants to clean, rinses out easily, and leaves hair feeling soft.

Best Organic

Earth's Best Lavender Shampoo & Body Wash

Includes organic herbal extracts like chamomile, lavender, and calendula to soothe your baby's skin.

Best Fragrance-Free

Cerave Baby Wash & Shampoo

An ingredient list and a performance very similar to Johnson’s, but unscented.

The Best Baby Shampoos

Infants and toddlers have skin that’s still developing, which means that it’s typically more sensitive than adult skin. So the best baby shampoo should avoid strong cleaning agents and preservatives — you want just enough cleansing power to remove gunk without causing dryness or irritation.

Most newborns don’t need shampoo Newborns (babies under a month old) often don't need soap or shampoo at all. There's nothing wrong with using it, but unless your baby has a full head of hair that’s starting to look greasy, water should suffice.

Our pick for the top baby shampoo is Johnson's Baby Naturals Shampoo. At about $8 for 10 ounces, it leaves hair feeling clean and soft without being too drying, and it rinses out easily. The Baby Naturals formula relies on gentle cleansing agents sourced from coconut oil and has a light, clean scent that isn’t overpowering. The Johnson & Johnson brand also came highly recommended by our experts.

“Organic” isn’t a term that’s tightly regulated when it comes to personal care products, but if you value organically sourced ingredients, we really liked Earth's Best Shampoo & Body Wash. It has a lavender scent and soothing, certified-organic ingredients like aloe vera, oat bran, and calendula. A 16-ounce bottle retails for about $9.

If you’re looking for a fragrance-free formula, we’d suggest Cerave Baby Wash & Shampoo. It has an ingredient list very similar to Johnson’s but no scent at all — making it an extra-safe option if your child has had allergic reactions to other skincare products. An 8-ounce bottle is around $10.

When should you stop using baby shampoo?

There’s no clear cut-off point, and responses in parenting forums like BabyCenter and CafeMom suggest most parents use baby shampoo until their children are at least 2 or 3 — though some switch earlier and some use it until adolescence. Teen and adult hair tends to be oilier than baby hair, so you’ll know it’s time to switch when your baby shampoo no longer seems to leave hair clean.

Our Picks for the Best Baby Shampoo

Best Overall

Johnson’s Baby Naturals Shampoo A gentle but effective formula from a well-known brand.

Romanowski, Dr. Levine, and Dr. Seth Forman, of Tampa-based Forman Dermatology & Skin Cancer Institute, all preferred baby shampoos from major brands: If a shampoo has been around for years and hasn’t picked up a reputation for causing contact allergies, it’s going to be safe for most children. And in terms of sheer name recognition, it’s hard to beat Johnson & Johnson.

We were a little skeptical before we applied it. The shampoo feels very watery, and we assumed we’d need a lot to work up a noticeable lather. But it foamed quickly in our hair, and we only needed one rinse to wash out both the shampoo and all traces of peanut butter. And hours after testing, our hair still felt light and silky, without any scalp irritation or itchiness. This gave it an edge over contenders like Mustela, which cleaned just fine, but left our hair feeling dry, and California Baby, which produced a lackluster lather and required two passes before our scalps felt clean.

Johnson’s Baby Naturals is “98 percent naturally derived” and gets its cleaning power from decyl glucoside, a very gentle surfactant that comes from “coconut, palm kernel, and corn,” according to the helpful ingredient guide on the back of the bottle. And rather than parabens or phenoxyethanol, the shampoo uses sodium benzoate as a preservative. To put that into perspective, sodium benzoate is so benign that it’s commonly used as a preservative in foods. In other words, nothing on the ingredient list should scare you. The formula has a light, pleasant scent that’s nearly identical to J&J’s classic “No More Tears” formula — just a little sweeter. A 10-ounce bottle retails for around $8.

Our one quibble was the cap. We tested all of our lids one-handed, with the assumption that parents won’t always have two hands free when bathing their kids, and we loved the pump tops used by finalists like Puracy. But Johnson’s Baby Naturals uses a flip-top that requires too much force to open easily with one hand.

Runners-Up for Best Overall

Puracy Natural Baby Shampoo and Body Wash A thick, citrus-scented shampoo with a pump top.

Puracy Natural Baby Shampoo and Body Wash has an ingredient list similar to Johnson & Johnson, but it’s closer to gel than liquid, making it a good option if you don’t like runny shampoos. It has a pleasant citrus aroma that comes from grapefruit essential oil. If you order online, just be aware that it comes with a pump top you’ll have to screw in yourself — a process we found a little messy. A 16-ounce bottle will run you $13.

Mummy’s Miracle Moringa Baby Shampoo & Wash An option from a mom-founded company, with lots of skin-soothing herbal extracts.

If you prefer to seek out smaller brands, we’d suggest Mummy's Miracle Baby Shampoo. The company, Mummy’s Miracle, was founded in 2010 by mom and entrepreneur Ify Chuke-Nwobi and focuses on baby care products with natural ingredients. The shampoo passed our hands-on testing with flying colors, and — like all products in the Mummy’s Miracle line — contains Moringa seed extract, an ingredient produced from the seed pods of the Moringa tree that has soothing anti-inflammatory properties. An 8-ounce bottle retails for $12.

Burt's Bees Baby Bee Shampoo and Wash is a popular and widely available brand that’s also worth a mention. This shampoo didn’t score quite as highly during testing, due to the fact that it took more rinsing to fully remove from our hair, but testers enjoyed the sweet, honey-infused scent. A 21-ounce bottle runs about $14.

Best Organic

Earth’s Best Soothing Lavender Shampoo & Body Wash A strong lavender scent plus certified-organic ingredients.

Organic baby shampoo is a tricky space to navigate. In the US, only agricultural products can be certified organic. So the next best thing is to look for a shampoo that uses certified-organic ingredients, like herbal extracts and other plant-based additives. And in this space, Earth’s Best Organic Soothing Shampoo and Body Wash was our favorite. The formula is 70 percent organic, and includes a whole slew of soothing natural ingredients, from aloe vera to oat bran.

We loved the soothing lavender scent of Earth’s Best, although its pop cap was a little hard to open.

While Earth’s Best cleaned our hair well, it’s worth noting that the shampoo itself was a little difficult to wash out. We had to rinse for a few extra seconds to remove all residue. But we enjoyed the soothing lavender scent and the silky texture of the shampoo itself. A 16-ounce bottle retails for about $12.

We also tested Nature’s Baby Organics, but it required more scrubbing before our heads felt clean, didn’t lather as easily, and had fewer certified-organic ingredients on its list.

Best Fragrance-Free

CeraVe Baby Wash & Shampoo No fragrance or essential oils — just lots of moisturizers that leave hair soft.

If you want to avoid fragrances entirely, we’d suggest CeraVe Baby Wash and Shampoo, which is free of both synthetic scent and essential oils. This shampoo does have a faintly sweet aroma, but the scent comes from its coconut-oil based surfactants rather than perfume.

CeraVe stood out because of its heavy-duty moisturizers: It left our hair “I might use baby shampoo from now on” levels of soft. The formula contains niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that’s great for your skin, plus a variety of ceramides, which act as conditioners.

Another contender in the sensitive skin space was Aveeno Baby Wash and Shampoo, a brand our experts often touted as a great choice for babies with sensitive skin. But in testing, we found CeraVe easier to lather and better at cleaning. Unlike Aveeno’s flip cap, CeraVe also dispenses with a pump. An 8-ounce bottle retails for $10.

Fragrance-Free Runner-Up

SheaMoisture Fragrance-Free Baby Wash & Shampoo is notably less sudsy than CeraVe, and our hair didn’t achieve quite the same level of silkiness. But if you find even the faintly sweet scent of CeraVe too overpowering, SheaMoisture is your best bet. It had a faintly soapy undertone, but no other odor. A 13-ounce bottle costs about $10.

Did You Know?

None of our experts were concerned about formaldehyde

Johnson & Johnson received a slew of bad press a few years back after the discovery that its classic formula included quaternium-15, a preservative that released formaldehyde as it broke down. J&J reformulated its products in 2013 to remove the formaldehyde.

Was all the concern warranted? It depends on who you ask. Dr. Levine told us, “There was less formaldehyde in those products than there is in an apple. It’s not feasible that it would cause any harm.” Regardless, the worry seems to be a thing of the past: Of the 88 products we initially considered, formaldehyde-releasing ingredients showed up in just one ingredient list, Ricitos de Oro Baby Shampoo Chamomile (which we’d already cut due to harsh surfactants).

Be wary of formulas that claim to be “preservative-free”

As consumers become increasingly wary about synthetic ingredients, “preservative” starts to sound like a four-letter word. But according to Dr. Levine, you should be more scared of products without preservatives. Preservative-free formulas can encourage bacterial growth, leading to health hazards for your baby.

Visit certain corners of the internet and you’ll find ongoing debate over just about every preservative in existence. Here’s what we can tell you: While even our experts had differing opinions on parabens and phenoxyethanol, none of them voiced concerns about sodium benzoate — the preservative used in all three of our top picks.