The Best Clean, Natural & Non-Toxic Shampoo
Want healthy, nourished hair without the harsh chemicals? Switch to clean, natural, non-toxic shampoo for a safe yet effective way to wash your hair. We’ve done lots of testing and found the best clean & natural shampoo brands, including the best ones for your whole family.
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I’ve always associated the luxurious lather of my sulfate-laden shampoo with clean hair. I was a little hesitant to test sulfate-free shampoo brands. I pictured myself trying to work some watery shampoo formula through my strands and ending up with greasy, stringy, lifeless hair – and I was so wrong!
Although free of sulfates, most of the clean shampoo brands I tested had an impressive amount of lather (swapping out sulfates for ingredients like naturally derived surfactants sourced from coconuts). And I loved testing all of the new-to-me scents.
This guide features 7 brands of clean and natural shampoo at many different price points, so there’s something for everyone! Most brands have an array of shampoo and conditioner formulations for all types of hair, so even if you don’t have my hair type, most of the brands I’ve selected have options for most or all hair types.
If you’re looking for kid-friendly bath products, head to my post on non-toxic bath products for kids. The post includes shampoo for babies through the older kids, plus non-toxic bubble bath, body wash and more. All of the shampoo brands below work for most children.
Why Use Clean, Natural, Non-Toxic Shampoo?
Your scalp is pretty absorbent…about 4 times more absorbent than the skin on your forearm (1)! A study on hair follicles found that caffeine applied as a solution to the scalp was detected in the bloodstream 5 minutes after application (2). So, anything that you apply to your scalp has the ability to get in your body.
Sulfates (sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth ether sulfate (SLES)), give drugstore shampoo plenty of foamy lather, yet they’re irritating to the scalp. They do a great job of removing dirt and oil from your hair, but in the process, they strip hair of the natural oils that are essential for moisturizing both your hair and scalp.
If you color your hair, sulfates in shampoo strip the color from your strands. Sulfate-free shampoo is recommended by top stylists to protect color.
Silicones in hair care products may trick you into thinking your hair is silky and full of volume. The truth is that silicones clog hair follicles and coat each strand of hair, inhibiting your hair from getting needed moisture.
Clean, natural and organic hair care products (free of sulfates and silicones) are the best way to keep your hair and scalp healthy. Your hair won’t be stripped of the protective oils necessary to moisturize, nourish and repair.
A few other ingredients to avoid in shampoo and hair care products:
- Parabens– Parabens are a type of preservative used to prevent the growth of bacteria and prolong the shelf life of lip balm, deodorant, lotion, and other beauty and personal care products. The most commonly used are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben and butylparaben. Based on a study conducted at the University of California Berkeley, researchers found that parabens were able to stimulate breast cancer cell growth, even at concentrations 100 times lower than the natural growth factor heregulin. These findings suggest that paraben exposure doesn’t have to be high to lead to cancer growth (3).
- Phthalates- Phthalates are used to increase the flexibility and transparency in plastics. They’re also found in personal care products, and they enhance product absorption, help products stick to your skin and keep fragrance smelling fresh. Researchers speculate that phthalates mimic hormones, interrupting hormone production (4). A 2018 review found that current human exposure to phthalates may have effects on the male reproductive system (5).
- Polyethylene glycol– Polyethylene glycol is used to make personal care products thicker and better able to transport moisture to the skin. The manufacturing process and introduce impurities and by-products, such as ethylene oxides and 1,4-dioxane, which are known carcinogenic materials (6).
- Synthetic fragrance- Synthetic Fragrance may contain carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, allergens, respiratory irritants and neurotoxic chemicals (7). Synthetic musks like galaxolide and tonalide, are linked to hormone disruption (8). Fragrance formulations also contain phthalates, which are hormone disruptors.
Clean, Natural, Non-Toxic Shampoo Tips
- If working shampoo through your wet hair feels like a chore (tons of tangles), or your hair always looks weighed down and greasy after shampooing, try applying conditioner to your hair first in the shower, then shampoo after conditioning. My younger daughter uses this “backward” method and it works every time – her hair looks beautiful!
- If your hair looks greasy and weighed down by the afternoon, try working in some natural dry shampoo through the roots. It will give your hair volume and will take care of the greasy look. Find my favorites in my post on natural dry shampoo.
How We Tested Shampoo
We tested over 16 brands of clean shampoo (free from phthalates, parabens, sulfates, silicones, synthetic fragrance and more chemicals depending on the brand) and only included the ones that created a lather and left hair feeling clean. For reference, I have fine, thin hair that gets greasy if not washed every day. Jeremy has course, dry hair, and he tested most, but not all, of the shampoo brands. Surprisingly, we ended up liking the same brands every time.
Most of the shampoo brands we tested were reasonably priced ($12 and under). We don’t really like to spend a lot of money on shampoo, and one of my favorite picks (and Jeremy’s) is super budget-friendly!
*Cost was calculated at the time this article was published, and is subject to change.
- Cost: $9.95 for 16 fl oz ($0.62 per ounce)
- EWG score: EWG verified
- My Take: This is one of my top picks for an affordable EWG verified brand for hair care and beyond. I re-tested this shampoo & conditioner after they reformulated it, and it worked really well to clean and moisturize my hair.
- From the Attitude website: Cleanse and revitalize your hair… naturally! Our gentle natural shampoos and conditioners are crafted with naturally-sourced ingredients to keep your hair happy and healthy, from root to tip!
- Shop: For adding volume and shine, try Attitude Super Leaves Volume & Shine Shampoo and pair it with Attitude Super Leaves Volume & Shine Conditioner. For color treated hair, try Attitude Super Leaves Color Protection Shampoo and pair it with Attitude Super Leaves Color Protection Conditioner. For a gentle, fragrance-free formula for those with sensitive scalps, try Attitude Oatmeal Sensitive Care Shampoo and pair it with Attitude Sensitive Skin Soothing & Volumizing Conditioner. Find more formulas of Attitude Shampoo and Attitude Conditioner.
- Cost: $19.68 for 12 fl oz ($1.61 per ounce)
- EWG Score: 1
- My Take: This shampoo & conditioner set made the top of my list – it’s fairly affordable and does an amazing job at cleansing and moisturizing my hair, leaving it bouncy, shiny and soft.
- From the Carina Organics website: Their aim is to provide the cleanest possible products for your body. This means 100% natural products, full of medicinal organics and completely free of cortisone, steroids, DEA (diethanolamine), sulfates, salt (sodium chloride), propylene glycol, aluminum, synthetic fragrances, and dyes.
- Shop: For an all-around great shampoo, try Carina Organics Daily Moisturizing Shampoo paired with Carina Organics Daily Light Conditioner. If you’re looking for an all-natural dandruff shampoo, try Carina Organics Dandruff Shampoo.
- Cost: $24 for 8 oz. ($3 per ounce)
- EWG Score: 3
- My Take: I tried the kelp shampoo & conditioner and really loved how well it cleansed and moisturized my hair – it’s slightly pricier than some of the others brands that I tried, but sign up for their email promotions and stock up when they have sales.
- From the 100% Pure website: Rather than use harsh stripping chemicals, preservatives and agitating fragrances that just make things worse, 100% Pure formulates their natural hair products with hand-picked natural ingredients, ultra-moisturizing oils and nutrient dense minerals and vitamins to give your beautiful head of hair the love and nourishment it craves.
- Shop: For adding volume, try 100% Pure Kelp & Mint Volumizing Shampoo and pair it with 100% Pure Kelp & Mint Volumizing Conditioner. For hair that needs some serious restoration, try 100% Pure Honey & Virgin Coconut Restorative Shampoo and 100% Pure Honey & Virgin Coconut Restorative Conditioner. Find more formulas of 100% Pure Shampoo and 100% Pure Conditioner.
- Cost: $25 for 8.5 oz ($2.94 per ounce)
- EWG score: no EWG rating
- My Take: This shampoo left my hair feeling wonderful and looking great. It is definitely on the pricey side and has a strong scent.
- From the Evolvh website: Similar to skincare, EVOLVh products contain vital amino and fatty acids, plus powerful botanicals that strengthen and nourish on a molecular level for shinier, healthier hair now—and in the future. They thoughtfully source every ingredient for purity, safety and environmental impact. Sulfate-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free, propylene glycol-free, silicone-free, gluten-free, free of synthetic fragrance, gmo-free, cruelty-free / vegan.
- Shop: For adding shine and moisture to your locks, try Evolvh Ultra Shine Moisture Shampoo paired with Evolvh UltraShine Moisture Conditioner. To extend your color treatment, try Evolvh Color Protecting Shampoo paired with Evolvh Color Protecting Conditioner. Find more formulas of EVOLVh hair care.
- Cost: $9.99 for 8 fl oz ($1.25 per ounce)
- EWG Rating: 2
- My Take: This was a great find- clean shampoo and conditioner that works at a great price!
- From the Griffin Remedy website: Griffin Remedy hair care products are 100% natural, made from only the best ingredients, including pure, natural essential oils. Daily use of our shampoos and conditioners will leave your hair feeling healthy and clean. Free of parabens and sulfates with no harmful chemicals.
- Shop: Griffin Remedy Shampoo and Griffin Remedy Conditioner.
- Cost: $16.20 for 8 oz ($2.03 per ounce)
- EWG Rating: EWG Verified
- From the Wellnesse website: Nourish and protect your hair with our natural formula, which smells like a warm summer day. Quinoa repairs damage, citric acid maintains pH balance, and nettle helps bolster your hair by growing more.
- Free From: Sulfates, Parabens, GMOs, Toxins
- Scents: Summer Melon & Dandelion, Coconut & Verbena Leaf
- Shop: Wellnesse Cleansing Shampoo & Wellnesse Nourishing Conditioner, Wellnesse Curly Hair Shampoo & Wellnesse Curly Hair Conditioner
Christina Moss Naturals Shampoo
- Cost: $19 for 8 oz ($2.38 per ounce)
- Free From: SLS, SLES, parabens, PG or PG derivatives, sulfates, dyes, synthetic fragrance or anesthetizing agents.
- From the Christina Moss Naturals website: This Shampoo is rich, nutritious and will clean, nourish, and feed your hair with pure and clean ingredients, including extracts and essential oils, leaving it healthy and beautiful. Excellent for ALL hair types, especially those with sensitive skin or scalp. This product is concentrated, so the 8oz bottle is equivalent to 16oz of other products. Gently lathers and rinses clean with scalp soothing ingredients, without leaving build-up, stripping, drying, or clogging your skin and pores.
- Shop: Christina Moss Naturals Shampoo & Christina Moss Naturals Conditioner
More Non-Toxic Skincare
- Non-Toxic Bath Products For Kids
- Natural Sunscreen Guide: Part 1
- Natural Sunscreen Guide: Part 2
- Make The Switch To Natural Deodorant
- Organic & Natural Lip Balm For Dry Lips
- The Best Natural Mascara
- The Best Clean & Natural Lotion For Dry Skin
- Make The Switch To Natural Dry Shampoo
- The Best Natural & Clean Eyeliners
- Otberg, N. et al. Variations of Hair Follicle Size and Distribution in Different Body Sites. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. Volume 122, Issue 1, January 2004, Pages 14-19.
- Liu, Z. et el. Hair follicles contribute significantly to penetration through human skin only at times soon after application as a solvent deposited solid in man. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2011 Nov; 72(5): 768–774. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2011.04022.x
- Pan S, Yuan C, Tagmount A, Rudel RA, Ackerman JM, Yaswen P, Vulpe CD, Leitman DC. 2016. Parabens and human epidermal growth factor receptor ligand cross-talk in breast cancer cells. Environ Health Perspect 124:563–569; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1409200
- Patisaul, H.B. and Adawele, H.B. Long-Term Effects of Environmental Endocrine Disruptors on Reproductive Physiology and Behavior. Front Behav Neurosci. 2009; 3: 10.
- Adke, E.G. et al. Phthalate exposure and male reproductive outcomes: A systematic review of the human epidemiological evidence. Environ Int. 2018 Dec;121(Pt 1):764-793.
- Jang, H.J. et al. Safety Evaluation of Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Compounds for Cosmetic Use. Toxicol Res. 2015 Jun; 31(2): 105–136.
- Nudelman, J. and Engel, C. Right To Know. Exposing toxic fragrance chemicals in beauty, personal care and cleaning products. Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and Campaign For Safe Cosmetics. Sept. 2018.
- Synthetic Musks. Campaign For Safe Cosmetics. A Project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners.
image of woman washing hair via depositphotos