If you have a sensitive scalp, your skin may react badly to some shampoos and conditioners. You might be struggling with dandruff or breaking out with acne on your head. A new product may cause stinging or make your skin red. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the best shampoos for sensitive skin, so that’s why we created this guide.
We researched to find gentle shampoos that clean hair well without irritating sensitive skin.
The top shampoos for sensitive skin
Protect your scalp, face, and neck with gentle products that clean hair without causing problematic reactions.
Cleure Hypoallergenic Shampoo for Sensitive Skin
The Cleure Hypoallergenic Shampoo doesn’t have an artificial fragrance, and it’s free of other irritants like parabens, sulfates, and formaldehyde. It’s safe for all skin types and all hair types, as well as color-treated hair. It’s cruelty-free, too.
This shampoo is on the allergen-free safe product list at SkinSafe. The full list of ingredients that Cleure provides is this:
Purified Water, Decyl Glucoside, Lauramidopropyl, Betaine Cocamide, MIPA, Glycerin, Hydroxypropyl, Guar, Caprylyl Glycol, Vitamin E, and Potassium Sorbate.
Users report a mixed bag of results—many are very pleased with the shampoo while others say it leaves their hair flat and greasy, or too dry. Besides washing hair, it can be used as a body wash.
Pharmaceutical Specialties Free & Clear Hair Shampoo for Sensitive Skin
Pharmaceutical Specialties’ Free & Clear Shampoo goes a step farther than Cleure and excludes cocamidopropyl betaine and gluten as well as dyes, fragrances, parabens, formaldehyde, sulfates, phosphates, and preservatives. As one user comments, hypo-allergenic doesn’t mean that a formula will include only natural and organic ingredients.
Babo Botanicals Moisturizing Baby Shampoo and Wash Oatmilk Calendula
Babo Botanicals says they achieved a #1 rating for safety on EWG’s Skin Deep Database. We confirmed this and saw that the only reason for concern was potassium sorbate, a preservative. The ingredients label lists it as the final component.
Although this is a baby shampoo, adults find it soothing for their irritated, dry scalps. The formula has aloe and calendula oil plus vitamins and anti-oxidants from organic chamomile, watercress, and kudzu.
There are no sulfates, phthalates, formaldehyde, nut oils, synthetic fragrances or dyes. The packaging is BPA-free and every part is Vegan.
Head and Shoulders Head & Shoulders Purely Gentle Scalp Care 2-In-1 Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner
Head and Shoulders is the go-to shampoo for dandruff, and this particular version is formulated to treat sensitive scalps. It’s an all-in-one with conditioning ingredients, too.
The formula has no artificial dyes and is pH-balanced. Unfortunately, the ingredients list contains some allergens like sulfates, fragrance, and Methylisothiazolinone.
DHS Clear Shampoo
The DHS Clear Shampoo has no dye and no fragrance, plus it’s pH-balanced. It’s made for regular use on sensitive skin. The ingredients list is very simple, but contains three things that could cause a reaction in very sensitive skin:
Purified Water, TEA-Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-8 Distearate, Benzyl Alcohol, Cocamide MEA, Polyquaterinium-22, Citric Acid.
If you know that your skin mainly reacts to perfumes or dyes, this could be a great option since it is a rinse-off product, not something you would leave on your skin. Many users have recommended the DHS Clear Shampoo, saying it works well for them when other products failed.
Klorane Shampoo with Oat Milk - All Hair Types
Fans of Klorane’s Shampoo with Oat Milk say their hair feels silky and soft when they use it. Klorane’s formula doesn’t contain sulfates, so it doesn’t lather as much as some shampoos. It’s also free from parabens and silicone. The feature ingredient, oat milk, hydrates hair naturally.
Earth Science Shampoo for Sensitive Hair & Scalp
Earth Science’s Shampoo for Sensitive Hair & Scalp is fragrance-free and vegan. It uses the power of coconut, wheat germ, chamomile, and jojoba oil to clean hair and leave it soft and tangle-free. It has a slightly acidic pH of 5.0.
Organic Everyday Shampoo by Nurture My Body - 100% Organic - SLS Free - For All Hair Types - Color Safe (Scented)
Nurture My Body’s Organic Everyday Shampoo is gentle formula for daily use. It does not contain parabens, petroleum-derived products, or sodium lauryl sulfate. Its rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is zero because this shampoo has no toxic ingredients. Even the plastic bottle is BPA-free and recyclable.
There are eighteen certified organic ingredients in the Everyday Shampoo, including purified water, seaweed extract and chickweed for hair growth, coltsfoot for shine and elasticity, as well as other herbs to soothe your scalp. Nurture Your Body offers a 100% money-back guarantee if you don’t love their Everyday Shampoo.
Aquaphor Baby Wash & Shampoo
Aquaphor’s Baby Wash is also a shampoo that is tear-free. It contains panthenol and chamomile to soothe skin. While the ingredients list shows one sulfate, it’s sodium myreth sulfate, rated a 1 for low risk to health.
Mustela Gentle Baby Shampoo
Mustela’s Gentle Baby Shampoo contains mostly natural ingredients like extracts from chamomile and avocado to clean and moisturize hair. It doesn’t contain phthalates or parabens.
Argan Oil Shampoo Restores Hair - Argan Oil for Hair, Increases Shine and Deeply Nourishes - Safe for All Hair Types and Color Treated Hair
Argan oil is a natural ingredient from a tree that grows in Morocco. It’s great for encouraging hair growth. Since people with hair loss often need gentle shampoos, this product is also safe for many people with sensitive skin. The formula has no sulfates and is packed with antioxidants and nourishing ingredients. It comes with a satisfaction guarantee.
MenScience Androceuticals Daily Shampoo
The MenScience Androceuticals Shampoo is scent-free and gentle. While it uses alpha and beta hydroxy acids to remove buildup from other hair care products and sebum, it repairs damaged hair and increases shine and body with panthenol and Vitamin E. The inclusion of wheat proteins and glycerin moisturize dry hair and add volume.
A unique feature of this shampoo is that there is no recommended conditioner for it. It’s an all-in-one product, perfect for the busy guy in a hurry.
Weleda Calendula Baby Shampoo and Body Wash
Weleda’s Calendula Baby Shampoo avoids harsh ingredients like sulfates, parabens, and phthalates. It’s tear-free and uses a sugar-based surfactant for a gentle lather.
Dry shampoos for sensitive scalp
If wet shampoos are difficult for you to use every day, why not try dry shampoos? Some users depend on dry shampoos to clean their hair on the days between wet shampoos.
Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk - Non-Aerosol - All Hair Types
Klorane’s Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk is non-aerosol and easy to use. Spray it onto your roots, let it sit for 2 minutes, then brush it through. It’s scent-free and gentle for all hair types.
blowpro Faux Dry Shampoo
The blowpro Faux Dry Shampoo is also non-aerosol. Spray it on your roots and brush. Hit it with some heat from a hair dryer and it completely disappears. There’s no scent.
Signs of sensitive skin
If you’re not sure, how do you know if you have sensitive skin?
Your skin may be sensitized or sensitive. An example of sensitized skin would be if you’re taking a medication that causes sensitive skin, have a sunburn, become dehydrated, or in some way damaged your skin’s protective barrier. This is usually a temporary condition, but it still means you’ll get along better with gentle hair care products.
Sensitive skin is part of your genetic makeup, like the color of your hair or eyes. If your skin tends to sting or turn red when you apply skin care products, you probably have sensitive skin. Another test is to look in the mirror while you press your fingers against the side of your face. Don’t press too hard, just use a medium amount of force. If your skin turns red from that, you have sensitive skin.
Coping with sensitive skin
You may have learned on your own that it’s best to wash with lukewarm water instead of cold or hot. You may already know that it’s best to avoid shampoos with artificial fragrances because those are on the list of the top 5 skin allergens in the world.
Other harmful ingredients include:
- Alcohols that dry, like SD and denatured, but not fatty alcohols like cetyl alcohol
- Sulfates that create lather, like SLS and SLES—you don’t need these ingredients to wash anything
- Preservatives, like parabens, and other chemicals like propylene glycol, phthalates, and formaldehyde are all potential skin irritants
- Menthol and some essential oils like peppermint can cause a reaction even though they are natural—if they tingle, avoid them
There are many shampoos available with non-irritating formulas that avoid most or all of the above ingredients. Let’s take a look at them now.
We hope you found a gentle shampoo today to help you care for your hair and scalp. If you’re looking for a new face wash, see our article about the best ones for sensitive skin. Check back soon to see new reviews of top skin care, beauty, and hair care products.