Shopping for organic shampoos can be a bit of a minefield. Have you heard of the term “greenwashing”? It is a term used to describe the deceptive practice of hiding unpleasant information through “green” marketing and advertising claims. When it comes to organic shampoos, greenwashing is rampant. A company may claim to use all-natural and organic ingredients, while simultaneously glossing over the fact that their formulas also contain toxic and irritating chemicals. This can be especially challenging for people with sensitive skin and scalp conditions who need absolutely pure formulas (like seborrheic dermatitis, folliculitis, psoriasis, and hair loss).
If you’ve been searching for a truly organic shampoo, then you’ve come to the right place. We set the bar high for this top list of the best organic shampoo products. Our research began with over 200 so-called “natural” products and it was eventually whittled down to just 27 products that made the cut. Not only does every organic shampoo on this list contain organic and all-natural ingredients, but you won’t find any sulfates, parabens, irritating foaming agents, phthalates, formaldehyde, oxybenzone, ethoxylated ingredients, polysorbates, phenoxyethanol, petrochemicals, triclosan, TEA/DEA, synthetic fragrances and colors, and countless other Bad Ingredients Commonly Found in Shampoos. All ingredients have been thoroughly researched and checked against the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database to ensure that they are safe for use.
With that said, finding the right organic shampoo for your hair type can still be a process of trial and error. If you’re making the switch from synthetic hair products over to organic/natural products, it is important to know that it may take some time for your hair to properly detox and adjust. Since many organic shampoo formulas do not contain harsh detergents or foaming agents, it can take several washes to fully remove any leftover residues and buildup. You can speed this process up with a simple apple cider vinegar hair detox. Just mix ¼ cup organic apple cider vinegar into 2 cups of water and thoroughly rinse your hair with this solution once per week. This will help to eliminate residual grime without stripping your hair of its natural oils.
Want a great organic conditioner to go along with your new organic shampoo? Then check out our guide to The Best Organic Conditioners That Are Truly All-Natural!
Want our experts to choose the best organic shampoo & conditioner for your hair type? Then, check out The Ox Box! The Ox Box is a premium organic skin care subscription box filled with products that have been hand-selected for your specific skin type and skin conditions.
Bad Ingredients Commonly Found in Shampoos
It pays to study the list of ingredients on each and every personal care product. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an age where you can simply trust the brand to be totally honest about their ingredients and product safety. While the list of irritating and potentially toxic ingredients that can be found in shampoos is nearly endless, there are a few bad ingredients which show up more than others. Below, you will find some of the ingredients that appear frequently in many products marketing themselves as “organic” and “all-natural.” It is important to note that not all of the ingredients below are necessarily toxic or will cause harm to your health—many of them are simply harsh, highly irritating, and should be avoided for the benefit of your skin.
Inexpensive preservatives used in cosmetic products. The Environmental Working Group estimates that that nearly 60% of all cosmetic products contain parabens. Studies have shown that parabens can be absorbed through our skin and into our bloodstream where they then accumulate in our cells. Parabens are xenoestrogens which mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt our natural hormonal balance. A 2004 British study discovered parabens within breast cancer tumors, leading to a fear that there may be a link between paraben exposure and breast cancer.
Commonly derived as a petroleum byproduct and can be found in a variety of liquid skin care products as well as antifreeze, brake fluid, and paints. It is used as a solvent, stabilizer, and humectant in many beauty products. Potentially toxic to kidneys and liver function (5). The Environmental Working Group notes that PG use has been linked to contact dermatitis and irritation in humans (6).
May be contaminated with possible carcinogens ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane (7).
Preservative which can has been linked to contact dermatitis, allergic reactions, organ toxicity, and irritation of the skin, eyes, and lungs (8).
A very high health hazard because of its ability to cause cellular changes (possible carcinogen) and its potential to cause organ toxicity (9).
Commonly used as a conditioning agent in hair care products. Known to be toxic at concentrations of .1% or higher. Can be irritating to the skin and can cause damage to delicate eye tissue (13).
A common preservative found in food and cosmetics. The Environmental Working Group gives Sodium Benzoate a score of 3 and notes potential concerns regarding reproductive and organ toxicity, irritation, and cancer (14). Can create benzene (a known carcinogen) when combined with vitamin C.
Generally found in hair care products because it coats the hair in a synthetic plastic-like substance making it appear smooth, silky, and shiny. This is a temporary fake plastic seal which can weigh hair down and block water, air, and other nutrients from being absorbed. Can also trap dirt, oil, and bacteria on the scalp (leading to acne or irritation).