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Finding a truly natural shampoo and conditioner set (that work!) isn’t always easy. Some of the most popular brands contain chemicals toxic to the body and environment (even those claiming to be natural). If you don’t want to use toxic chemicals in your hair products, where do you turn? Here you’ll find the best natural brands and products, ingredients to avoid, and how to select safe hair products.
I had dabbled with non-toxic shampoo for years, buying products in the store and online, but after just a few washes I would resort to my favorite salon brand. I just couldn’t take the greasy hair. I even tried a homemade shampoo recipe on Pinterest, with baking soda, which was a total failure (greasy hair for days!). I knew there must be a way to use the safest shampoo and conditioner, avoid harsh chemicals, and have hair that looks amazing.
A natural shampoo has to clean my hair, leaving it clean and hydrated. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. And if I can get a day or two (or three, because #momlife) out of a wash, even better.
This story does have a happy ending. There’s hope! After years of experimenting, I’ve found the best natural shampoo and conditioners that really work. And not just one brand, but multiple brands!
Why Switch to Natural Shampoo and Conditioner
Conventional hair products contain some concerning ingredients, like…
- Surfactants: Like Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). These ingredients are what produce the lather in shampoo. These ingredients aren’t toxic to humans but can be irritating.
- Fragrance: This trade secret ingredient can contain up to 3,000 different chemicals, including possible carcinogens like phthalates (used to make the scent last longer), which companies are not required to disclose. Learn about the hidden secrets of fragrance here. You can still enjoy fragranced hair products. Look for companies that fully disclose their fragrance ingredients and use natural fragrance, like essential oils. Avoid hair products that list “fragrance” on the ingredient list and nothing more.
- Preservatives: Ingredients like parabens, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol), quaternium-15, etc. Preservatives are used to extend the shelf life of a product and kill bacteria. Preservatives are needed in any product that contains water (most hair products), so you can’t avoid preservatives, but you can avoid preservatives of concern (like parabens which have been linked to breast cancer).
- Emulsifiers: Ethanolamines (DEA, TEA and MEA) and ingredients ending in -siloxane.
Hair products that contain harsh detergents and toxic ingredients can strip your hair of natural oils that keep your scalp, roots, and hair healthy, resulting in dry hair and even damaged hair. These products can also leave product build-up. Using products with proven-be-safe, non-toxic, and natural ingredients will allow your hair to stay clean, without the harsh stripping of essential hair oils. The same goes for washing your face (the best natural face cleansers).
How to Select Natural Shampoo and Conditioner
It can be difficult to navigate shampoo brands and hair products, as advertisement labels and marketing can make all sorts of claims that lead you to believe a product is safe and natural when it isn’t.
Companies love to share the ingredients their product doesn’t contain: sulfate-free shampoo, no gluten, etc. Or proclaim that their product is vegan or made with shea butter or olive oil or coconut oil–all the things that will lure in naturally-minded consumers.
The the most important thing to look for when buying a product is the ingredients!
A great resource for looking up products and ingredients is the SkinDeep database from the Environmental Working Group. Search for natural hair products and see how your products rate on their toxicity scale. Another resource is to look for products with the “Made Safe” label, a third party non-profit organization with strict standards.
The Best Non-Toxic and Natural Shampoos and Conditioners
- True Botanicals (best of the best winner)
- Innersense Beauty
- BeautyCounter (second best winner)
- Acure Organics
- Josh Rosebrook
- Dessert Essence (best budget-friendly winner)
- Evolvh (color treated or curly hair)
- Dry Shampoo (when you don’t have time to wash): homemade dry shampoo, Briogeo (made with biotin to encourage healthy hair growth), Rahua, Acure, Hair Dance
True Botanicals is known for making non-toxic products that really work and rival conventional products. This is the shampoo and conditioner that I’ve been using for years now. And yes, I use this on my color-treated hair without issue. I wash my hair every 2-3 days, which helps bring down the overall cost, stretching the product even longer. You can sign up for Subscribe and Save which brings the price of each bottle. I have my subscription set to every 4 months.
2. Innersense Beauty
Innersense makes different types of shampoo based on hair type: color-treated hair (this shampoo), dry or thick/coarse hair (this shampoo), fine to normal hair (this shampoo). The Pure Inspiration Daily Conditioner is made for all hair types, and the Color Radiance Daily Conditioner is formulated for color-treated hair. Innersense also makes natural hair care products for detangling and styling. The leave-in conditioner is a reader favorite.
BeautyCounter makes a wide array of beauty and skincare products. I’m not a fan of everything BeautyCounter makes (and they do use some ingredients of concern, like phenoxyethanol), but I can vouch for their shampoo and conditioner. They are my second favorite option on this list, aside from True Botanicals.
I’ve used Acure on and off over the years with mixed results. That said, it’s definitely one of the best budget-friendly options (not many exist). I can only use this brand for a short time before my hair needs a break and starts to have some build-up issues. I do love the Acure dry shampoo with natural rosemary and peppermint scents.
This brand doesn’t amaze me like other options on this list. It doesn’t do anything that seriously impresses me (allows me to go multiple days without washing my hair, volume, etc.) for the price. I have very thick hair, so maybe I just don’t have the right type of hair for this brand. This brand has a cult-like following in the natural beauty world. Their Classic Shampoo and Conditioner are safe for all hair types, including color-treated hair. Rahua also makes styling products that I do love (like dry shampoo).
The best store-bought, budget-friendly natural shampoo on this list. You’ll find this brand in most health food stores, online, and even some conventional stores. This brand makes various hair products and they all get rave reviews and are budget-friendly.
7. Josh Rosebrook
Josh is known for beautifully-formulated natural skincare and hair products. Josh’s hair line includes shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, a hair mask for dry and brittle hair, and style cream for texture and definition. His products are probably the most expensive on this list, but worth mentioning since Josh Rosebrook does make fantastic products with squeaky clean ingredients.
8. Evolvh (Color Treated or Curly Hair)
It may seem odd for a natural hair company to make a shampoo for color-treated hair. I personally color my hair (balayage). The goal isn’t perfection, but; rather, to be informed consumers and reduce your overall exposure to toxic ingredients. So if you choose to color your hair, no judgement here. You may want a product that’s specifically formulated for color-treated hair. Evovlh is one of the first to do this in the natural world. Shop the color-protecting shampoo and ultra-shine conditioner. Evolvh also makes a shampoo and conditioner specifically for curly hair. This brand also makes a great leave-in conditioner to detangle and protect the hair.
Tips for Natural Shampoo Success
- Double Wash: Start with a small amount of shampoo, work it through your hair, roots, and scalp. Wash, then repeat. This will help take care of any build-up from products and let you go longer between washes.
- Section Your Hair: If you have long thick hair, shampoo in sections. This will help you get every section clean, which can be hard to do with long and thick hair.
- Don’t Wash Your Hair Everyday: Washing your hair everyday encourages an overproduction of oil, so skip a day or two if you can. If you need to, use a dry shampoo in between wash days.
Natural Hair Care Products for Kids
If you’d like to use natural products for kids, I’ve had good success with Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (baby mild is my favorite since it’s unscented), Pleni Naturals, Honest Company, Dessert Essence, and Acure. I also love the detangler from Innersense (or this homemade detangler made with aloe vera and lavender essential oil) for my daughter. She has thick, curly hair and needs some extra help with combing after an evening shower. Kids don’t usually have special hair considerations, like color or heat styling, which might call for buying a more expensive product. All of these options are affordable, safe, and easy to find.
How to Find Natural Shampoo and Conditioner
Most stores, like grocery stores and Target, don’t carry truly natural options, aside from Acure, Dessert Essence, and Honest Company. For the most part, you’ll need to branch out to either health food stores, Amazon, or stores like Detox Market or Follain to find safe hair products that are free from harmful chemicals. Both Detox Market and Follain curate only the best brands and products, so they’re both a great place to browse natural skincare or hair products.