Pregnancy brings along with it a lot of unfamiliar territory, not the least of which is all of the gatekeeping you have to do for your personal care products—and this includes making your shampoos pregnancy-safe. Yes, on top of learning all that it is you need to know about becoming a parent, you must also become a cosmetic chemist and determine which beauty products you can and can’t use… at least it feels that way.
Included in that list: Pregnancy-safe shampoos. If you’ve made your way to this article, you’ve likely read by now that you can’t use harsh, active ingredients like retinol or salicylic acid during pregnancy (here’s a full list of the skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy), but you might not have realized that there are common ingredients found in shampoos that you should avoid while pregnant as well.
So, why do the ingredients in your shampoo matter if they’re just going to be on your hair? Well, unfortunately your scalp can absorb ingredients just like the rest of the skin on your face and body. “Shampoos come into contact with a large body surface and are inhaled while washing, so it’s particularly important to use 'pregnancy safe' products,” says Blair Murphy-Rose, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “And because there is good evidence to suggest that we can absorb into our bloodstream some of the products that we use on our skin and hair, it’s wise to avoid questionable ingredients.”
How to choose a safe shampoo for pregnancy
While Dr. Murphy-Rose herself admits that there are no clear cut guidelines to what defines something as “pregnancy safe,” she does have a list of ingredients that she recommends her patients avoid while pregnant. “Generally it’s wise to avoid questionable ingredients like parabens, phthalates, PEGs, sulfates and formaldehyde releasers,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose.
Another surprising ingredient that’s safer to avoid while pregnant are essential oils. “Essential oils and their composition/inclusion in products is not regulated by the FDA and they do not have labeling standards,” says Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pittsburgh. “Several essential oils may affect your baby during early developmental stages, and thus should be avoided.”
Particularly of concern, several of the dermatologists shared that rosemary essential oil (commonly found in shampoos for thinning hair) has been linked to uterine contractions. That said, not all essential oils are bad, so if you have a shampoo that uses essential oils that you’d rather not get rid of, just run it by your doctor before continuing to use it.
Okay, now that you know what to avoid in order for a shampoo to be pregnancy-safe, here are some derm-approved options you can choose from.
The Best Pregnancy-Safe Shampoos
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for sensitive skin
No matter what you’re sensitive to, this shampoo will not (or at least it’s very, very unlikely) irritate your skin. The totally stripped-down formula is fragrance-, dye-, gluten-, paraben-free, and more. “This pick is good for all hair types and especially good for anyone with sensitive skin or fragrance intolerance,” says Tiffany Clay, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Atlanta.
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for curly hair
Sulfates are what create the suds and lather in most shampoos, but they’re also known for stripping strands of moisture. So when you choose a sulfate-free shampoo to use during pregnancy, you’re also doing dry hair a favor. On top of being sulfate-free, this one also includes shea butter and manuka honey to lock in rich moisture. Dr. Clay says it’s her pick for curly hair that needs more moisture.
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for oily hair
“This shampoo is vegan and doesn’t contain ingredients like parabens, phthalates, PEGs, and sulfates,” says Dr. Murphy-Rose. “I personally used it during my pregnancy, and have had a great experience with it. I also appreciate that it doesn’t have an overpowering scent like many products do—especially important while pregnant! It cleans hair thoroughly without drying and (with a good conditioner) leaves it feeling silky and healthy.”
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for dry hair
“Formulated with cold-pressed organic cupuacu butter sustainably sourced from the Amazon rainforest, this plant-based formula is rich in omega fatty acids and very moisturizing,” says Hadley King, MD, Board-Certified Dermatologist in NYC. “This shampoo is safe and incredibly moisturizing to help repair damaged and dry hair. It’s plant-based and full of hydrating nutrients,” says Dr. Zubritsky.
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for irritated scalps
“I think hyaluronic acid is a miracle ingredient for the scalp; and Dr. Sturm’s cationic hyaluronic acid is in a league of its own with retaining the hydration levels and respecting the skin barrier of the scalp,” says Bridgette Hill, certified trichologist and founder of Root Cause Scalp Analysis.
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for thinning hair
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for the whole family
“The same wash you are using for your baby, you can use for yourself,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “This shampoo is ultra gentle, fragrance-free, and sulfate-free. Plus, if you are using it for yourself already, you will be ready with it in the house when the baby comes.”
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for fine hair
Like the perfect white tee of shampoos, this formula goes back to the basics for a stripped down formula that simply gets the job (cleansing your hair really well) done. No sulfates, no silicones, no PEGs, no fragrance, and it has the “Seal of Acceptance” by the National Eczema Association so it shouldn’t cause skin irritations either. *chef’s kiss*
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for eczema-prone skin
This formula is safe enough for Baby to use, so you know it’s safe for you to use! It’s also ideal for sensitive skin, thanks to the organic calendula that helps soothe—another National Eczema Association approved pick.
Best pregnancy-safe clarifying shampoo
Whether you struggle with oily roots, you like to load on the styling products, or you simply like to stretch the time between washes (who doesn’t?), this shampoo is ideal for giving your strands a fresh start. The clarifying formula pulls away build-up from products, dirt, and oil, but also from pollutants, hard water deposits and chlorine—all without the use of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, or synthetic fragrances.
Best pregnancy-safe color-safe shampoo
Trying to find a shampoo that’s pregnancy-safe and won’t dull your color-treated hair can be hard, but this formula does it all. The main problem that comes from coloring your hair is a lack of moisture and shine, which many shampoos are also known for depleting. This shampoo does the opposite, thanks to a blend of coconut, shea butter, and honey that lock in moisture while pumpkin seed oil keeps your color looking bright and shiny.
Best pregnancy-safe plant-based shampoo
Everyone’s skin and hair reacts differently to pregnancy, but for a lot of women it tends to leave them feeling drier than usual. If that’s the case for you, this super rich shampoo will be your hair’s best friend. Amazonian-derived Rahua oil is the signature ingredient, but it also uses morete oil (an Amazonian fruit), aloe, and quinoa protein for moisture, strength, and protection against UVA rays.
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo and body wash
Another baby shampoo and body wash hybrid for the win! This paired down formula is super gentle, as it is free of phthalates, parabens, dyes, SLS/SLES, formaldehyde donors, and synthetic fragrances, but also cares for your hair and skin with added almond oil, jojoba, aloe vera, and coconut oil.
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo bar
Best pregnancy-safe dandruff shampoo
While dandruff shampoos are typically safe to use while pregnant, some contain salicylic acid, which should be avoided while pregnant. This one uses a coconut surfactant (cocamidopropyl betaine) to create suds for a thorough clean that’s not harsh on your already irritated scalp skin, along with antimicrobial piroctone olamine to clear up and keep away dandruff causing bacteria.
Best strengthening shampoo
With ingredients like keratin and biotin, this OUAI shampoo will help strengthen, moisturize, and nourish hair. But it’s also recommended by Dr. Nithya Gopal, Director of OB/GYN for Viva Eve, because it has a clean formula that’s pregnancy-safe: it doesn’t include synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde, SLS, parabens, or phthalates.
The shampoo is also a favorite of Dr. Adrienne O’Connell, the Director of Medicine and President of Laguna Beach Aesthetics, because it uses all natural ingredients, yet still leaves the hair nourished from root to tip.
Best lightweight shampoo
When looking for a good pregnancy-safe shampoo, the more natural, the better. Michael Green, MD, an OB/GYN at Winona, says one of his favorite shampoo brands is Maui Moisture because it’s affordable, vegan and steers clear of harmful ingredients like parabens, silicones, and sulfated surfactants. This lightweight hydrating shampoo has aloe juice as its first ingredient, and also uses hibiscus water and watermelon for a tropical touch. The brand also makes shampoos/conditions for a variety of hair types, including color-treated, dry, and curly hair.
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