Pregnancy brings in a slew of questions including those about personal care products—like, what do I need to know about pregnancy-safe shampoos? Yes, on top of learning how to become parent, you must also dabble in cosmetic chemisty and decide which beauty products and skin care products you should and shouldn’t use.
If you’ve made your way to this article about pregnancy-safe shampoos, you likely know that harsh, active ingredients like retinol or salicylic acid, are a no-no for the next nine months. (Here’s a full list of the skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy). Just like skin care, shampoos also contain ingredients that you should avoid while pregnant.
- Adrienne O'Connell, DO, director of medicine and president of Laguna Beach Aesthetics
- Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City
- Bridgette Hill, certified trichologist
- Hadley King, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology and associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital
- Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist in Pittsburgh
- Michael Green, MD, OB/GYN and chief medical officer at Winona
- Nithya Gopal, MD, board-certified OB/GYN in New York City
- Tiffany Clay, MD, board-certified dermatologist based in Atlanta
Best pregnancy-safe shampoos at a glance
- Best for sensitive skin: Vanicream Free & Clear Shampoo, $12.00
- Best of curly hair: SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo, $11.00
- Best for oily hair: Giovanni 50:50 Balanced Hydrating-Clarifying Shampoo, $10.00
- Best for dry hair: Klorane Shampoo with Organic Cupuacu Butter, $22.00
- Best for irritated scalps: Dr. Barbara Sturm Balancing Shampoo, $60.00
- Best for thinning hair: Vegamour Gro Shampoo, $48.00
- Best for the whole family: Baby Dove Tip to Toe Wash and Shampoo Sensitive Moisture, $9.00
- Best for fine hair: Necessaire The Shampoo, $28.00
- Best for eczema-prone skin: Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Fragrance Free Shampoo & Wash, $16.00
- Best for clarifying: Odele Clarifying Shampoo, $12.00
- Best for color-treated hair: Innersense Color Awakening Hair Bath, $28.00
- Best plant-based shampoo: Rahua Hydration Shampoo, $36.00
- Best shampoo and body wash combo: The Honest Company Purely Sensitive Shampoo + Body Wash, $11.00
- Best eco-friendly shampoo: Odacite 552M Soap Free Shampoo Bar, $29.00
- Best for dandruff treatment & prevention: Philip Kingsley Flaky Scalp Cleansing Shampoo, $41.00
- Best strengthening shampoo: OUAI Fine Hair Shampoo, $32.00
- Best lightweight shampoo: Maui Moisture Lightweight Hydration + Hibiscus Water Shampoo, $8.00
- Best dry shampoo: Klorane Ultra-Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk, $20.00
- Best volumizing shampoo: Love Beauty and Planet Volume and Bounty Thickening Shampoo and Conditioner, $13.00
So, why do the ingredients in your shampoo matter if they’re just going to be on your hair? Your scalp can absorb products 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
Approach choosing a pregnancy-safe shampoo as you would choosing any other skin care product. If it goes on your body, it will likely get absorbed by your skin. 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 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.”
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.
What ingredients to avoid in shampoo during pregnancy
Here is the breakdown of shampoo ingredients that you might want to skip, according to Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in NYC.
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.
Reviewers say that it leaves hair incredibly soft and has ameliorated sensitivity and scalp bumps, including breakout against the hairline and temples. Unlike other formulas, there are no botanical extracts or essential oils. It’s also formaldehyde and sulfate-free.
- No essential oils or botanical extracts
- May dry out hair
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. Fig extract will keep your mane vibrant and shiny. Dr. Clay says it’s her pick for curly hair that needs more moisture.
- Smells great
- Restores shine
- May leave fine hair limp
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.” Note that the shampoo does have some botanical ingredients like aloe leaf juice and organic rosemary leaf extract.
- Smells nice
- Works with curls
- May strip hair color
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 Dr. King. “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. The formula works great for those who need a bit of hair TLC, especially if hair is curly or wavy.
- Adds shine
- Biodegradable formula
- May leave thin hair limp
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.
While the shampoo doesn’t have fragrance, it does have green algae and lavender to reduce any irritation or pamper a dry scalp. Vitamin B5 helps restore hair, minimizing split ends.
- Helps with dry and itchy scalp
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo for thinning hair
“This is a vegan shampoo that offers plant-based ingredients to nurture the hair and has a proprietary vegan keratin that has a dual purpose in creating volume in the hair while also keeping the hair smooth,” says Hill. The keratin and silicone alternative, Karmatin, works to restore shine without stripping hair color. It also contains red clover, said to help with thinning hair–a pregnancy annoyance. Your scalp will also love mung bean, which strengthens hair follicles.
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.”
It helps if you have irritation from eczema. You’ll also love that Baby Dove supports maternal health by donating to Postpartum Support International.
- Helps with eczema
- May cause sensitivity with rosacea
- No pleasant scent
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. It contains moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera leaf juice, hyaluronic acid, and vitamins B3 and B5, which leave hair pampered. Plus, reviewers swear that it makes their hair fuller!
- Adds volume
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—it’s another National Eczema Association approved pick.
- EWG Verified
- Helps with eczema
- No distinct scent
Best pregnancy-safe clarifying shampoo
Whether you struggle with oily roots, load on the styling products, or you simply 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. Instead, take a whiff of Ylang Ylang, oakmoss, and cucumber scents while you wash your hair.
- May be drying for a sensitive scalp
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. Reviewers with curly hair were all about this shampoo and loved that it also smelled great.
- Natural fragrance
- Partners with 1% For The Planet
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. Thanks to the passion fruit and mango aroma you’ll feel as if you’re taking a shower in a tropical enclave.
- Prevents frizz
- Good for curly hair
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. The naturally-derived calendula strengthens hair and adds shine.
- No synthetic fragrance
Best pregnancy-safe shampoo bar
For an eco-friendly option, take away the bottle and use a shampoo bar. This pregnancy-safe formula comes in a solid form, and will give you between 50 to 75 washes (about two to three bottles worth) depending on your hair type and length. You’ll have soft locks thanks to cupuaçu butter, argan oil, and castor oil that are all about retaining moisture that will also ensure your scalp is happy.
- No plastic packaging
- Good lather
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. The gentle formula contains aloe leaf juice to calm any irritation.
- Good for dandruff
Best strengthening shampoo
With ingredients like keratin and biotin, this OUAI shampoo will not only help strengthen, moisturize, and nourish hair, it will give you va-va-voom volume without the frizz. But iIt’s also recommended by Dr. Nithya Gopal, a board-certified OB/GYN in New York City, because it has a clean formula that’s pregnancy-safe: it doesn’t include synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde, SLS, parabens, or phthalates and is still color-safe.
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. You’ll also love its delectable fragrance of rose with notes of Italian lemon, jasmine, and white musk.
- Works with all hair types
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, antioxidant-rich passionfruit, pure coconut 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.
- Great for all hair types
- Great for curls
Best volumizing shampoo
With 93 percent naturally derived ingredients, this shampoo and conditioner has no sulfate cleansers, silicones, parabens, or dyes. They’re infused with coconut water, mimosa flower, and coconut oil to hydrate and add volume to your hair. It smells great too, so you can have a bit of aromatherapy as you wash your tresses. You can use it after pregnancy, too, to potentially help you manage postpartum baldness or thinning hair.
- Smells great
- Provides volume
- Contains fragrance
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