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Do I Really Need Special Shampoo for My Baby (Including Alternatives)

Do I Really Need Special Shampoo for My Baby (Including Alternatives)

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When we think of babies, we often think of that fresh newborn baby smell when we sniff their heads, but babies don’t always smell sweet. From spit-up to blowouts, babies can be messy. Luckily, bath time can be a fun bonding experience for both baby and parents. Using the right baby shampoo or baby shampoo alternative for your baby will leave you with a clean, happy, and sweet-smelling baby once more.

Bathing your baby and washing their hair can be relaxing and enjoyable for both of you, and a nice shampoo can make that time even better. Babies who don’t have any hair don’t need to use shampoo, but older babies with hair will likely need some type of baby shampoo – a gentle, fragrance-free shampoo that is probably milder than your regular one.

You are likely here because you are wondering what you can use instead of baby shampoo, if baby shampoo is really necessary, if you can use regular shampoo on your baby, and if there are any alternatives to traditional baby shampoo. Read on to learn more!

What can I use instead of baby shampoo?

There are many alternatives to traditional baby shampoo if you prefer to use something different on your baby’s hair. One option is to find an adult hypoallergenic, dye-free, and scent-free shampoo, or you can create your own baby shampoo using ingredients found around the house. Castile soap (they even make a special version for babies!) is a popular option as well.

No matter what you use to wash your baby’s hair, you’ll want to keep the following in mind:

  • The shampoo should be free of unnecessary dyes, strong scents, and harsh chemicals.
  • A shampoo with fewer ingredients is less likely to irritate your baby’s skin or cause an allergic reaction than a shampoo with many ingredients.
  • If possible, find or make a tear-free shampoo.
  • Use the shampoo sparingly. Babies do not need to have their hair or bodies washed as often as adults. Once a week or so should be fine when it comes to washing your baby’s hair.
  • When possible, newborns should forgo soap and shampoo, unless they have cradle cap or other skin condition. Be sure to follow your pediatrician’s recommendation in this case.
  • There is no need to use a conditioner on baby’s hair.

Is baby shampoo necessary?

If your baby does not have hair yet or has just a little hair, you can likely get away with just washing their sweet little heads with water.

Babies with more hair need some type of cleansing agent, but it does not have to be a traditional baby shampoo.

Baby shampoos are formulated to be less irritating to a baby’s sensitive skin and eyes than regular shampoo, but there are also other options that work just as well as baby shampoo.

Difference between baby shampoo and regular shampoo

Although it may seem like it would be easier to use the same shampoo for your new baby and either yourself or your older children, your own shampoo is probably not appropriate for use on your little one.

Baby shampoo is formulated to be especially mild and gentle so that a baby’s sensitive skin and eyes are not irritated by it. It is usually “tear-free” so you don’t have to worry about shampoo getting in the baby’s eyes and causing irritation. There are formulations that are also scent-free and dye-free as well, and some are also hypoallergenic, gluten-free, or vegan.

Many regular shampoos contain stronger cleansing agents and stronger scents, and they are not tear-free. They also usually contain more ingredients than baby shampoo, and this can irritate a baby’s soft, sensitive skin and possibly cause an allergic reaction. They are often not hypoallergenic, and they can potentially be harsh on a baby’s skin and hurt their eyes.

Can I use regular shampoo on baby?

While many regular shampoos are too harsh for a baby’s delicate skin, there are some that are just as mild as baby shampoo, and work just as well. As an added bonus, they often cost less than baby shampoo, and your whole family can use them. If you want to use regular shampoo on your baby, look for unscented and dye-free formulations, and if possible, find one that is also tear-free and hypoallergenic.

If you choose to use regular shampoo on your baby, you will want to avoid the following ingredients, as they can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions:

  • Fragrances, scents, and perfumes
  • Phthalates
  • Parabens
  • Formaldehyde
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG)

With any shampoo you use on your baby, you will want to watch for irritation and allergic reactions.

Here are some signs of skin irritation and possible allergic reactions:

  • Red patches on the skin
  • Blisters
  • Hives
  • Bumps
  • Scaly, rough patches
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Abnormal fussiness

If your baby has any of these signs, switch to a milder shampoo or just use water until you can consult with your pediatrician. If your baby has an allergic reaction and has trouble breathing, call 911 immediately.

When can I start using regular shampoo on my baby?

If you use a regular shampoo that is free of the ingredients listed above, you can use it whenever your baby has enough hair to wash. Otherwise, you will want to stick to baby shampoo or an alternative until after your baby’s first birthday, to lessen the likelihood of skin irritation or an allergic reaction.

Many parents choose to use baby shampoo until their child is old enough to keep the soap out of their eyes, and some even wait until their child is able to independently wash themselves.

Like much of parenting, there is no hard and fast rule for when you need to make the switch. Adults can even use baby shampoo if it works for them!

Alternatives to baby shampoo

A good and economical alternative to baby shampoo is to find a regular shampoo the whole family can use! Be sure to avoid heavily-fragranced shampoos that contain dyes, and also avoid phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde, SLS, and PEGs. The fewer ingredients the better, and look for natural ingredients.

Some of my family’s favorite brands include JASON, Everyone, and Alaffia. These brands are all gentle and mild enough for your baby’s soft and sensitive skin, and they work well for the rest of the family, too. Check out our recommendations below.

Whole Foods 365 Fragrance-Free Shampoo

This shampoo is fragrance-free and dye-free, and it is safe for all members of the family who have sensitive skin, including your baby. It’s also hypoallergenic and gluten-free. It is a mild, light shampoo that you can buy in bulk.

Alaffia Everyday Shea Unscented Shampoo

This is an unscented shampoo that contains certified fair-trade shea butter, which hydrates and smooths skin and tender scalps of all ages. As an added bonus, this shampoo is also cruelty-free and vegan. If your family members tend to have dry skin or a dry scalp, the added moisture in this shampoo will be helpful, especially during the winter.

Homemade baby shampoo

Not finding a baby shampoo or baby shampoo alternative that you like or meets your baby’s needs? You can always make your own!

Try this simple recipe to make your own baby shampoo: 1 part water, 1 part castile soap, 1 cup coconut oil. Mix together, pour into a bottle, and you now have a baby shampoo that is not only economical but also all-natural and eco-friendly.

You can buy the ingredients in bulk to save money, and this mild cleanser has minimal ingredients and is unlikely to cause skin irritation or an allergic reaction. An additional benefit is that you can customize the shampoo to meet your baby’s needs by adjusting the ingredient ratios as needed.

Joshua Bartlett
Joshua Bartlett

My name is Joshua Bartlett I run this blog with my wife Jarah. We have more than 11 years of parenting experience including three girls and one boy. I started this blog in late 2018 when I realized that I was dealing with baby-related issues on a constant basis…please read more about me here!