Gentle is in the eye of the beholder, so when looking for the best gentle shampoos, first you have to start with your hair and skin type, and then determine the desired benefits you’re hoping to get from your shampoo, suggests Procter & Gamble principal scientist Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, who spoke to Elite Daily for this article. For example, Dr. Wilkerson says, “Someone who has fragile or dry hair may want a shampoo that provides moisturization and nourishment. Gentle for them would not be a clarifying shampoo, as they are looking for products to help nourish versus deep cleanse. For someone with color-treated hair, products that promise to protect their color are their priority." That said, for people who are looking to rid their scalp of product buildup and give their hair a deep clean, mild clarifying shampoos do exist — as do gentle color-protecting shampoos. Finally, Dr. Wilkerson adds that those with sensitive skin may want to choose fragrance-free products, as fragrance is a common known allergen.
Below, you’ll find seven of the best mild shampoos for every hair concern — whether you’re dealing with dandruff, scalp sensitivities, product buildup, or something else entirely.
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1. The Overall Best Gentle Shampoo
For a gentle drugstore shampoo that you can use everyday, Aveeno’s Pure Renewal Gentle Shampoo is a super dependable choice. Made with moisturizing glycerin and vitamin-rich seaweed extract, it has a light, pleasant scent, and though there are no sulfates in the formula, it still provides a nice, sudsy lather. Pick up the accompanying conditioner here.
2. The Best Gentle Shampoo For Highly Sensitive Scalps
If you have allergies, easily irritated skin, or a condition like eczema, you want this ultra-gentle shampoo from Vanicream’s Free & Clear line. It’s free of fragrance, dyes, parabens, sulfates, gluten, lanolin, and essential oils — aka all of the most common potential irritants found in personal care products. That said, it still leaves hair feeling fresh and clean, though you may not find it moisturizing enough if you have dry or damaged hair — if that’s the case, be sure to be generous with the matching conditioner.
3. The Best Gentle Shampoo For Color-Treated Hair
Pureology is another brand that leaves out lots of ingredients you may not want in your shampoo, like sulfates, silicones, and parabens. Hydrate Sheer was created with fine, color-treated hair in mind — though really, it should work beautifully for anyone with any type of color-treated hair — to provide lightweight moisture, color protection, and shine. To help ensure your color stays vibrant between salon visits, the shampoo is formulated with the brand’s patented Antifade Complex, as well as moisturizing jojoba oil and antioxidant-rich green tea. (You can find the equally gentle Hydrate Sheer conditioner here).
4. The Best Gentle Korean Shampoo
Everyone loves Korean beauty, so why not consider this mild shampoo from K-beauty brand Amipure? Free of sulfates, fragrance, and chemical preservatives, this pH-balanced shampoo was designed to give scalps a thorough clean without causing irritation or leaving behind residue. One Amazon reviewer summed things up nicely: "This is so far the best shampoo for everyday wash. Rinses off easily, makes hair soft and shiny." It’s a pricey choice, sure, but it looks super luxe in the shower and comes in a 16.9-ounce, pump-top bottle, so it should last you a while.
5. The Best Gentle Shampoo For Dandruff (Expert’s Pick)
To alleviate dryness, itching, and flaking, Dr. Wilkerson suggests Head & Shoulders Supreme Color Protect Shampoo (note that this purchase comes with the matching conditioner, too). It’s formulated with pyrithione zinc to treat dandruff, along with manuka honey extract and argan oil for nourishment and moisture. Though the formula is free of parabens, phthalates, dyes, and phosphates, note that it does contain sulfates and fragrance, in case those are ingredients you prefer to avoid.
6. The Best Gentle Clarifying Shampoo
The hero ingredient in this Phillip Adam shampoo is apple cider vinegar, an ingredient that’s popular for its clarifying and shine-boosting benefits. Aside from that, you’ll also find moisturizing glycerin, exfoliating lactic acid, and refreshing rosemary in the formula. It’s free of fragrance, SLS, silicones, and parabens, and unlike most other clarifying shampoos, can be used daily. Or, use this once a week, alternating with another gentle shampoo, to rid your scalp of any accumulated product buildup.
7. The Best Gentle Dry Shampoo
Formulated without sulfates, parabens, or silicones, Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal + Biotin Dry Shampoo helps extend your next hair wash by reducing dirt and oil on your scalp. It’ll also help give limp or greasy hair some added volume, without leaving behind any sticky or white residue. This is Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free, and made with 98% naturally derived ingredients.
Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, Principal Scientist and Senior Manager of Scientific Communications in Beauty Care at P&G
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