Written by Grove Collaborative

What are the best natural shampoos & conditioners?

Last Updated: October 1, 2020


Looking to change to nontoxic, organic hair care? Here are the best natural shampoos and conditioners based off your hair needs — and why you should make the switch.

Here at Grove Collaborative, we’re big believers in the power of natural products — both for ourselves and for the planet. But we know making the switch can be daunting, especially if you’re accustomed to conventional products and are new to the world of natural, eco-friendly alternatives. That’s why we’ve created Beginner’s Guides to Natural. Each week, we’ll give you a primer on the ins and outs of transitioning to a natural version of a common household item, plus a few of our favorite brands for making the switch. Let’s get to swapping!

You probably don’t give a whole lot of headspace to your shampoo and conditioner if you’re enjoying good hair days more often than not. Most of us just use the hair care products we’ve always used. But giving your hair washing routine a second thought could result in better-looking, healthier hair—and a cleaner environment.

Natural shampoos and conditioners don’t have the harsh ingredients that conventional products do, such as sulfates and parabens, which can do a number on your hair. They also don’t pollute the environment with toxic substances that affect our water and wildlife. Made from natural, plant-based ingredients, natural shampoos and conditioners are a great choice for people who are trying to reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals or improve the health of their hair.

Your crowning glory deserves more from your shampoo and conditioner. Here’s the lowdown on natural hair care, along with our top picks for every hair type.


Why are sulfates and parabens so bad?

The scoop on sulfates

Sulfates are surfactants, or detergents, that remove dirt and oils and make it possible for a product to lather. The most commonly found sulfates in conventional shampoos and conditioners are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), which are petroleum-based. So what’s the big deal?

While sulfates aren’t linked to health problems, they can cause varying degrees of eye and skin irritation and are particularly hard on the health of your hair. Because sulfates are such effective detergents, they strip a lot of the natural oils from your locks, leaving them rough, dry, and brittle. Over time, sulfates build up on the hair shaft and block natural oils from coating it altogether. Oil pools at the roots, making your hair look dull and greasy. Sulfates can also irritate your scalp and cause acne on your back or hairline.

Sulfate-free shampoo contains plant-based ingredients that gently remove dirt from your hair without taking all the good stuff with it.

The problem with parabens

Parabens are chemicals used as artificial preservatives in a wide range of body care and cosmetic products, as well as some foods. These preservatives prevent the product from biodegrading, and they slow the growth of mold and harmful bacteria. That’s why your makeup and hygiene products have such a long shelf life.

Parabens accumulate in fat tissue over time, and can irritate your skin, especially if you have sensitivities. But the real danger is that these are endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which means they disrupt the hormone systems involved in reproduction. Overexposure to parabens can affect testosterone levels, sperm count, the menstrual cycle, and birth outcomes. The environment also feels the effects of parabens, which have been detected in surface waters and can kill coral.

There’s really no escaping parabens as we go about our daily routines, but making small swaps can reduce your exposure.

Other hair care ingredients to avoid

Sodium chloride (salt)

  • Dries your scalp
  • Dehydrates your hair strands
  • May cause hair loss

Quaternium-15 (formaldehyde)

  • Carcinogenic
  • Absorbed through the skin
  • May cause skin rashes and inflammation

Synthetic fragrances

  • Contain toxic chemicals
  • Irritate the skin
  • May cause hair loss

Dimethicone (silicone plastic)

  • Contributes to product buildup
  • Clogs your pores
  • Weighs down your hair

Are natural shampoos and conditioners really better?

Benefits of natural shampoo and conditioner


  • Natural shampoos contain none of the harsh substances commonly found in conventional shampoos and conditioners.
  • The natural plant oils and herbal extracts found in natural hair care products promote new hair growth by stimulating the hair follicles, moisturizing the strands, and improving the health of your scalp.
  • Natural shampoo and conditioner are non-allergenic and suitable for all types of skin and hair. Thanks to fragrant plant oils, natural hair products smell divine.
  • Biodegradable ingredients in natural shampoos and conditioners don’t pollute the water, and they’re more eco-friendly to produce.

Common natural hair care ingredients to seek out


  • Coconut oil moisturizes the scalp, fights fungus, and protects your hair from heat damage.
  • Cold-pressed olive oil improves elasticity and is rich in vitamin E and antioxidants.
  • Shea butter provides shine and enhances color.
  • Jojoba oil moisturizes, soothes, and promotes hair cell growth, and it has antibacterial properties.
  • Castor oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Omega-9 fatty acids nourish hair and keep it soft and shiny.
  • Aloe vera reduces scalp inflammation and gently removes excess oil without damaging hair.
  • Peppermint improves blood flow to the scalp, reduces inflammation, and promotes hair growth.

Three brands we love

Natural hair care products are becoming easier to find. At Grove, we handpick our products not only for their quality and effectiveness, but also for the brand’s social and environmental stewardship. Aside from our flagship Rooted Beauty line (hey, we’re partial!), which includes shampoos and conditioners designed to hydrate and repair, here are three companies we’re excited about.

HiBAR
HiBAR’s line of waterless shampoo and conditioner bars not only have no nasty ingredients, but they also have no plastic packaging. Formed by a quartet of environmentally minded friends, HiBAR uses recyclable and compostable packaging, plant-based inks, and 100-percent recyclable or biodegradable shipping materials.

Shop HiBAR

Acure
Acure’s products are totally free of dangerous and damaging ingredients, and its products are 100-percent vegan and never tested on animals. The company meets high standards for labor practices, health and safety, business ethics, and environmental stewardship, and also supports nonprofit organizations working to enhance lives and protect the environment.

Shop Acure

Alba Botanica
Alba Botanica’s personal care products treat your body and the earth kindly. The company centers around the compassionate and ethical treatment of all living things, and its products are 100-percent vegetarian and reef-friendly, and many are biodegradable. All of the brand’s packaging is recyclable or biodegradable and used sparingly to cut down on waste.

Shop Alba Botanica

Grove Tip

Raise the bar with natural waterless shampoo

Some natural shampoos and conditioners come in bar form, like soap. These travel-friendly, waterless products typically last longer than bottles of liquid shampoo and conditioner, and they do it without a trace of plastic. Between uses, store shampoo and conditioner bars up and away from water to make them last

What to expect when you make the switch to natural hair products

Fewer bubbles

Because natural shampoo doesn’t contain chemical foaming agents, it won’t lather up like it does on TV. But that doesn’t mean it’s not removing dirt and buildup from your hair.

Lather up twice

Maybe you always rinse and repeat, but you’ll want to be sure to shampoo twice with all-natural products for the best results. Be sure to rinse your hair well.

Adjustment period

It may take a few washings for your scalp to adjust. Your hair may feel oilier or heavier than usual, but give it a little time, and your hair will feel and look better than ever.

Better hair growth

A healthy scalp promotes hair growth. Natural products are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that nourish your scalp. Some plants, like peppermint, specifically boost growth.

The best natural shampoos and conditioners for each hair type

Thin or flat hair

Jason Think to Thick Extra Volume Shampoo

If your locks are limp, bring them back to life with this extra-volume formula with peppermint oil and amino acids that gently cleanse and plant proteins that boost volume.

Alba Botanica Volumizing Mango Shampoo

This Leaping Bunny Certified volumizing conditioner is lightweight and contains mango and other exotic extracts that nourish hair and pump up the volume.

Acure Vivacious Volume Conditioner

The mint in this volumizing conditioner refreshes your hair and scalp, and the moringa piles on the protein and antioxidants for bouncy, healthy strands.


Itchy, flaky scalp

Soapbox Tea Tree Clean & Purify Conditioner

Tea tree oil in this lightweight shampoo removes buildup from your hair and scalp and fights bacteria that makes your scalp itchy and flaky.

Jason Scalp Normalizing Dandruff Shampoo

Do away with dandruff with this hydrating shampoo containing cleansing tea tree oil and calming grapefruit extract. It’s safe, gentle, and Leaping Bunny Certified.

Yes To Naturals Tea Tree & Sage Calming Scalp Relief Shampoo

This calming shampoo contains salicylic acid to reduce itch. Tea tree oil cleanses the scalp and unclogs hair follicles. Sage soothes the scalp and strengthens the roots.


Thinning hair

Tree To Tub Hair Growth Shampoo for Thinning Hair
This shampoo is pH neutral and contains ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties to keep your scalp and roots healthy. Caffeine and menthol stimulate hair follicles for optimal growth.


Swimmer's hair

Babo Botanicals Swim & Sport Shampoo & Wash

This revitalizing shampoo removes chlorine and environmental toxins from your hair with flower extracts and other ingredients that won’t strip it of its natural oils.


Baby's hair

Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Fragrance Free Shampoo & Wash

Designed for extra sensitive skin, this fragrance-free shampoo reduces itching and irritation and keeps Baby’s scalp healthy. It’s specifically formulated to help prevent allergic reactions.

Fresh Monster Kids Shampoo & Conditioner 2-in-1

Suitable for sensitive skin, this hypoallergenic shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one formula is gentle on the eyes and contains all-natural botanical and fruit extracts for soft, healthy hair.


Grove Tip

Choose the best natural hair care products

Here are some tips for deciphering an ingredients list if you don’t have a degree in chemistry.

  • Look for a short ingredient list, ideally no more than 9 items.
  • Scan the ingredients list for parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and other nasties.
  • Look for ingredients that are easy to pronounce.
  • Look for naturally derived, plant-based ingredients.

Natural shampoo tips

More isn’t better.

Since natural shampoo doesn’t lather as robustly as their conventional counterparts, you may feel like you need more, but you really don’t.

Not too hot.

Very hot water can damage your hair and cause frizz. Use very warm water while you wash to open up the cuticles, and rinse with cool water to close them.

Massage your scalp.

While you shampoo, give that scalp of yours a deep massage with your fingertips to stimulate hair follicles and prevent the buildup of sebum.

Rinse thoroughly.

Even natural products can leave residue on your hair if you don’t thoroughly rinse it. When you think you’re done rinsing, rinse a little more.

Squeeze dry.

The worst thing you can do after shampooing is scrub your hair dry with a towel. Instead, use the towel to gently squeeze and dab at your hair.

ShampooGraphic


Looking for other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any natural producr questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to try natural shampoo, shop Grove Collaborative's shampoos for the best options based off your hair type.

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