You check the EWG’s Skin Deep database to find EWG verified shampoo brands. You know these are shampoos without harmful ingredients, but do they work? I tested three affordable non toxic shampoos because I was curious, too!
Let’s face it: non toxic shampoo that works can be expensive. So when it was time for me to buy some more hair care products, I decided to test out three affordable EWG verified shampoo brands and see how they compared to my favorite (more expensive) natural shampoo. This blog post has the results!
I started with Avalon Organics, then moved to Clean Kids Naturally, and closed out my test with Attitude Living. The results? One of these shampoos was awful, one was good, and one was really good. Keep reading to find out which is which!
Why should you buy non toxic shampoo?
Many conventional shampoos contain ingredients that can irritate your skin and have long-term effects on your health. (FYI: Even natural ingredients, like some essential oils, can irritate your skin. My neighbor is allergic to lavender.)
The European Union has banned more than 1,300 ingredients from cosmetics, while the U.S. has banned 10 (depending on how you count them). With so many banned ingredients, it’s hard to know what’s safe and what isn’t. That’s why so many people rely on product safety ratings from organizations like the Environmental Working Group.
So when choosing a shampoo without harsh chemicals, here are some ingredients that you should avoid.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are two of the top ingredients advocates recommend avoiding in your personal care products because they can irritate skin conditions like rosacea and eczema and trigger allergies. They can also be damaging to some types of hair.
RELATED ARTICLE: How To Use Non Toxic Shampoo: 5 Things You’re Doing Wrong
By law, the FDA requires cosmetics companies to list all of the ingredients on their products’ labels, except for fragrance/parfum. Companies do not have to disclose the individual ingredients that make up the fragrance because they are most likely to be “trade secrets.”
Fragrances can include ingredients like essential oils or synthetic chemicals. Some are safe and some are not, but you can’t possibly know that if the companies don’t disclose the ingredients.
On its IFRA Transparency List, the International Fragrance Association lists nearly 4,000 fragrance ingredients that are used in consumer goods by the fragrance industry’s customers worldwide. And some of these fragrance ingredients are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, developmental toxins, and neurotoxins. Phthalates are one group of chemicals used in fragrances that we should avoid because of health concerns.
Other Shampoo Ingredients To Avoid
In addition to the ones listed above, here are some other shampoo ingredients to avoid.
- formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, like quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol) and glyoxal)
- ethoxylated ingredients like polypropylene glycol (PPG), polyethylene glycol (PEG), polysorbate, and ingredients ending in –eth (laureth, steareth, and ceteareth)
- butylated compounds like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- ethanolamines like monoethanolamine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA), and triethanolamine (TEA)
What is the EWG?
The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization that researches, advocates, and educates for healthier people and healthier environments. EWG’s Skin Deep® database provides safety ratings on more than 70,000 personal care products to protect consumers from everyday exposures to harmful chemicals.
What does EWG Verified mean?
EWG VERIFIED is a trademark licensing program currently available for personal care products, cosmetics, household cleaners, and baby diapers. Brands have to apply and pay fees to be reviewed and verified by the EWG.
Products that are EWG Verified must meet the organization’s standards for transparency and health. This means that the product manufacturers:
- avoid EWG’s unacceptable ingredients that have health, ecotoxicity and/or contamination concerns;
- meet EWG’s standards for ingredient disclosure on the label, as well as provide full ingredient transparency to EWG, including fragrances; and
- develop and follow current good manufacturing practices to further ensure the safety of their products.
Click here to read more info on the EWG’s criteria for verified products.
Criticism of the EWG
While the EWG does a lot of good, it’s also controversial and often criticized by the scientific community. Some scientists say that the EWG cherry picks data to support their beliefs and that it uses fear-mongering to sell products. The EWG also receives a lot of funding from the organic industry, which doesn’t exactly make it unbiased.
Knowing all that, I still use data from the EWG but I don’t treat it as the be-all and end-all of ingredient safety. I often use it as a starting point before reviewing information from other sources. I do appreciate the work the EWG does to promote safer products, even if it’s not perfect.
Affordable EWG Verified Shampoos
Before you read my non toxic shampoo reviews, you should know my hair type and hair style.
I have fine hair, but I have a lot of it. People often think my hair is thick because I have so much of it, but there are actually just a lot of strands coming out of my head. (And I have a huge head, which means I have more room for more strands of hair!)
My hair is also pretty greasy, and I wash it every day. (And please don’t try to convince me that washing my hair less often will make it less greasy. I’ve tried; it hasn’t worked.)
My hair style is a chin-length undercut, which means it’s business on top and a party on the bottom.
I also used all three of these shampoos on my seven-year-old daughter. Her hair is similar to mine in that it’s thin but there’s a lot of it. And it looks like she’s going to end up with oily hair like her mama. Her hair style is long (way too long TBH).
Let’s get into the non toxic shampoo reviews!
Avalon Organics products do not contain GMOs, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, synthetic colors, synthetic fragrances, or phthalates. They also do not perform animal testing.
It’s preserved with sodium benzoate, which is a preservative approved by Ecocert for use in natural and organic cosmetics products.
Avalon Organics shampoos and conditioners are available on Amazon and in many local grocery stores (at least around me). I really liked that I could buy them at my local Sprouts, where I shop every week.
The Avalon Organics Volumizing Rosemary Shampoo has what I consider decent reviews on Amazon, with 4.3 out of 5 stars from more than 3,000 ratings (at the time of publishing).
Despite all the good reviews on Amazon, I hated the Avalon Organics shampoo and conditioner. It did not work for me or my daughter. I hate being wasteful, so I usually always finish a product even if it’s not all that great. I tried to use up all of this one, but I had to stop using it when the tops of my ears started burning and flaking after about two weeks of use. Yeah, that happened.
I rarely react to a product, so this was a strange thing for me. I have no idea what ingredient(s) caused the reaction, either. This does not mean that you’ll have a reaction, but just beware if you decide to try it.
But besides the reaction, it just didn’t work very well. It stripped my hair and left it dull and staticky. I didn’t realize how bad my hair had started to look until I started using different products. My hair is pretty healthy and I don’t style with heat every day, so it takes a lot to make my hair look as bad as it did using Avalon Organics.
Finally, it definitely smells like rosemary, which we didn’t like, and it made my daughter’s hair smell terrible.
One of my friends also said that she bought the Avalon Organics Scalp Treatment Tea Tree Shampoo and Conditioner after a lice breakout in her daughter’s classroom, and she didn’t like that one, either.
Shampoo EWG-verified: Yes
Conditioner EWG-verified: No?? (See more on the ingredients below.)
Hair Type Designed For: Dry
Price: Varies, about $11 each for the shampoo (16 oz.) and conditioner (8 oz.)
Where to buy: attitudeliving.com, buybuybaby.com (in stores, too)
Yes, this is marketed as a non toxic shampoo for pregnancy, but no, I’m not pregnant and don’t plan on getting pregnant. Honestly, I think it’s a bit of a marketing ploy targeting a hormonal, worried group of women (I used to be one!), but the bottom line is that it’s a safe, effective shampoo whether you’re pregnant or not.
On their website, Attitude Living lists the Blooming Belly conditioner as EWG verified and has the logo on the bottle. However, the conditioner isn’t listed as a verified product on the EWG’s website. I reached out to Attitude Living asking for clarification, but they have not responded yet.
So let’s take a look at the ingredients. The current formulation for the conditioner isn’t listed in the EWG Skin Deep database, but when I ran the ingredients through their “Build Your Own Report” tool, it’s rated as a 3. Most of the ingredients are a 1-2, except for two: sodium benzoate, which is a 3; and behentrimonium methosulfate, which is a 4.
I’m comfortable with my family using these two ingredients and here’s why:
- Sodium benzoate is a preservative approved by Ecocert for use in natural and organic cosmetics products.
- Behentrimonium methosulfate is used as an antistatic agent and hair conditioning agent. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel concluded in a 2012 safety assessment published in the International Journal of Toxicology that behentrimonium methosulfate is “safe in the present practices of use and concentration described in this safety assessment when formulated to be nonirritating.”
This is a non toxic shampoo that lathers, cleans, and conditions well. Both my daughter and I have soft and shiny hair after using these products. Even though it’s meant more for dry hair and mine is oily, I didn’t feel like this weighed my hair down at all.
The scent is soft and light, what Attitude describes as apple blossoms.
All of Attitude Living’s products are vegan, cruelty free, and PETA-approved.
The products are biodegradable and Ecologo certified (UL), which means that Attitude Living has a reduced environmental impact according to Ecologo’s standards.
Attitude Living offers what it calls “BULK to go eco-refills” for some of its shampoos and conditioners, hand soaps, shower gels, and home cleaning products. The bulk eco-refills use 81 percent less plastic than the regular packaging. (NOTE: This option isn’t available for the Blooming Belly line.)
Both the shampoo and conditioner contain hydrolyzed wheat protein, which could be a problem for people with celiac disease or gluten allergies.
The bottles are plastic, which is the case for most shampoos and conditioners. However, all of their bottles are plastic HDPE #2, which is the easiest kind to recycle.
The shampoo is a little runny, so just be careful when you squeeze the bottle.
Shampoo EWG-verified: Yes
Conditioner EWG-verified: Yes
Hair Type Designed For: All, especially sensitive scalps
Price: Varies, about $16 each (16 oz.)
Where to buy: gabrielcosmetics.com, healthyplanetshopping.com, or find a store near you (may not carry these specific products)
Did I think the kids’ shampoo would win my little test? Nope, I didn’t see that one coming! But this inexpensive non toxic shampoo is my top pick of the three!
I was able to find the Clean Kids Naturally shampoo and conditioner locally at Mother’s Market, a natural and organic health food store in Southern California.
This shampoo does not contain coconut, so it’s great for people who have coconut allergies.
The shampoo and conditioner are also free of gluten, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, fluoride/glycol, lanolin, petrolatum, mineral oils, and artificial colors.
The conditioner reminds me of banana Runts! It’s not my favorite smell, but it’s not as bad as I thought it might for a conditioner that’s called “Banana Smoothie.”
Many people won’t be able to find this locally and will have to order online and possibly pay for shipping.
The bottles are plastic, which is the case for most shampoos and conditioners.
The shampoo is a little runny, so just be careful when you use the pump.
So what is the best non toxic shampoo?! Well, I still prefer Innersense Organic Beauty, but it costs quite a bit more than these EWG verified shampoo brands. So of these three inexpensive non toxic shampoos, my favorite is Clean Kids Naturally.
Final Thoughts on EWG Verified Shampoo
There’s no one EWG verified shampoo and conditioner that’ll work for everyone, so you may need to try a few options to find one you like.
- How To Use Non Toxic Shampoo: 5 Things You’re Doing Wrong
- 7 Ways To Save Money On Nontoxic Skincare and Makeup
I tried three affordable EWG verified shampoo brands to see how they compared to my favorite (more expensive) natural shampoo.