Everything You Need to Know to Avoid Itchy Scalp & Allergies

Today's Topic: Hypoallergenic Shampoo

Shampoo products, along with many other personal care products, are notorious for including harmful chemicals. Even hypoallergenic shampoo, which is touted for its perceived ability to be BFFs with your sensitive skin, can be equally notorious.

That’s right.

Shampoo and products marketed as ‘hypoallergenic’ are not always the best solution for your sensitive skin.

They may, potentially, be better than the competing products. But everyone knows, better isn’t best.

When it comes to contact allergies from personal care products, you need to know you’re using the best product for you. It all comes down to the ingredients included and knowing what your sensitivities are.

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Shampoo Allergies and Sensitive Skin

Hypoallergenic shampoo and skincare products are usually designed to reduce the likelihood of reactions. But it’s hardly clear what type of reactions!

Unlike popular belief, called something ‘hypoallergenic’ doesn’t make it completely safe for people with sensitive skin and allergies.

If you’re standing in a store trying to choose the better of two shampoo options, you’re only left with the advertising material on the packaging by which to make your decision.

How are you to know if a product designed to reduce one type of skin irritation or condition might trigger a different kind of flare up? So you look for another hypoallergenic product to manage the new symptoms.

Sensitive skin can be a challenge to manage. And this is how you start what feels like a never ending cycle of reaction after reaction. Good news is that there is a way to end this spiral of chain reactions!

Know Your Sensitivities

It comes down to knowing the underlying cause of your skin’s sensitivity.

That’s the real secret that will ensure a product is hypoallergenic to you. Sure manufacturers call their products hypoallergenic because they may contain less of the common allergens, or just less ingredients altogether.

Thing is, it will always come down to you and whether the ingredients in the shampoo or skin care product trigger your sensitivities.

We recommend consulting a professional dermatologist who can conduct a patch test if you are worried you might be allergic to certain ingredients. This test will expose you to commonly used allergens so you can find out which ones to avoid at all costs. No more blind shopping for you!

Don’t be fooled by the games advertisers play to sell more products. Do your homework and research the ingredients.

How to Know if You’re Allergic to Your Shampoo

It’s estimated that about 28% of people have allergies to their hair care products.

Signs that you might be allergic to your shampoo include:

  • Itchiness
  • Red patches
  • Pimples
  • Rash
  • Dry, flaky patches
  • Burning
  • Irritation

These may affect your scalp directly or your eyelids, face, ears and neck.

You may also suffer from a mild irritation rather than contact dermatitis, the medical term for allergies caused when certain ingredients or substances come into contact with your skin.

If you have more severe symptoms, like troubled breathing or hives, seek medical attention immediately.

What Ingredients in Shampoo Cause Allergies?

Many shampoos can irritate your scalp

Shampoos that are considered to be responsible for causing an itchy scalp, dermatitis or other contact allergies usually contain one or more of:



Formaldehyde releasing ingredients


Botanical ingredients

Surfactants (which create foam or lather)

Fragrances are often included in most products on the market to make them more appealing to consumers. However, they are also the most commonly used allergen in toiletries and personal care products.

Even if products are labelled as ‘fragrance-free’ they may still contain potential allergens that are fragrance related. In a study on dermatitis caused by fragrances in shampoo, researchers found that in a database of 179 shampoo products, only five were truly fragrance free.

As a consumer, it can be hard to know this when looking at two shampoo products on a shelf!

Specific Ingredients to Avoid

If you suspect a shampoo allergy, stay away from brands and hair care products that include:


Sodium Lauryl (including SLS)

Sodium Laureth

Ammonium Laureth Sulfate

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate

These ingredients are often used to give your hair that sleek, shiny and super clean feeling after shampooing. If you opt for products without these ingredients, be aware that you’ll likely have a different experience and the product may not lather up as much or feel similar to what you’re used to.

You’ll still get just as good a clean though!

A Dermatologist’s Thoughts on Natural Ingredients

If you use shampoo or another hair care product and you see reactions on your scalp, it is likely you have an allergy to at least one ingredient in the product.

As mentioned, fragrances are the number one cause of allergic contact dermatitis. What few people realise is that even ones containing botanical ingredients can put you at risk. Natural ingredients are not always entirely safe.

Dermatologists are seeing more cases of allergies to ingredients like:

  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine (derived from coconut)
  • Botanicals such as mint, rosemary, lavender, ylang-ylang, tea tree oil and chamomile

With the first on that list, cocamidopropyl betaine, you may not see reactions on the scalp. Rather, many patients have reacted by getting dry patches on their eyelids, face, ears and neck.

If you experience more of an irritation than an allergic reaction, avoid shampoos that have extra botanicals like those in the second dot point above. These can be mildly irritating.

10 Hypoallergenic Shampoo Products for Sensitive Skin

As more people are reacting to the harsh chemicals in personal care products, more brands are working on alternatives. Good news for those of us with sensitive skin, we now have more options than ever before.

Here’s a list of 10 hypoallergenic shampoo products you could look into:

1. Exederm

One of the few shampoos on the market that do not contain fragrance or harmful ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine. Not only is Exederm recommended by dermatologists, it is one of the few shampoos that can truly be considered hypoallergenic due to the exclusion of anything potentially irritable or likely to cause allergies.

2. Shea Moisture Baby Shampoo

Great for both little ones and adults with sensitive skin, this shampoo is an extra mild formula. Based on simple and natural ingredients, it includes aloe vera, cocoa butter and vitamin E for luscious locks.

3. Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Shampoo

What’s not to love about this hypoallergenic shampoo? Both hair and skin feel soft and well moisturized without harmful ingredients. It has none of these nasties at all: No alcohol, parabens, petroleum or fragrances. Great for kids as well as adults. It’s also been tested by pediatricians and recommended as a great for anyone with sensitive skin.

4. Cleure Volumizing Shampoo

Like most natural and gentle shampoo alternatives, this product doesn’t lather much. It’s a great sign if you have sensitive skin as it means none of those nasties we mentioned earlier are found in it! Your hair will still come out clean, shiny and gorgeous. Moisturize and volumize your luscious locks with this vegan, gluten-free and cruelty free product.

5. Naturelle Hypoallergenic Shampoo

The best thing about this product is that there are no synthetic dyes, fragrances or perfumes in it. Not only has it been clinically tested by dermatologists, it is also a wonder for sensitive skin. There are some botanical extracts which may affect some people with super sensitive skin so be aware of that. Mostly though, these are gentle cleansing agents from Geranium, Yarrow and Quillaja.

6. Clearly Natural Essentials Shampoo

Another hypoallergenic shampoo that gives hair a clean, fresh wash without the dyes and fragrances. Boasting a unique formula made from glycerin and vitamin E, this product helps keep hair clean while deeply nourishing it. Bonus - it’s biodegradable and vegetarian! Win-win.

7. Tresemme Naturals Nourishing Shampoo

Not only will this shampoo help you mend and nourish damaged hair, you’ll also feel noticeably stronger hair after one use! Packed with the goodness of avocado oil and aloe vera extract, this shampoo is gentle on sensitive skin while replenishing vital nutrients in your hair. THere are also no dyes or silicones in it and it’s safe to use on colour treated hair.

8. Klorane Ultra-Gentle Shampoo

This shampoo is formulated with organically harvested oat milk and is Dermatologist and Pediatric Tested. It is free of most common irritants such as sulfates, silicone, parabens, mineral oil, essential oil, artificial dye and phthalates. With its hypoallergenic and vegan formula, this shampoo will leave your hair feeling soft and protected.

9. Honest Shampoo & Body Wash

This shampoo is made with natural ingredients and 8 essential amino acids, hand picked for ultimate fortification. Some of the ingredients include Jojoba, quinoa proteins, organic coconut oil, chamomile, aloe and calendula. In combination, these work together for a gentle, nourishing, moisturizing and soothing wash!

10. Neutrogena T/Sal Shampoo

Suffer from an itchy scalp? This shampoo by Neutrogena helps to prevent and clean flaky, dry scalp tissue as well as relieve itchiness. To effectively treat these issues, it’s best you let the product sit on your scalp for a few minutes before you rinse. Repeat a couple times and your good to go!

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