A Simple Guide To Shopping For Alcohol-Free Shampoos — Plus The Best Ones To Buy


As people are increasingly interested in switching to "clean" beauty products, it makes sense to suss out which are the best alcohol-free shampoos, right? But finding a shampoo that doesn’t contain harsh, hair-stripping ingredients is more complicated than simply steering clear of the word "alcohol." That’s because some types of alcohols are perfectly safe for your hair. What are commonly referred to as fatty alcohols (such as cetyl alcohol or stearyl alcohol) are derived from natural ingredients, like fruit. (Cetyl alcohol, for instance, is typically derived from coconut oil or palm oil.) Fatty alcohols are generally nourishing and good for your hair — it’s the quick-evaporating, moisture-depleting alcohols like isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, or SD alcohol 40 — often referred to as short-chain alcohols — that can really do a number on your hair.

If you’re wondering why companies would put a harsh chemical in a hair product in the first place, it’s because alcohol is quick-drying. Therefore it can make sense for, say, hairspray. But when it comes to shampoo, there are plenty of high-quality, alcohol-free formulas that deliver an effective cleanse without drying out your hair. To make sure your shampoo isn’t doing you wrong, try these five nourishing formulas that are free of problematic alcohol ingredients and chock full of all sorts of good stuff instead.


The Best Alcohol-Free Shampoo For Dry, Damaged Hair

Shea Moisture's Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen & Restore Shampooworks to strengthen dry, damaged hair and reverse the effects of chemical processes, hot tools, and coloring treatments. Key ingredients include black castor oil and shea butter, both of which have moisturizing and repairing benefits, plus peppermint oil and apple cider vinegar to invigorate the scalp. There's no alcohol whatsoever in the formula — not even the good kinds — and it's sulfate-free and cruelty-free to boot.


The Best Alcohol-Free Shampoo For Sensitive Skin & Scalps

From the company that brought you Vanicream, this no-frills, low-lather shampoo is popular for what it doesn’t contain: dyes, fragrance, parabens, lanolin, sulfates, gluten, and of course, alcohol. Dermatologists recommend it for people with sensitive skin, eczema, and other similar conditions, but it's also a great choice for those who prefer to use simple, pared-back beauty products.


The Best Shampoo & Conditioner Duo That's Free Of "Bad" Alcohols

Using a smart dual system, the Greek yogurt and fruit extracts in these formulas are separated in the tubes in order to keep them better preserved, only coming together when you squeeze them out. Reviewers say this shampoo/conditioner duo from HASK makes their hair "silky soft," "shiny," "hydrated," and "tangle-free" — and they also rave about the delicious, fruity scent. The formulas are sulfate-free, so they're safe for use on color-treated hair, and they don't contain any "bad" drying alcohols, either. That said, you will find cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl alcohol in the conditioner — but remember, these are fatty alcohols; aka, the type that's good for your hair.


The Best Alcohol-Free Bar Shampoo (& The Best for Travel)

The hilarious name isn’t the only awesome thing about Grown Ass Man’s versatile, long-lasting shampoo bars, which can be used on scalps, beards, and bodies. The bars are eco-friendly and ideal for travel, since there are no liquids involved, and the variety pack features scents to suit your mood. There’s the wake-you-up Mint Condition (with peppermint, eucalyptus, and olive oil); relaxing Chill Out You’ve Earned It (lemongrass, tea tree, and patchouli); and Last Call (cedarwood, pine, and jojoba oil) for when you’re heading out and want to smell extra good. You'll find no alcohol whatsoever in these bar formulas.


The Best Alcohol-Free Dry Shampoo

Unlike dry shampoos in aerosol form that typically contain alcohol, this talc-free dry shampoo powder doesn’t have any alcohol in it at all. Using natural ingredients like activated coconut charcoal and kaolin clay, it keeps your hair looking fresh when you’re in-between washes, and also provides a little volume boost. There’s even a slight tint here, making it ideal for people with dark hair, but it also comes in a formula created for blondes.

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