The best alcohol-free shampoo

Stacey L. Nash

Most beauty experts agree that washing your hair two to four times per week is enough. Decide for yourself based on your activity level and hair type. For example, someone with oily hair may need to shampoo more often than someone with dry, fine hair.

Does dry, frizzy hair plague you? Your shampoo could be the problem. Alcohol is a common shampoo ingredient, but not all alcohols are friendly to the health of your hair. Some strip moisture and healthy oil from the scalp and hair shaft, leaving behind brittle hair that lacks shine and flexibility.

Alcohol-free shampoos skip these harmful ingredients to leave the hair stronger and healthier. We've narrowed down the choices, with our favorite being Laritelle Fertile Roots Organic Shampoo. This environmentally friendly shampoo is also free of other harmful substances, making it a great natural choice.

Considerations when choosing alcohol-free shampoos

The power of the shampoo is all in the formula, but labels can be deceiving. Some shampoos are labeled "alcohol-free" but that may only be referring to short-chain alcohols, which are considered damaging to the hair. Other shampoos also exclude fatty alcohols, which are considered to be relatively safe for hair, from their list. And, finally, there are shampoos that eliminate alcohols of any kind from their formula -- however, these shampoos usually come at a premium price.

Alcohol types

There is a long list of alcohols used in shampoo, but not all of them are bad. Here's what to look out for:

Short-chain: Isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, propanol, SD alcohol, propyl alcohol, SD alcohol 40, and alcohol denat are the short-chain alcohols you're definitely going to want to watch out for. These alcohols evaporate quickly, but they take necessary moisture and oil along with them. These are the alcohols that leave your hair dry, brittle, and frizzy.
Fatty-chain: These are the alcohols found in fruits, vegetables, and other natural sources. They soften skin and hair for a silky texture. These alcohols aren't harmful to the hair shaft. The most common are lauryl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, behenyl alcohol.
Other: There are other alcohols used in shampoos that aren't short or fatty chain alcohols, but they don't affect the texture of the hair, so they're not generally an issue.


Products bought in bulk generally cost less. However, alcohol-free shampoos can be pricey, so even if you're buying in bulk, be ready for a higher sticker price.


Special hair care needs

Everyone's hair is different. Curly, straight, dry, oily -- each type responds differently to each shampoo. That means a shampoo that works beautifully for your best friend might leave your hair frizzy and unmanageable. You know your hair best, so look for an alcohol-free formula that caters to your needs. For example, fine hair often needs less moisturizing while curly hair needs more. You can also find special alcohol-free formulas for dandruff, toning, or clarifying.


Alcohol-free shampoos often come without other undesirable ingredients like synthetic scents. You're more likely to find ginger-, lemon-, and coconut-scented alcohol-free shampoos because these scents are based on natural ingredients.

Alcohol-free shampoo prices

Alcohol-free shampoos typically cost between 30 cents to over $2.50 per ounce with the highest at nearly $4 per ounce. At the low end of the price range are children's formulas, while at the top of the pack are formulas with all-natural and organic ingredients that are free of any alcohol.


Q. Can I find an alcohol-free conditioner to go with my shampoo?

A. Hair care products of all kinds -- conditioners, pomades, gels -- can be found in alcohol-free versions. However, many manufacturers design their shampoos to complement their conditioners and vice versa. If there's a corresponding conditioner, try that first. If it doesn't work, from there you can start experimenting with other alcohol-free conditioners.

Q. Are their children's shampoos that are alcohol-free?

A. Many children's shampoos are alcohol-free because alcohol can sting the eyes. You can also find natural or organic alcohol-free children's shampoos.

Alcohol-free shampoos we recommend

Best of the best: Laritelle Fertile Roots Organic Shampoo

Our take: This formula is designed for all hair types including color-treated hair, with a strengthening formula that's hard to beat. We love that the formula and the company are eco-friendly.

What we like: This shampoo has a restorative effect on thin, limp hair. It's an impressive formula that's vegan and cruelty-free. We love that it still smells great and leaves hair volumized with no visible residue. 

What we dislike: It's pricey, and it doesn't lather well, though lather doesn't affect cleaning ability.

Best bang for your buck: OGX Renewing + Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo

Our take: OGX always walks the line between great formula and affordable price. It's got botanical ingredients like avocado and argan oils that effectively clean and moisturize hair.

What we like: This formula manages to make hair feel thicker without weighing it down, especially curly hair. If you love a good lather, this is the shampoo for you.

What we dislike: It doesn't work as well for dry or color-treated hair.

Choice 3: Winsome & Wisdom BlondeMoment Purple Shampoo for Blonde Hair

Our take: This isn't an everyday shampoo, but it does amazing things for blond and gray hair by keeping brassiness at bay.

What we like: It lathers incredibly well, so you don't need much. It's recommended for use every three days, and it tones hair wonderfully while leaving it healthy and moisturized.

What we dislike: It doesn't work as well on other hair colors. It's not an organic or all-natural formula, and it does contain sulfates.

Stacey L. Nash is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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