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Why fragrance-free shampoos? And which is better for me?
Fragrance-free shampoos are a must for anyone suffering from perfume or fragrance allergy or intolerance. But really, everyone should remove any unnecessary and potentially harmful additives from their lives – including perfumes and fragrances. Why?
- Over time intolerance and allergies build up after continued exposure. And while it can be challenging to completely remove fragrances from your life (which is why we started this very website), you want to minimize exposure so that one day being exposed does not lead to allergic reactions and symptoms.
- There is absolutely no need for added perfume or fragrances. Won’t my hair smell bad? Not at all. Today, fragrance-free products don’t smell at all. They will smell fresh without the (potentially) musty smell of artificial coconut or something that was never an apple.
Are fragrance-free shampoos better for your hair?
Unequivocally yes! Unlike scented shampoo, fragrance-free shampoos don’t contain fragrance chemicals that may irritate your skin and scalp. Shampoos without perfume cleanse just as well as regular shampoos. In addition, they have fewer harsh chemicals, which are very important to maintain a healthy scalp and luxurious locks.
As Michele Burgess, director of product development for Oribe explains, poor scalp health can lead to irritation, flaking, and even cause hair breakage, and “if you don’t have a healthy scalp, you can’t have healthy hair”.Byrdie
Whether you’re sensitive to perfume or you’re just looking to make the switch to more natural products, we highly recommend using a fragrance-free shampoo. There is no reason not to.
What do fragrance-free and hypoallergenic mean?
Confusing about hypoallergenic, unscented, and fragrance-free shampoos and what that means? Don’t worry. We’ll guide you to the best shampoos without fragrance – for each hair type.
But first, let’s dive in and take a look at what the terms actually mean.
The term fragrance-free refers to a product that hasn’t had any fragrance materials or masking scents added to it. Unfortunately, finding shampoos without masking fragrances, essential oils, or scents is surprisingly difficult.
Manufacturers are quick to label their beauty or skin products as hypoallergenic and unscented. However, these terms are misleading because products can still contain fragrances, which may upset and irritate delicate skin and sensitive noses.
The label “hypoallergenic” simply refers to a product that claims to contain fewer allergens (substances that cause allergies) than other products. But it does not mean they are completely free of allergens (including but not limited to fragrances).
What are the symptoms of being allergic to perfume?
Symptoms that could indicate allergy or sensitivity to perfume include skin problems such as itching, rashes, redness, swelling, hives, burning or stinging, and excessive dryness. Some people also experience headaches, watery eyes, or shortness of breath.
Who would want that? Not us. And that’s why you should remove fragrances from your life starting today! Read more about how in our guide to a life without fragrance.
Which fragrance-free shampoos are best?
There is no shortage of brands claiming to be fragrance-free. But once you read the label on the back, you will often come across ingredients known as common irritants. Many shampoos labeled unscented actually contain scents and “essential oils” or “natural ingredients” or other ingredients that may upset people with allergies to perfume – or cause perfume allergy to develop (it’s all just a sneaky marketing gimmick).
We’ve long searched for truly fragrance-free shampoos. We have tested numerous perfume-free shampoos, so you don’t have to.
And the good news is that we’ve rounded up the 5 best perfume-free shampoos for each type. So there will be one for you regardless of having oily or dry, normal or short hair. Find your favorite fragrance-free shampoo below.
Best for all hair types:
Kristin Ess’ fragrance-free shampoo formula is specifically designed for those who are sensitive to fragrance, and it’s suitable for all hair types. It doesn’t contain sulfates (which are known to strip hair and scalp of natural oils) as well as parabens, added fragrances, sulfates, phthalates, silicones, or any irritating ingredients. It lathers and cleanses well without stripping the hair of oils, and it’s one of the best fragrance-free shampoos we’ve tested in 2023.
Best for normal and oily hair:
Pantene’s clarifying fragrance-free shampoo is free of both fragrances and silicone, and it’s also formulated with a blend of pro-vitamin B5 and antioxidants. We really like this shampoo. It doesn’t have a scent, and it does an outstanding job at removing excess oil and build-up without drying out the hair.
Fragrance-free hair care is hard to find, and we’re thrilled that this shampoo is both fragrance-free and doesn’t contain any hidden botanical extracts, oils, or other fragrance ingredients. This perfume-free shampoo from Pantene is even gentle enough to use daily (though I’m sure hairstylists would say that washing your hair every day is a big no-no). However, note that the shampoo contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can irritate your skin.
Best for normal and dry hair:
This fragrance-free shampoo from No Nothing is suited for normal and dry hair. It is fragrance-free (but does contain avocado oil), paraben-free, and free of dyes, gluten, soy, formaldehyde, and colorants. No Nothing’s shampoo even contains UV protection and is safe to use for those with color-treated hair. Plus, the shampoo is vegan and not tested on animals.
The Finnish Allergy Federation has awarded all products from this Finnish brand the Allergy Label, so no need to worry about having an unwanted reaction from this shampoo.
Best for sensitive scalps:
Philip Kingsley’s fragrance-free shampoo is not only fragrance-free but also vegan-friendly and free of parabens, sulfate, and SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate). In addition, the shampoo was originally formulated to be gentle enough for Philip Kingsley’s wife, who was undergoing treatment for cancer, so you can be sure it’s safe for anyone with sensitive and easily irritated scalps.
This shampoo doesn’t have a scent, and it cleans thoroughly. It is the most expensive fragrance-free shampoo in this guide, and it is clearly premium quality – even the packaging is pretty luxurious.
We’re glad to have discovered a fragrance-free shampoo that is not only effective but also looks stylish in our bathroom (you know, if people come over). Sometimes you need a little splurge in your life.
Best for short hair:
The Free & Clear shampoo from Vanicream is ideal for those with sensitive skin or easily irritated scalps. This no-frills shampoo is formulated without fragrance, masking fragrances, dyes, or any other common irritants. It’s good for short hair and cleanses mildly. It’s great value, but you don’t get the same premium quality (or bathroom appeal) as with Philip Kingsley’s fragrance-free shampoo.
That said, it can be very drying to your hair, which is why those with long hair may steer clear. Learn more in our full review of the Vanicream Free & Clear Shampoo.