Best Cruelty-Free Shampoos
Once a niche trend, veganism has hit the mainstream over the last five years. There are now around 1.5 million people in the UK who are currently vegan – and that number is growing rapidly. Veganism doesn’t just revolve around diet though, but other lifestyle choices too. Case in point: what’s in your bathroom.
Vegan beauty is booming with the global market projected to grow 6.3% a year to reach $20.8bn (approx £15.2bn) by 2025. Put simply, vegan beauty products are made without animal ingredients. And actually, a surprising number of hair products, like shampoos and conditioners, including animal products – with the common culprits being milk, honey, beeswax or keratin.
Unfortunately, however, some brands claim cruelty-free status without actually having been certified as such. So when it comes to cruelty-free labels, know that there are three main certifications to look out for: Leaping Bunny, PETA’s Caring Consumer/Beauty Without Bunnies, and the Choose Cruelty-Free Rabbit logo.
That said, it’s important to know that some companies can still be certified by Leaping Bunny or PETA without displaying cruelty-free logos on their packaging, so not all cruelty-free products are labelled as such. This happens because companies have to pay an extra fee if they want to display the cruelty-free symbol on their products, and some companies simply don’t want to shell out the extra cash.
Check the fine print on the shampoo in your bathroom vanity, and you might find ingredients including animal byproducts. If that info makes you queasy, you'll be happy to know there are plenty of amazing vegan shampoos. The vegan shampoo is free of animal-derived ingredients—and the very best versions don’t skimp on salon-quality. Whether you’re battling dryness, hoping for more volume, or seeking a deep clean, there’s a vegan shampoo that supports shiny, healthy hair.
Switching over to cruelty-free beauty products is an important part of going vegan. Many products are tested on animals, which means they’re not cruelty-free. When you find a good vegan shampoo and conditioner set, you don’t feel like you’re giving up on your hair care routine. Vegans can have great hair, too!
What Is A Vegan Shampoo?
The name might sound a little odd, but vegan shampoos are completely free of animal-derived ingredients like animal-derived ingredients (i.e., cruelty-free), silicone, parabens, sulphates, and dyes. In short, you can feel good about using them.
Vitamin Shampoo might be a term coined by shampoos themselves (we love this company for their cruelty-free formulas) to make it easier for people to identify products with vegan ingredients. But people with a similar agenda have been thinking about it for a while. Thankfully, the phrase is now becoming more commonly used by vegans.
According to the UK Vegan Society, it’s “an animal-free shampoo for people who do not want to use any animal products.” Since our skin is 70 percent water, shampoo is typically formulated with at least 20 percent water. Fortunately, there are many cruelty-free shampoos on the market that comply with this common standard.
So, why exactly would anyone be vegan? It has less to do with animal welfare and more to do with the environment. According to some estimates, people use 1,500 gallons of shampoo per year, and a whopping 75 percent of that amount goes down the drain. Each year, that adds up to an estimated 3 million pounds of waste. Sounds like a waste, right? In addition, when your hair is washing, which is likely every day, it’s unable to absorb any additional nutrients.
We’ve sifted through the thousands of cruelty-free shampoos on the market, and we’ve tested some of our favourites to bring you our top four picks for cruelty-free shampoos, which you can all find at Amazon.com, with free shipping available in the United States.
If you’ve ever had issues with split ends, or you’ve tried and tried and it hasn’t worked, you’re probably thinking of trying Oxygen Foundation. The formula is designed to protect your hair from exposure to the sun, not to encourage growth. And the other vegan ingredients in the formula actually keep your scalp moisturized.
The Mission Essential Balance ($16.95; missionessential.com) features coconut oil, biotin, and lots of great-smelling plant-based ingredients, like shea butter, castor oil, and sunflower seed oil. It also boasts a rich, creamy texture that delivers soothing relief for oily or oily/dry hair.
Best Cruelty-Free Conditioner
AquaZenic Clear ($18; target.com) contains a gentle cleansing formula that gets rid of any build-up. It also includes an amazing water chestnut and coconut water to nourish your locks. Keep in mind that a conditioner will also smooth the cuticle of your hair. A softer and smoother cuticle will lead to less breakage.
Soap & Glory Healthy Hair Shea Cleansing Conditioner, £6
Sure, your usual cleansing conditioner will take care of your hair, but it might not leave it feeling super smooth and silky—it's not designed to, after all. This vegan one is cruelty-free and paraben-free, so you can feel good about putting it on your hair. It’s also the perfect conditioner if you struggle to get an even look, as it seals each strand to keep it tangle-free.
Best Shampoo For Loose Waves
Behnaz Bono Luxe Creme Shampoo, £9.95
I have an insane amount of hair and I need a shampoo that’s as long-lasting and powerful as my hair itself. Even the best hair products will lose their potency over time, but not with Demi Kin, my test shampoos. Even on a down day my hair shines and feels as soft as ever.
Cruelty-Free Shampoo – How To Find The Right One For You?
Vitamin is one of the best vegan cruelty-free shampoo brands on the market. Its line-up of vegan shampoos and conditioners is one of the most popular beauty products among vegans. Good for hydrating your strands, they're also great at boosting shine and making your hair smell amazing.
While brands like RMS Beauty and Sunday Riley can charge premium prices for their cruelty-free products, there are plenty of vegan alternatives that are less than half the price. For those with very limited budgets, there are also plenty of great cruelty-free shampoo and conditioners.
Most shampoos on the market are animal-based. And that means their use of parabens, petroleum distillates, and animal hair is out of the question. Not surprisingly, those shampoos are bad for both your hair and the environment. We’re willing to bet you haven't stopped to think about all the ingredients in your standard bottle of shampoo.
The simple act of reading the ingredients list may come as a shock—but it can also reveal a wealth of opportunities to switch to a cruelty-free, plant-based shampoo. Are your shampoo’s ingredients suitable for people with sensitive skin? Does your hair need extra exfoliation? Does it need to be stronger? It’s easy to find out what’s really going on when you’re reading the ingredients list.
Benefits Of Cruelty-Free Shampoos
- Sulphates are synthetic organic surfactants that add volume, making shampoo more effective, while reducing frizz. They can dry out skin and hair though, so they're no-nos for those suffering from eczema, psoriasis, and autoimmune disorders.
- Arsenic can be carcinogenic, which means it's one of the few chemicals explicitly excluded from the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics List. It’s banned in the EU, but you won’t see any toxicity warnings on the bottle in the UK. You’re unlikely to feel it in your hair though, so feel free to lather up!
- Ammonia is toxic for humans, so can cause birth defects, as well as exacerbate respiratory problems.
While there is no such thing as “cruelty-free” anywhere in the world, every brand today sells “cruelty-free” versions of its products. The reason? Cruelty-free products are specifically created in a way to prevent cruelty and harm to animals. This means no animal testing, no animal byproducts, and no unnecessary testing, like shocking hair with lights to test the production of lice.
Many beauty brands get around animal testing by using fur alternatives (usually a rabbit or cat) or using hair from other animals. While animal testing is out of sight and out of mind for many of us, the Humane Society says the above process “can cause pain, injury, suffering, and death to innocent animals, which can lead to long-term health issues in the body.
Because vegan ingredients are gentler on the hair, many vegan shampoos are used by stylists as an alternative to animal-derived ingredients. Many vegan shampoos have even been labelled by stylists as cruelty-free—meaning that it’s completely safe for the environment and the animals.
Plant-derived ingredients (such as aloe, castor, and coconut) soften, nourish, and smooth the hair and scalp. This causes hair to look and feel shiny, rather than dry. Many vegan shampoos contain witch hazel and aloe vera, which lightens the hair and leaves it feeling smooth and soft. Because most vegan shampoos are lightweight, they can be applied to wet hair to help get rid of tangles and frizz.
Common Animal By-Products Found In Shampoos
Procter & Gamble’s vegan version of Detox was the first mainstream vegan product, but several iterations have popped up since then. Make it a point to read the ingredients list of your shampoo—and avoid these animal-derived ingredients:
- Isopropyl myristate, or Methylisothiazolinone: Also called IR3535, this anti-static shampoo is derived from polysorbate 20, or IR3535, which is derived from the yolk of shrimp.
- Dimethicone: This ingredient is the preservative that keeps powdery shampoos from drying out, and its main use is as a fixative to give a smooth, satiny finish.
Be aware that no matter what shampoo you choose, you'll likely encounter some animal-derived ingredients. These ingredients are often listed on the label as
- “partially hydrogenated oils,”
- “fragrances,” and
- “foaming agents,”
and are often derived from petrochemicals and refined oils. The primary ingredients in animal-derived shampoos are tallow, tall oil (coconut oil, palm oil), lanolin, humectants (almond oil, sweet almond oil, shea butter, and palm kernel oil), and shea butter.
Dried animal byproducts such as hair gel, hair conditioner, hair spray, and hair lacquer are made from tallow. It’s a wax made from a part of the animal that is burned for cooking or for leather goods, and when the substance is overheated it becomes a sticky solid.
Veganism And Beauty
Our new favourite cruelty-free haircare brand, Crème de la Nuit, is also committed to making a difference for animals. For every bottle sold, the company donates one day of basic veterinary care to a farm animal sanctuary. Launched in 2013, Crème de la Nuit is dedicated to vegan beauty. Its chic vegan products include hair masks, body scrubs, facial masks, and moisturizers. And of course, they also boast the ‘most refined vegan fragrance ever’, for something to tantalize your senses while you’re shampooing.
As people become more open about their ethical, environmental, and health concerns, there's been a major shift in how we think about beauty and how we use it. There are many reasons for this – but one of the big ones is the use of animal products in our products.
Animal products are found in everything from makeup to soap, and you’re not always even aware. Check the ingredients list, and you'll often find animal byproducts. Veganism isn’t just a diet, but a lifestyle choice. It also impacts what we wear. Would you put on a leotard made from wool or a silicone bra that was grown from animal cells? You might consider a vegan body or face waxing routine, and be mindful of the alternatives that don’t require an animal.
The Best Cruelty-Free Shampoos On The Market
The cheapest vegan shampoo (and the only vegan shampoo that won’t make your scalp itch): Senga Shampoo, £8.50. What you’ll get: This botanical-rich shampoo doesn't just contain an array of cleansing ingredients, but also five Japanese-inspired treatments that leave your hair feeling soft and moisturized. The coconut-based ingredients will refresh your scalp, and the Moroccan argan oil will ensure your colour stays in place.
The best vegan shampoo for bright, glossy hair: Mayjama Power Perfecting Shampoo, £17.20 for 330ml. What you’ll get: This sulphate-free vegan formula balances the volume you desire with a silky finish. It contains natural extracts from chamomile, skullcap, eucalyptus, licorice, licorice root, rosemary, mulberry, calendula, and willow to achieve the perfect shine.
LEKVICK Ocean Masque Sensitive Skin ($30, Amazon)
With ingredients like seaweed and aloe vera, this intense shampoo from LEKVICK is not only vegan-friendly, it’s also free from chemicals that can cause damage to the hair. Clean, healing and naturally derived, this rich formula nourishes as it cleanses with sea-sourced ingredients like seaweed and aloe vera.
Oat and chamomile oils round out the ingredients list, which is similar to many bestselling brands, like Wella, Matrix and L’Oréal. The hair-friendly formula is sulphate and paraben-free, gluten-free, vegan, cruelty-free, and it is also effective at cleansing, detangling, adding shine, and increasing elasticity. As well as being vegan-friendly, this product has a great scent, and it lasts well too.
R+Co's dry shampoo doesn't just avoid animal-derived ingredients, but it’s also a stunning shade of electric blue. Sometimes there are rules. For instance, you should never use dry shampoo that isn’t vegan. It’s true: without its namesake powder, most vegan shampoos rely on cheap and nasty chemicals to help you absorb oil and dirt.
But these days, with plant-based shampoos like Plant-Based Cosmetics, there’s a decent selection of vegan formulas that don’t leave your hair feeling stripped. The Plant-Based Cosmetics formula in particular is so good that we’ve given it the title of best vegan shampoos ever made.
If you’re new to veganism, consider avoiding shampoo with tallow, which is rendered animal fat. If you’re on a budget, it’s easy to find a shampoo that uses plant-based ingredients.
The Ordinary Rhonda Shampoo with Blackbean and Cacao Extract, $7.99 on Amazon
The Ordinary Rhonda is a newer, cruelty-free, vegan and chemical-free brand based in California. The products are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and Fair Trade, and use non-toxic, earth-friendly ingredients. All of its products are formulated without parabens, ammonia, hydrogenated oils, and petrochemicals. This vegan shampoo is great for those who are dealing with seborrheic dermatitis (aka eczema) or dry scalp.
Cruelty-Free Shampoo For Specific Hair Needs
Organic Argan oil cleanses and protects the hair and scalp. It protects the follicles from water and impurities. Sea salt and Himalayan pink salt draw toxins from hair and reduce product build-up. In an effort to make shampoos less problematic for animals, many vegan formulas now contain a fraction of the normal chemical cocktail.
Even so, there are still a few ingredients you can’t cut out completely. For instance, aloe vera is derived from an aloe leaf, so it has to be grown on an aloe leaf. Not all plant-based shampoos are 100% vegan—choose wisely.
When you buy a vegan shampoo, read the labels. Are you okay with an ingredient such as alcohol? Some vegan shampoos contain alcohol, and that ingredient doesn’t go into your food.
Laura Geller’s Color-Removing Shampoo, $35
Laura Geller, a trendsetting salon in NYC, is a longtime supporter of cruelty-free beauty. Their Color-Removing Shampoo has been dubbed “the one and only vegan shampoo” for two reasons: it rinses away excess oils, as well as styling products. This vegan shampoo combines jojoba and coconut oil, which helps reduce excess oils in your hair, allowing it to remain clean, frizz-free, and shiny. Plus, the formula uses rosemary oil and vitamin E to nourish and soften the hair, while cocoa butter and safflower oil lock in moisture.
If you’re dealing with an especially dry scalp, you might benefit from experimenting with a vegan shampoo to improve and support the health of your hair. This vegan shampoo is a multi-tasking miracle. The non-drying and anti-frizz formula prevent split ends, without stripping your hair of its natural oils.
A combination of extracts helps to moisturize dry strands and stabilize the hair cuticle. This does not leave your hair feeling sticky or brittle, nor does it smell or feel greasy. For moisturized hair that’s lacking in volume, you'll love Coconut Bliss Organics Pure Argan Oil Shampoo. This lightweight formula enhances your natural hair proteins, helping you achieve a beautiful shine.
If you’re looking for a vegan shampoo to give volume to your otherwise limp locks, try Satisima. It's a high-shine shampoo that helps to thicken thin hair and helps to grow it out. Smooth and slippery, the rich, luxurious formula leaves your hair feeling soft and conditioned.
The vegan version has no gluten, parabens, sulphates, artificial colouring or dyes, mineral oil, silicone, mineral oils, silicone derivatives or BHTs. In general, shampoo that contains enzymes can break down and leave your hair feeling sticky and thin. Santissima contains clays that loosen up oil so your scalp won’t be as clogged up, and the beneficial enzymes replenish essential nutrients, giving hair greater vigour. It also means you’ll need to use less of the product—one scoop is all you need for great results.
Tips For Successful Vegan Hair Care
Don’t think you need to completely change your shampoo regime. Instead, make the switch to a vegan shampoo with great results.
Natural Solutions Shampoo
This lightweight, intense formula from New Zealand brand (appropriately called) Natural Solutions, doesn’t weigh hair down. In fact, it leaves it feeling shiny and silky smooth. It’s perfect for over-processed hair, which can be brittle and prone to breakage.
It’s made without sulphates and mineral oils, but it does contain sodium lauryl sulphate, meaning the formula contains a faint scent. Pros: Quickly and completely cleanses. Contains naturally derived emulsifiers for extra surfactants. Does not contain SLS. Cons: Fragrance is faint.
Start your search with the finest vegan-friendly shampoos for your scalp. The most important factor to remember when choosing a vegan shampoo is to avoid pH-balancing ingredients (think drying alcohols, fragrances, and sodium lauryl sulphates). These may help tame the greasiness of oils, but that also means they make hair less able to hydrate itself. Stay away from shampoos with SPF because the active ingredients can be harsh on the scalp.
Find a shampoo that meets the following criteria:
- Avoid synthetic fragrances. (Albeit, soaps are an exception.)
- Avoid sulphates.
- Eliminate heavy conditioning treatments.
- Avoid colouring agents, dyes, and/or harsh harsheners.
- Opt for natural ingredients.
The best vegan shampoos, of course, take into account more than their ingredients. If you can’t stand a hairdryer, don’t buy an electric one—or don’t want to risk it. If your hair is prone to static, you’ll want a formula that doesn’t strip it of its natural oils.
Check ingredient lists and guidelines before slathering on one of these shampoos, and keep the ingredients under wraps. Most of all, choose what’s best for you—whether it’s vegan, cruelty-free, or somewhere in between. If you’re determined to go out with a single, healthy strand of hair, you’re going to have to earn it.
I trust you enjoyed reading the article about The Best Cruelty-Free Shampoos. Please stay tuned. There are more blog posts to come very shortly.
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Ideas? Thoughts? Questions? I would love to hear from you. Would you please leave me your questions, experience, and remarks about the Best Cruelty-Free Shampoos in the comments section below? You can also reach me by email at Jeannette@LivingTheVeganLifestyle.org.