Shampoo

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 53 brands of shampoo

We also look at palm oil, 'no poo' alternatives, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Procter & Gamble and give our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

What to buy

What to look for when buying shampoo

  • Is it organic? This is a fail-safe way to avoid most of the nasty, artificial chemicals that are in so many products. And thereby also help to protect the environment.

  • Is it cruelty-free? 80% of the world still permits animal testing for cosmetics, although it is banned in the UK. The Cruelty-Free logo guarantees that the company is not animal testing anywhere in the world.

  • Is it vegan? Many shampoos contain animal products, such as honey. Look for a vegan brand.

Best Buys

Our best buys are brands that are both organic and vegan/vegetarian (V+O) or just vegan brands(V):

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying shampoo

  • Does it contain palm oil? At its most unsustainable, palm oil is linked to mass deforestation and serious violations of human rights. Look for brands that commit to sourcing palm oil sustainably.

  • Does it contain toxics? The long and complex ingredients lists of shampoo products often include toxic chemicals. These are bad for the environment as well as health.

  • Does the manufacturer use microbeads? Although these tiny pieces of plastics are now banned in the UK, lots of cosmetics companies use them in products elsewhere in the world. They are disastrous for marine-life, so avoid these companies.

Companies to avoid

We suggest avoiding Unilever brands because it comes at the bottom of the table and it continues to use animal testing.

  • Bedhead
  • Dove
  • Pears
  • Lux
  • VO5
  • TRESemme
  • Simple
  • Timotei
  • Sunsilk

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20)

Odylique Gentle Herb shampoo [O, A]

Company Profile: Essential Care (Organics) Ltd
16.5

Bentley Organics shampoo [A, O]

Company Profile: Bentley Organic Trading Limited
16

Friendly Shampoo bar [A]

Company Profile: Friendly Soap Ltd
16

Odylique shampoo [O]

Company Profile: Essential Care (Organics) Ltd
16

Caurnie shampoo [A]

Company Profile: Caurnie Soap Co
15.5

Faith in Nature shampoo [A]

Company Profile: Faith in Nature Ltd
15.5

Green People shampoo [O,A]

Company Profile: Green People Company Ltd
15.5

Neal's Yard shampoo [O,A]

Company Profile: Neal's Yard Remedies
15.5

Neal's Yard vegan shampoo [O,A]

Company Profile: Neal's Yard Remedies
15.5

Honesty shampoo [A]

Company Profile: Honesty Cosmetics
14.5

Pure Nuff Stuff shampoo

Company Profile: Pure Nuff Stuff Ltd
14.5

Suma shampoos [S,A]

Company Profile: Triangle Wholefoods Collective Ltd
14.5

Yaoh Hemp shampoo [O,A]

Company Profile: Yaoh Ltd
14.5

Lush vegan shampoo [A]

Company Profile: Lush Cosmetics Ltd
13

Weleda shampoo [A, O]

Company Profile: Weleda AG
13

Urtekram shampoo [A, O]

Company Profile: Midsona
12.5

A Vogel Neem Shampoo

Company Profile: Bioforce AG Roggwil TG
12

Lavera shampoo [A, O]

Company Profile: Laverana GmbH & Co KG
12

Lush shampoo

Company Profile: Lush Cosmetics Ltd
12

Lavera shampoo [O]

Company Profile: Laverana GmbH & Co KG
11

Body Shop shampoo

Company Profile: Body Shop International plc
10.5

Daniel Field shampoo [A]

Company Profile: Daniel Field Direct Limited
10.5

Aesop shampoo

Company Profile: Aesop
9.5

Alpecin

Company Profile: Dr Kurt Wolff Gmbh & Co
9

Baylis and Harding shampoo

Company Profile: Baylis and Harding plc
9

Charles Worthington shampoo

Company Profile: PZ Cussons PLC
8.5

L'Occitane shampoo

Company Profile: L'Occitane International SA
8.5

Sanctuary Spa shampoo

Company Profile: PZ Cussons PLC
8.5

Batiste dry shampoo

Company Profile: Church & Dwight Co Inc
8

Clarins shampoo

Company Profile: Clarins
8

Avalon Organics shampoo [O,A]

Company Profile: Avalon Organics
7.5

John Frieda shampoo

Company Profile: Kao Brands Company
7.5

Molton Brown Shampoo

Company Profile: Molton Brown Limited
7.5

Vosene shampoo

Company Profile: Lornamead UK Ltd
7.5

Alba Botanica shampoo [A]

Company Profile: Alba Botanica
7

Aveda shampoo

Company Profile: Aveda
7

Avon shampoo

Company Profile: Avon Products Inc
7

Gliss shampoo

Company Profile: Henkel AG & Co. KGaA
7

JASÖN shampoo [A]

Company Profile: JASÖN Natural Products
7

Origins shampoo

Company Profile: Origins Natural Resources Inc
7

Schwarzkopf shampoo

Company Profile: Schwarzkopf & Henkel GmbH
7

Aveeno Shampoo

Company Profile: Johnson & Johnson
6

Johnson's Baby shampoo

Company Profile: Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company
6

Logona shampoo [A] [O]

Company Profile: Logocos Naturkosmetik AG
6

T-Gel by Neutrogena Shampoo

Company Profile: Johnson & Johnson
6

Logona Shampoo [O]

Company Profile: Logocos Naturkosmetik AG
5.5

Sante vegan shampoo [A][O]

Company Profile: Sante Naturkosmetik
5.5

Aussie shampoo

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Dr Organic shampoo [O,A]

Company Profile: Holland & Barrett
5

Head & Shoulders shampoo

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Herbal Essences shampoo

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Ivory 2-in-1

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Pantene shampoo

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Sante shampoo [O]

Company Profile: Sante Naturkosmetik
5

Wash n' Go shampoo

Company Profile: Procter & Gamble Company
5

Elvive shampoo

Company Profile: L'Oréal
4.5

Garnier shampoo

Company Profile: Garnier
4.5

L'Oréal shampoo

Company Profile: L'Oréal
4.5

Sassoon shampoo

Company Profile: Coty Inc
4.5

Palmolive Naturals shampoo

Company Profile: Colgate-Palmolive Co
3.5

Superdrug shampoo

Company Profile: Superdrug Stores Plc
3

Boots shampoo

Company Profile: Boots UK Ltd
2

Bedhead Shampoo

Company Profile: TIGI International LTD
1.5

Dove shampoo

Company Profile: Unilever Home & Personal Care Division
1.5

Lux Shampoo

Company Profile: Unilever Home & Personal Care Division
1.5

Pears Soap

Company Profile: Unilever Home & Personal Care Division
1.5

Simple shampoo

Company Profile: Simple Health & Beauty Group Limited
1.5

Sunsilk shampoo

Company Profile: Unilever Home & Personal Care Division
1.5

Timotei shampoo

Company Profile: Unilever UK Ltd
1.5

Tresemme shampoo

Company Profile: Alberto-Culver Company
1.5

VO5 shampoo

Company Profile: Unilever Home & Personal Care Division
1.5

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

99% of women and 94% of men said they used shampoo when they were surveyed in January 2016.

Social pressure to have beautiful hair, plus the huge advertising spend of shampoo companies may be responsible for seducing us into believing that shampoo is essential. Between January and February 2016, for example, Procter & Gamble spent £4.4 million on advertising in the UK – topping the chart for spending in the shampoo market.

By comparison, L’Oréal Paris spent £1.7 million, Unilever £0.8 million, Garnier £1.0 million, John Frieda £0.7 million, and Johnson & Johnson £0.3 million.

Anna Clayton discusses her research into the Shampoo Industry

Toxic chemicals ratings of shampoo brands

The often complex and long ingredients lists of bodycare products contain a number of ingredients of concern. Parabens, phthalates and triclosan have been selected by Ethical Consumer as important indicators for our own toxics rating.

Companies that receive our best mark for their toxics policies avoid all three toxins, ones who score a middle in our score table above, have a policy to avoid one or two of the toxins, and companies that score a worst use all three of the toxins or have no policy. 

Best rating

Odylique, Bentley Organic, Caurnie, Faith In Nature, Green People, Weleda, Pure Nuff Stuff, Little Satsuma, Neal’s Yard, Lavera, A Vogel, Avalon, JASON, Alba
Middle rating

Yaoh, Urtekram, Lush, Honesty, Aesop, Logona, Sante, Johnson’s, Neutrogena, Palmolive, Imperial Leather, Boots, Dove, Simple, Tresemme

Worst rating

Suma, Vosene, Molton Brown, John Frieda, Batiste, Clarins, Schwarzkopf, Estée Lauder, Sassoon, Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Herbal Essences, Avon, Body Shop, L’Oréal, Garnier, Superdrug, Daniel Field, Alpecin

Holland & Barrett's Dr Organic brand also score a worst rating whilst Friendly Soap scores middle.

Risks of foaming agents

Some people may also want to avoid the foaming agents sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and its milder form sodium laureth sulphate (SLES), which are known irritants and are often used in shampoos.

However, the Skin Deep website gives SLS and SLES hazard ratings of 1-2 (low hazard) and 3 out of 10 (moderate hazard) respectively, and states that research studies have found that exposure to the ingredient itself, not the products that contain it, have indicated potential health risks.

Find out more about toxic chemicals in our feature 'Toxic Beauty'.  

Palm oil in shampoo

Palm oil and its derivatives are found in a vast number of cosmetics products including shampoo. How a company sources and traces its palm oil products will affect whether it is linked with the clearing of rainforests and peatlands, and the degree to which its products negatively affect local communities, biodiversity and climate change.

Our new palm oil column, in the table above, shows which companies receive our best, middle and worst ratings for their palm oil policies and practices. 

Palm oil free: Odylique, Caurnie Soap and Honesty.

Animal testing by shampoo companies

As animal testing is common in the cosmetics industry, we have rated the animal testing policies of all companies in this guide. Companies will score a best rating if they have a policy not to test on animals, have a fixed cut-off date (a date after which none of their products or ingredients will have been tested on animals) for ingredients and are not selling to markets (e.g. China) where product animal testing is required by law.

Best Ethical Consumer rating:

Essential Care, Faith In Nature, Desford Holdings, Honesty, Friendly Soaps, Pure Nuff Stuff, Triangle Wholefoods Collective, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Weleda, Lush Cosmetics, Natura Cosmeticos, Little Satsuma, Logocos Naturkosmetik, Caurnie Soap, Daniel Field and Hain Celestial Group.

Middle Ethical Consumer rating:

Bentley Organic, Yaoh, Laverana, Bioforce Roggwil, Midsona, Li & Fung and Superdrug Stores.

Worst Ethical Consumer rating:

Kao Corporation, Church & Dwight, Holland & Barrett, Zochonis Family, Clarins, Henkel, Johnson & Johnson, Avon Products, Estée Lauder, JAB Holding, Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal/Nestle (owners of Body Shop International), Dr. Wolff-Gruppe, Daniel Field Direct, Colgate-Palmolive, WBA Investments and Unilever.

Cruelty International explain the global campaign to end animal testing in our feature.  

Animal friendly alternative shampoo brands

There is now a wide range of vegan and vegetarian alternatives within the shampoo market – as highlighted by an [A] after the brand name in the table. 

Vegan products are offered by Odylique, Daniel Field, Bentley Organic, Caurnie, Faith In Nature, Green People, Friendly Soap, Neal’s Yard, Honesty, Yaoh, Suma, Little Satsuma, Weleda, Laverana, Avalon Organics, Lush, Urtekram, Logona and Sante.

If you are vegan you may wish to buy from a vegan company as well. Vegan companies include: Caurnie, Honesty, Yaoh and Little Satsuma.

Shampoo bars

Most shampoo comes in plastic bottles which may not be recycled in all areas. Shampoo bars are offered by LUSH as an effective lower-input alternative. Friendly Soap only makes solid shampoo bars.

Banner: Fair Tax Mark

‘Natural’ and ‘organic’ shampoo

Looking for third party certification is the best way to navigate this language. Look for Soil Association accreditation or other organic standards. 

Organic shampoos

Organic shampoo products can be identified by an [O] after the brand name on our table. We give an additional product sustainability mark to certified organic brands as we think it acts as an independent check on a company’s ethical claims.

Avalon Organics products are certified to US organic standards – the NSF “contains organic ingredients” standard (must be 70% organic) or the USDA National Organic Program standard.

Weleda, Lavera, Logona and Sante are NATRUE certified. 

Going no-poo

We asked our readers for their experiences of living without commercial shampoo products. We had some great responses – some of which are shared below.

Victoria Frausin

I started living without commercial shampoo two years ago. I was losing my hair, had dandruff (expensive medicated shampoo didn’t work) and 40% of my hair was going grey. I had to wash it at least every other day and none of the commercial shampoo products seemed to work.

The first two months of living without were terrible! You read how easy is to use bicarbonate of soda, cider vinegar and so on. Lies! The process was hard and difficult. You need to be determined. I tried everything – I searched online for information about what to use and smelled for two months like a wholefood shop (according to my husband). It also takes time to get used to the method and you need to learn how to read your body, to be able to see what you need.

One important thing to bear in mind – there isn’t a magic formula for everyone that always works. Our bodies are different and they are in continuous change (hormonal change is only one example). So, sometimes you’ll need to use a mix of things – some with more moisture than others. In my case, dandruff forced me to use a mask every few months (lime with tea tree oil or rosemary oil). Dandruff doesn’t have a cure as far as I know.

Grey hair: I’ve been using henna for a year and it worked perfectly until I built up an allergic reaction. I am thinking of what to do from now on, and the only option I can see is to be proud of my age and show it!

Today I wash my hair once or maximum twice per week, normally with olive oil soap and water mixed with cider vinegar. I then apply argan oil while it dries.

Not using commercial shampoo was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I would never go back.

Andy Charles

I tried an experiment a while ago and stopped using shampoo for a month to see if the natural hair oils would keep the hair healthy. I brush my hair morning and evening with a proper bristle brush (which absorbs the natural oils) for about 20 seconds – and still rinse my hair with water every few days. After a month, my hair looked and felt great so I continued.

Joy Howard

I began a journey into ‘do-it-myself’ body products by making soap. Then I found a recipe for a solid shampoo soap bar and started using that. It was made of a base of coconut, castor and olive oil, and the extra liquid for the soap mix was nettle juice.

I noticed immediately that my hair seemed to like it, and I have been making and using it ever since (5 years or so), adapting it slightly by adding cleavers juice and infusing the olive oil in rosemary – all good stuff for hair lustre, conditioning and anti-dandruff. I have a similarly curly-haired friend who also ensures he has a continual supply of my soap, and another friend who uses it on his beard. I used to condition my hair with cider vinegar but now I put some conditioner into my wet hair and leave it in. I haven’t learnt to make it for myself yet but I avoid conditioners with SLS, SLES or parabens. I’ve heard these are especially bad for curly hair.

Ruta Hallam

I have used pure olive oil soap with lemon juice or vinegar and a dash of honey to nourish – after leaving my hair unwashed for up to four weeks with only brushing it often. I do a final rinse with lemon juice or vinegar and some rosemary, nettle or camomile tea if the scalp feels a bit tender.

Pete Bailey

We used to use three-day old urine (one’s own). In India, I have seen ladies dash outside when a cow urinates to catch it in a bowl for hair washing. Do I win a prize for the most extreme solution?

Company profile

Procter & Gamble (P&G) is the focus of several consumer campaigns including one over its sourcing of palm oil from Felda Global Ventures, a Malaysian company that was said to be the world’s largest palm oil plantation operator.

Campaign organisation SumOfUs states:

Felda deals in the human trafficking of its plantation workers, confiscating close to 30,000 passports, and still works with labour contractors and recruiters who charge enormous fees to trafficked foreign workers. Plantation workers are trapped in modern-day slavery, all to produce palm oil that ends up in P&G products. The multinational consumer goods company is well aware of the problem, and yet still buys conflict palm oil from its joint venture partner Felda.

P&G’s products have also been named and shamed in campaigns against the use of microbeads. The International Campaign Against Microbeads in Cosmetics lists Gillette on the orange list for containing polyethylene (PE).

P&G has stated, perhaps as a result of consumer pressure, that it will remove polyethylene microbeads from all toothpaste and cleansing products by 2017. However, in 2016, when Greenpeace East Asia (GEA) ranked companies on their commitment to tackling the issue of microbeads in their products, P&G’s commitment was found inadequate as it only applied to one type of plastic (polyethylene) in certain products (personal cleansing and oral care) rather than to all forms and in all products. It also only applied to microbeads used for specific purposes (scrubbing agents, colour, chewing gum base), rather than for all functions.

See our company profile page for L'Oreal

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