How is baby shampoo different?

M Must Know…I’ve been using Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo lately, and my hair feels softer but a little more frizzy. (Before I had been using head and shoulders). My question is: how is J&J baby shampoo different from others? Is it just the lack of lathering agent?

The Right Brain Lathers Up A Response:

M, baby shampoos are different than most “regular” shampoos because they use milder foaming agents. Let’s look at the key ingredients in the two different shampoos that you mentioned:

Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo


PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Trideceth Sulfate, Lauroamphoglycinate, PEG 150 Distearate, Sodium Laureth 13 Carboxylate

Conditioning Agents: Polyquaternium-10

Head and Shoulders:

Active Ingredient for dandruff:

Pyrithione Zinc


Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamide MEA, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate

Conditioning Agents:

Dimethicone, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride

You’ll notice that the cleansers are very different. H&S and many other shampoos are based on lauryl sulfates to clean and provide lather. But these sulfates are such good detergents that they irritate the cells in your eyes, causing them to burn. Baby shampoos use milder surfactants (known as amphoteric surfactants) that clean without causing that burning sensation – that’s why baby shampoos are labeled “tear-free.”

Another characteristic of amphoteric surfactants is that they don’t foam as well as sulfates and they’re not as good at cutting grease. This usually isn’t a problem for babies, but if your hair is really dirty you may have to lather, rinse, repeat.

Also, your hair may feel a bit softer because you’re not stripping it as much. (Part of the different feeling comes from the dandruff active too. But H&S does have better conditioning ingredients compared to J&J. That’s probably why you’re getting a few more frizzies.

It’s even been shown that using baby shampoo as a nasal rinse can prevent Covid

If you have need any more information on detergents, read this post on sulfate-free shampoo OR feel free to to ask our newest team member, Foam Gnome and his sidekick Bubble Boy.*

*That last part is not true, I just wrote it to irritate the Left Brain.