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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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • sarah j busk February 13, 2014, 11:14 am

    son is allergic to sulfa drugs which causes a
    rash, uses J&J baby shampoo containing
    sodium trideceth sulfite. does anyone know if sodium trideceth sulfite also causes a rash?

    • Randy Schueller February 13, 2014, 11:23 am

      According to this article http://allergies.about.com/od/medicationallergies/a/sulfa.htm, the allergy reaction comes from taking certain types of sulfa-based antibiotics. You should check with your doctor but I would expect that using a shampoo with sodium trideceth sulfate (not sulfite) which is a fairly mild cleansing agent, is probably fine.

  • sarah j busk February 13, 2014, 11:19 am

    My Down Syndrome son is allergic to sulfa drugs; causes a rash. He uses
    J&J Baby Shampoo which contains a sulfite. Does anyone have experience
    with J&J Baby Shampoo causing a rash on very sensitive skin. (He also
    has a cochlear implant. The tissue around the implant appears to react)
    Thank you.

    • Ashley Ms February 12, 2016, 5:53 pm

      To help clear up a little confusion, sulfa and sulfites are chemically unrelated. Sulfa is an antibacterial that stops the growth of of bacteria. Whereas sulfites are substances that occurs naturally in our bodies and food, they’re also used to enhance and preserve foods.
      To sum it up, just because you’re son is allergic to sulfa, it doesn’t automatically make him allergic to sulfites. Both are very common allergies, so it would be best to get him checked by a specialist for a sulfite allergy as well.

      Hope that helps!

  • Tailith Sky March 27, 2019, 4:01 pm

    Left Brain Announcement

    “No you didn’t, You just want to live in Bikini Bottom. Just admit it”