The Best Cruelty-Free Shampoo for Every Hair Problem
Updated April 2023
Nobody wants their shampoo to involve the suffering of animals. Unfortunately, even though it’s not required by law in the US, some companies still test shampoo on animals, which means putting animals through scary, painful, and unnecessary experiments.
There are plenty of cruelty-free shampoos to choose from, but not all of them are what could be considered clean or vegan.
Here’s what you need to know about cruelty-free shampoo, and which brands to be on the lookout for depending on your hair type or hair concern.
What is cruelty free shampoo?
The term cruelty-free refers to a product, such as a shampoo, where the finished item and its ingredients were not tested on animals.
Historically, animals such as rabbits, mice, rats, and guinea pigs have been raised specifically for use in frightening, painful experiments that measure the safety of products and ingredients. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require this, but it still takes place, usually to assess the safety of a new ingredient, according to the Humane Society of the United States. These experiments also occur if American companies wish to sell their products to other countries that legally require animal testing.
Fortunately, awareness of the cruelty of these tests has been reaching the public around the world. So much pressure has been applied to governments that more than 40 countries have banned cosmetic animal testing including Australia, the European Union, Colombia, India, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, and the UK.
The US hasn’t enacted a federal ban on testing cosmetics on animals, but so far, eight states have passed their own laws: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and Virginia.
China, which used to require animal testing, relaxed its regulations in 2021 when it allowed some companies to export their products to the country without the need for experimentation.
Why animal testing should be banned
These tests can, and should, be discontinued for reasons that have nothing to do with animal welfare (though this remains the top reason from our perspective!).
Animals are so different from us on a biological level that oftentimes the tests on them are not an accurate representation of how a human body would react to a certain ingredient (not all that surprising given how different humans and mice are!).
Innovations in technology have led to animal-free testing alternatives, such as sophisticated computer models, becoming more prevalent. These innovations are also not way cheaper and better for the environment since raising millions of animals for testing each year requires massive amounts of food, water, and other resources.
And this is all in addition to the fact that manufacturers have an existing list of thousands of ingredients that are already known to be safe for humans.
What about clean, vegan, and cruelty-free shampoo?
Consumers are sending companies a crystal-clear message: Animal testing doesn’t have a place in our beauty routine. And many companies are listening.
Once upon a time, virtually none of the hair-care brands in mainstream stores were cruelty-free. But today, even top manufacturers are adopting “no animal testing” policies.
However, many brands still cannot be considered clean—a term that is not regulated by the federal government. That leaves it to the industry to interpret this term as they wish. Many beauty companies, including Kinder Beauty, maintain their own set of rules and definitions for what “clean” means—Here’s a link to Kinder Beauty’s clean standards.
On top of that, not all cruelty-free and clean shampoos are vegan. In the absence of a “vegan” logo on the bottle, read the ingredients list and look out for ingredients such as milk protein, silk protein, honey, propolis, biotin, and keratin—while keeping in mind that there are vegan alternatives for many of these ingredients (confusing, we know!).
Thankfully, clean, vegan shampoo for all hair types is becoming more widely available in mainstream stores.
The best cruelty-free shampoo for every hair problem
When taking care of your hair, there are a lot of factors to take into account. What’s your hair type? Do you have dandruff? Do your strands need moisture or do they get too bogged down by products?
We’ve outlined the best shampoos for every hair concern—and they’re all cruelty-free (and clean, and vegan!!
Best cruelty-free shampoo for dandruff
Dandruff can attack whether you have overly oily or too-dry skin. One way to treat this annoying condition is with a shampoo that contains salicylic acid, which you may recognize if you’ve ever used a product for acne-prone skin. The Jason Dandruff Relief Treatment Shampoo contains salicylic acid and rosemary oil to treat dandruff, plus jojoba oil to moisturize your scalp.
Best cruelty-free clarifying shampoo
We’ve all suffered from product buildup. You know, that heavy feeling on our locks that are a mixture of natural oils, styling products, and dirt? Well, Native’s Daily Clean Shampoo uses coconut and salt to loosen debris and grease from your hair and balance your scalp’s pH. Plus it has a spicy, woodsy scent that channels fall afternoon vibes.
Best cruelty-free shampoo for colored hair
Color-treated hair includes highlights, lowlights, balayage, all-over color—any kind of treatment to change the actual color of your tresses.
To make your dye job last longer, you should wash your hair less and avoid sulfates, a detergent that can strip your strands of color and cause dryness. The Timeless Organics Repairing Shampoo is a shampoo designed to protect your dyed hair while nourishing it with avocado oil, soothing your scalp with aloe vera, and strengthening your hair with vegan biotin.
Best cruelty-free shampoo for oily hair
If you have an oily scalp, then you probably find yourself needing to shampoo more frequently to keep the greasiness down. Meet Superzero’s Protein + Green Tea Shampoo Bar! This shampoo is made with vegan keratin, hair-strengthening green tea, and a gentle coconut oil-based cleanser.
Best cruelty-free volumizing shampoo
If you have thin hair, then you’ll want to avoid hydrating hair care which can weigh down your delicate strands. Instead, you should opt for a volumizing cleanser, like Rahua Voluminous Shampoo, to bring life and body to your locks. This brand gets its name from rahua, the oil of an Amazonian tree nut, which strengthens damaged hair and conditions your scalp without making it greasy.
Affordable cruelty-free shampoo
As far as clean, cruelty-free shampoos go, Pacifica is on the more affordable side. The Rosemary Purify Invigorating Shampoo is made to clean your hair without stripping away natural protective oils. In addition to containing rosemary, which may help soothe a dry, itchy scalp, it also contains mint, an herb that’s good for more than just tea—it can promote hair growth.
Cruelty-free drugstore shampoo
Acure is another affordable maker of cruelty-free hair care products. Its Ultra Hydrating Shampoo contains a blend of argan and pumpkin seed oils to increase moisture levels. The result should be soft, shiny hair that’s easy to work with. This, along with most of Acure’s shampoos, cost only $9.99.
Shampoo and conditioner balance each other out. Shampoo cleanses your hair of dirt, product buildup, and oil while conditioner repairs, strengthens, and moisturizes. So we recommend following up your lather-and-rinse step with Voir Haircare Sunset Rituals Signature Conditioner, which tames frizziness with hyaluronic acid and the amino acid arginine.
Cruelty-free shampoo is easier to find than ever but remember: Not every cruelty-free shampoo is clean or vegan. Look for products that bear cruelty-free and vegan labels that are made without sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and more. Or, shop with an online clean beauty retailer like Kinder Beauty to make narrowing down your options a whole lot easier.
Kat Smith is a New York City-based writer and editor who loves digging deep into sustainable fashion, beauty, food, and other lifestyle-related topics.
Please note: A product appearing in our blog is not an official Kinder Beauty endorsement. While every product we feature in an article is cruelty-free and vegan, these products do not necessarily meet all of our strict brand standards for curation in one of our boxes.
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