Recommend hypoallergenic shampoos and conditioners
November 2, 2008 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend hypoallergenic and non-irritating shampoos and conditioners.

I am having some dermatitis on my eyelids and eye area. I moved to the U.S., and a couple of weeks later I started experiencing the symptoms, so there are a number of changes in my life that might have caused it. I had new shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, laundry detergent, changes in diet, and obviously changes in residence.

I switched to Cetaphil and began applying hydrocortisone, which only addressed the symptoms during use. This isn't great since it's not something you want to use on sensitive skin long-term. I saw a dermatologist who prescribed topical tacrolimus to address the symptoms. I have another appointment in a month. I don't know what is causing the dermatitis, but I am running out of conditioner so I might as well try something new.

I am currently under the care of a dermatologist and will ask her at our next appointment whether we can figure out the cause more systematically, or if she has specific recommendations for products. Until then I wanted to see if there were recommendations from MeFites. It would be best if these recommendations were backed by evidence-based medicine, but anecdotes will work too.

I have access to a university medical library so if you have suggestions of stuff to read, I will look it up.

Anonymous because I don't want everyone to know about my medical issues. If you have other thoughts you can contact me at
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've had a lot of success with Thursday Plantation products (I have eczema which often affects my face and scalp). I'm not sure whether it's the various plant extracts in their products or just the fact that they're relatively mild and lack whatever it is that irritates my skin. The herbal skin wash pretty much covers all my shampoo and soap needs.

As for laundry detergent and fabric conditioner, I use Surcare (possibly only available in the UK).

Tacrolimus is a fantastic treatment - I had a lot of success with it before switching to a new doctor who didn't want to prescribe it (it's expensive). I've got my eczema pretty much under control now with betnovate (somewhat stronger than hydrocortisone). I wouldn't worry too much about long-term use; after 30 years+ use of topical corticosteroids my skin seems no better or worse than anyone else of my age.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 12:40 PM on November 2, 2008

I have very sensitive skin and I can use Avalon Organics (various shampoos & conditioners) & Earth Science (specifically the shampoo) products without issue. I will be watching this thread -I have been meaning to ask about hairsprays that may not irritate, as well as a Cetaphil like product in a body wash.
posted by kellyblah at 12:58 PM on November 2, 2008

What were you using before you moved?
posted by rhapsodie at 12:59 PM on November 2, 2008

Ah, I didn't even notice this was AnonyMe. Here's an email response from the asker:

"Before I moved I was using Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner from the UK, but the formulation seems to be totally different in the U.S. now (they used to be the same). I was using Neutrogena's oil-free acne wash, and I think the formulation has changed, as the kind I buy in the U.S. now smells slightly like bleach. I was using Sainsbury's biological washing powder and now I use liquid Gain. I've used Gain previously in my life without any issues."
posted by rhapsodie at 1:41 PM on November 2, 2008

As for shampoos, try looking for something without Sodium lauryl sulfate or even Sodium laureth sulfate in its list of ingredients. This will be difficult to find, but I went through a period of time where my skin would react terribly to anything containing either of those compounds.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:48 PM on November 2, 2008

I have allergies, skin reactions and sensitivities to various fragrances and product ingredients, and finding products I can tolerate has been a long (and expensive!) trial-and-error process.

I have used JASON Naturals fragrance-free shampoo and conditioner for a year now, and I love it. I've also had success with Earth Science, and that brand is my second choice. For laundry, bath soap and dishwashing, I use Ecover and Dr. Bronner's Peppermint or Baby Mild. These brands can be found at most health food stores in the US.

The thing I have the most trouble finding is hairspray and styling gel. I don't use much of it, but I've tried countless brands made in the US and the only one that's even remotely tolerable for me is Lily of the Desert Aloe 80 Organics. I used that for awhile, and then while I was living in Canada I discovered a great fragrance free brand called Druide. Now that's the only brand of hairstyling product I use. It's not cheap, and I can't get it in the US so I have to mail-order it at Canadian prices (from Grassroots Environmental Products in Toronto), but it's been well worth it for me. Since I've been using it I've had no respiratory, skin, or mucous-membrane irritation at all.

You can also find skin cleansers and other related products made by the companies I've mentioned. I haven't tried any of those myself - I just use Dr. Bronner's soap for my face, and fortunately I've had no problems so far.

Hopefully your situation won't turn out to be as difficult as mine. I know all too well how frustrating it can be to try product after product and still fail to find something you can tolerate. Good luck - I hope this is helpful!
posted by velvet winter at 1:51 PM on November 2, 2008

IANAExpert/I-do-not-have-dermatitis or excema (except allergic responses :P ).
But, my friends/relatives who have those problems and especially when they're having a flare up -
don't use soap.
To varying degrees, but especially during an outbreak.

They wash with hot water, often several times a day, sometimes with coldcream - but no soap.
Shampoo on a weekly basis, or as really, really needed (hair usually adjusts given time - less oily).

If you're standard, office working homo sapien, you hopefully won't be encountering that much actual grime, versus standard sweat.

Get the hypo-allergenic stuff, but maybe go slightly au-naturel for a bit until it's cleared up, before introducing anything new?
With my allergies - I get sensitised to stuff, and then even normal things set me off.
Ie I'm not allergic to wool, except when I've been set off by something else, and then, contact hives. So I'd be super-cautious of each additional product, even hopefully normally-non-reactive ones until everything is settled. :P

And excuse my above-explained ignorance of the situation, people who suffer on a more chronic level will have the tips, skills, and be down with the shiznitz (maybe not the last).
posted by Elysum at 2:34 PM on November 2, 2008

California Baby shampoo, conditioner and lotion is great, they have a super hypo-allergenic version which is very gentle. You can get it on or in various earthy type stores. Some supermarkets even carry it. Lots of "baby" stuff is full of awful chemicals, but California Baby is made for the most sensitive baby skins, so hopefully you should be fine. I used it on my little one when he had eczema, and I've used it on myself too.

I have issues with laundry detergents, and now I use Planet laundry detergent with no problems.
posted by Joh at 2:38 PM on November 2, 2008

What's the water like where you are and where you were from. Particularly in terms of hard vs. soft water? It might just be that you are now using more of whatever than you need to, or when you rinse, you're not rinsing it out well enough (depending on which way the water hardness went).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:50 PM on November 2, 2008

use detergents without any scents or additives. "all" brand makes a good fragrance-free. you might also try purell or dreft.

you might try tom's of maine-brand shampoos and conditioners. they are in most major drug stores these days, or a health store would also carry them. you may also want to try dr. bronner's baby mild soap--it's totally fragrance free and very gentle. it might dry out your hair a bit, though. on the plus side, you can use it for both your hair and body.

i find neutrogena's fragrance-free soaps and liquid soaps to be the best for my skin, which breaks out easily.

for conditioner, if you can't find anything you like, try (a) mayonnaise, or (b) olive oil. or if you can find a fragrance-free cream like eucerin (which is designed for sensitive skin), just slather some of that in your hair and rinse it out.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:24 PM on November 2, 2008

i had a rash at the back of my neck for a few months. i've recently started washing my hair with baking soda. it's almost gone! yay. also, i have a lot less dandruff. yay!
posted by bellbellbell at 7:04 PM on March 27, 2009

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