Scents and Sensitivity - shampoo edition
January 26, 2022 9:40 PM   Subscribe

Right off the top I'll tell you that I currently use Pert shampoo. For whatever reason, its mild scent does not set off my asthma. But I would like to upgrade to a shampoo that does not contain sulfates but is still un- or lightly-scented. My one attempt so far has been the Aveeno OatMilk Blend shampoo, and whoa! that stuff is stinky (at least to my nose).

I live in BC and we are required to mask while shopping. It is therefore not currently possible to sniff bottles at the drug store before buying, and I immediately regretted my last trial purchase (the aforementioned Aveeno) when I got it home. I quite like Aveeno unscented hand lotion -- do they have an unscented shampoo available in-store or online where I live? Has anyone tried the Unscented Company shampoo (we are a fan of their laundry and dishwasher detergents)?

Other recommendations? I have oily hair and currently wash my hair daily.
posted by nuclear bessel to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I honestly think that a shampoo bar might be the best way to go for you. They strip my hair, which is curly and very, very dry, but for someone like you who has oily hair and washes it daily, a shampoo bar should be just fine. Not to mention that they are sulfate-free and zero-waste.

A learning curve is involved, vis-a-vis the transition from sulfate shampoos to sulfate-free shampoo bars and the need to keep the shampoo bar well drained so it doesn't melt away. The typical bar lasts 50 to 75 washes, according to EcoHub founder Candice Bautista in her recent roundup, 10 Natural Canadian Shampoo Bars That Work (and How to Use Them).

During a bout of insomnia I ran across Bautista's post, and it led me to a reasonably priced bar that sounds right up your alley: The $7.95 Calendula Chamomile Shampoo Bar from Saltspring Soapworks on Saltspring Island, BC, which has been making shampoo bars for 20 years. It's designed for people with fine, thin and straight hair (short or long) sensitive scalps, and oily hair. Reviewers liked the rich lather and light citrus scent. (Lemon oil, which balances natural oil production, is one of the ingredients.)

Saltspring Soapworks' website also offers answers to frequently asked questions about shampoo bars -- scroll down on this page. An even longer list of shampoo bar questions and answers from the company can be found here.

Good luck! I hope you find something that works for you.
posted by virago at 1:33 AM on January 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It might be worth trying baby/child shampoos. They're often very lightly scented or entirely unscented, and sulphites are a no-no for a lot of parents. Here's a load of examples (although you don't have to buy them from Amazon if you don't want to).
posted by underclocked at 4:42 AM on January 27, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I just encountered a brand called Seen at Ulta. They have fragrance-free, sulfate-free shampoo, plus a bunch of styling products. I like the shampoo so far but have very different hair from you so YMMV. I will say I haven't noticed any discernible smell while using.
posted by ailouros08 at 4:50 AM on January 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I use Acure Buildup Balancing Hemp & ACV shampoo and conditioner and really like it. It’s unscented and sulfate free.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 5:06 AM on January 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's a bit pricey, but if it's in your budget, you might want to check out Prose. It's personalized, customizable hair care that is sulfate-free. I have oily hair and have been using it for a few years. I am quite pleased with the results. While they offer a handful of scents (none of which I particularly like), they also offer an unscented option.
posted by katemcd at 5:08 AM on January 27, 2022

Best answer: I use Olaplex for this. pricy, but you only need a little and it lasts forever. Goes on sale at Nordstrom periodically.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:01 AM on January 27, 2022

Best answer: Stopping back in to say that if you want to give baby shampoo a try, a fragrance- and sulfate-free brand that has gotten good reviews from grownups is Pipette Baby Shampoo + Wash, available in Canada on, at $10.97 for 12 oz./354ml. (Pipette does scent this product with fragrances that are not synthetic, but the version sold on is the fragrance-free variety.)

Blogger Emily of My Dad the Chemist, who has never steered me wrong (her review made me aware of Pipette's excellent SPF 50 zinc oxide sunscreen), says that Pipette cleanses without stripping her hair and "produces a great lather"; it's economical because a little goes a long way. Pipette Baby Shampoo + Wash also doubles as a body wash. (Emily uses it on her face, too.)
posted by virago at 6:13 AM on January 27, 2022

Best answer: I've used Stony Brook unscented shampoo and conditioner for years. I just checked -- it looks like they do ship internationally. Highly recommended.
posted by amtho at 8:19 AM on January 27, 2022

Response by poster: What a lot of great ideas! Thanks, everyone.
posted by nuclear bessel at 9:24 AM on January 27, 2022

I use Alaffia Everyday Shea, which I first got at Whole Foods, and also have had good luck with the Free and Clear brand.
posted by rivenwanderer at 3:17 PM on January 27, 2022

For me, my hair is much oilier when I wash it daily than when I wash it once a week or less. In the longer term, consider whether you might want to transition away from daily shampooing, which could solve two questions at once. The transition for me was a pretty rough two weeks of very oily hair and a weirdly greasy scalp, and then after that my hair looked and felt great!
posted by decathecting at 3:28 PM on January 27, 2022

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