The Best Fragrance-free Shampoos to Use for Sensitive Scalps

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Best Fragrance-Free Shampoos

Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

If you grew up to the scent of Pantene or Herbal Essences, the concept of a fragrance-free shampoo might feel foreign—sad, even. But the reality is that for some people, fragrance can be irritating and to blame for certain sensitivities and skin issues. 

If you’ve worked out that’s you, it’s worth swapping out sweet-smelling classics for unscented, gentle alternatives—formulas that will cleanse your hair but won’t contribute to flare-ups. But finding a fragrance-free shampoo that works is easier said than done, so we’ve done the work and compiled the best of the best, and consulted with the trichologist, Lisa Caddy. No matter what your budget or hair type (from kinky and coiled to fine and greasy), there’s a fragrance-free option that’s great for you.

Meet the Expert

Lisa Caddy is a trichologist and hair expert who works as a consultant and education manager at Philip Kingsley. She’s also a member of the Institute of Trichologists. 

Just keep scrolling to find the best fragrance-free shampoos.

Best Overall: Philip Kingsley No Scent No Colour Shampoo

4.7
Philip Kingsley No Scent No Colour Shampoo

Neiman Marcus

What We Like
  • Gentle

  • Deeply cleanses

  • Non-irritating

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

Who else recommends it? Women's Wear Daily, Cosmopolitan, and Refinery 29 all picked the Philip Kingsley No Scent No Colour Shampoo.

“Philip Kingsley’s No Scent No Colour Shampoo is suitable for all hair types and ideal for anyone looking for a pared-down formula,” says Caddy. “It's fragrance-free, color-free, sulfate-free, and paraben-free, but still effectively cleanses the hair and scalp.”

It’s also a top-rated buy on Amazon.

Active Ingredients: Amaranth protein, glycerin, chamomile | Hair Type: All | Free of: Colors, fragrance, sulfates, parabens | Size: 8.45 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: Vanicream Free & Clear Shampoo

Free & Clear Shampoo

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Works for very sensitive skin

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t lather well

Made for those with an extremely reactive or sensitive scalp, this shampoo formula takes a little getting used to (it doesn’t foam that well), but the ingredients are so gentle just about anyone should be able to use it. 

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, panthenol | Hair Type: Balanced, oily | Free of: Fragrance, silicones, sulfates, parabens, proteins, gluten | Size: 12 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Fine Hair: Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Aloe + Oat Milk Ultra Soothing Fragrance-Free Hypoallergenic Shampoo

Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Aloe + Oat Milk Ultra Soothing Fragrance-Free Hypoallergenic Shampoo

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Hydrating

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

This super-gentle formula is made with oat extract which is known to soothe and calm irritated skin (including that on the scalp). There’s also green tea, aloe vera, and meadowfoam seed oil to gently cleanse without weighing down fine strands. 

Active Ingredients: Oat milk, aloe vera | Hair Type: Balanced to fine | Free of: Sulfates, fragrance, phthalates, parabens | Size: 8 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Thick Hair: Paula's Choice All Over Hair & Body Shampoo

Paula's Choice All Over Hair Shampoo & Body Wash

Amazon

What We Like
  • Multi-purpose

  • Prevents tangles

What We Don't Like
  • Contains silicones

This simple but effective pick from Paula’s Choice is rich in aloe vera, a natural plant extract that works to soothe irritation, support follicle health, and reduce inflammation. It does contain silicones, and while they get a bad wrap, they can be useful for thick, frizzy, or unruly hair as they will help it to lay flat and prevent tangling. 

Active Ingredients: Aloe, soy protein, panthenol | Hair Type: Balanced to thick | Free of: Fragrance, parabens | Size: 14.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Curly Hair: Melanin Haircare African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo

Melanin Haircare African Black Soap Reviving Shampoo

Ulta

What We Like
  • Safe for curls and coils

  • Hydrating

What We Don’t Like
  • Not ideal for oily hair

If you want to gently cleanse your curly or coiled hair without stripping essential moisture, this innovative black soap from Melanin Haircare is seriously impressive. It contains tea tree oil—known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties—alongside cocoa seed butter and provitamin B5 to support natural moisture. While it is synthetic fragrance-free, it still has a comforting, herbaceous scent (thanks to rosemary, lavender, and peppermint). 

Active Ingredients: Tea tree, turmeric, black cumin seed | Hair Type: Thick, coarse, coiled, and curly | Free of: Silicones, sulfates, fragrance | Size: 16.1 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Colored Hair: Pipette Baby Shampoo + Wash

Pipette Baby Shampoo + Wash

Amazon

What We Like
  • Multi-purpose

  • Affordable

What We Don’t Like
  • Not ideal for thick or coarse hair

We know this says it’s for babies, but the fragrance-free gentle wash is also sulfate-free and incredibly gentle, meaning it won’t unnecessarily strip your expensive hair color. Instead, it contains squalene, glycolipids, and glycerin to assist with moisture retention. Oh, and you can use it on your body, too! 

Active Ingredients: Squalane, glycerin | Hair Type: Balanced, colored, fine | Free of: Fragrance, sulfates, parabens, silicones | Size: 12 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dry or Damaged Hair: Drunk Elephant Cocomino Glossing Shampoo

Drunk Elephant Cocomino™ Glossing Shampoo

 Courtesy of Space NK

What We Like
  • Repairing

  • Lightweight

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

Rich in sacha inchi oil and coconut aminos, this lipid-rich shampoo is lightweight but still feels supremely nourishing on dry, damaged, or split hair types. While there’s no fragrance, the inclusion of rose, coconut, and sweet almond gives it a soft but noticeable scent. And the soft, airy foaming texture moves through the hair, leaving it feeling clean, voluminous, and shiny. 

Active Ingredients: Coconut aminos, sacha inchi oil | Hair Type: Balanced to dry or damaged | Free of: fragrance, sulfates, silicones, parabens | Size: 8 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Normal Hair: Phillip B Gentle Conditioning Shampoo

Phillip B Gentle Conditioning Shampoo

Dermstore

What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Lightweight

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn’t foam too well

Got balanced to dry hair that craves hydration without heaviness? The Phillip B Gentle Conditioning Shampoo is just what the doctor ordered. Packed with nourishing shea butter to soften the scalp and prevent water loss in the hair shaft, it softens and conditions the hair without canceling out volume. A great pick for balanced to slightly dry hair. 

Active Ingredients: Shea butter, birch leaves | Hair Type: Balanced to dry | Free of: Fragrance, parabens, silicones, sulfates | Size: 7.4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Splurge: Augustinus Bader The Shampoo

Augustinus Bader The Shampoo

Neiman Marcus

What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Strengthening

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

Every celebrity's favorite skincare brand recently launched into haircare, and the reception has been pretty overwhelming. The Shampoo, fortified with the brand's patented TFC8 trigger factor complex, claims to improve shedding patterns, strength, shine, and hydration. It’s also fragrance-free and packed with nourishing botanical extracts like maca, Indian cress, shikakai, and rice protein. The light, foaming formulation can be used across all hair types and conditions, too. 

Active Ingredients: TFC8, watercress, Indian cress, shikakai, and maca root | Hair Type: Balanced to dry, damaged | Free of: Parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, silicone | Size: 6.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Sensitive Scalps: SEEN Skin-Caring Fragrance-Free Shampoo

Seen Skin-Caring Fragrance-Free Shampoo

Ulta

What We Like
  • Dermatologist-formulated

  • Hydrating

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

Dealing with a fussy scalp that hates just about every shampoo out there? Seen is designed by dermatologists to afford you clean, swishy hair without irritation. Seen Shampoo Fragrance Free contains what’s called hemisqualane, a type of squalane that can moisturize. It’s also made without pore-clogging oils, so is a top choice if you’re extremely acne-prone. 

Active Ingredients: Hemisqualane | Hair Type: Balanced, sensitive | Free of: Sulfates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, dyes, fragrance | Size: 8.6 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Powder Shampoo: Susteau Moondust Hair Wash Fragrance Free

Susteau Moondust Hair Wash Fragrance Free

Sephora

What We Like
  • Waterless

  • Housed in recyclable packaging

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn’t lather well

Looking for a low-waste, low-water shampoo that’s fragrance-free but still leaves your strands oh so fresh and clean? Susteau is an amazing brand doing just that with its Moondust formula, a protein-packed powder that turns creamy when it comes into contact with wet hair. While it’s not as “foaming” as a traditional shampoo, it still gently removes sweat, product, and build-up. 

Active Ingredients: Rice protein, aloe vera, sodium cocoyl isethionate | Hair Type: Balanced | Free of: Fragrance, sulfates, parabens | Size: 1.76 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Oily Hair: Drybar One-Two Punch Water-Activated 2-in-1 Hair Wash

Drybar One-Two Punch Water-Activated 2-in-1 Hair Wash

Ulta

What We Like
  • Doubles as a conditioner

  • Waterless

What We Don’t Like
  • Not ideal for dry hair

Another water-free powder formula, this shampoo from Drybar activates when it comes into contact with water, deeply cleansing the hair and restoring fullness. Because it also doubles as a conditioner, it’s an excellent option for oily strands that don’t need a tonne of moisture. 

Active Ingredients: Coconut milk, coconut-derived surfactant, strawberry seed oil | Hair Type: Balanced to oily | Free of: Fragrance, sulfates, parabens | Size: 2.8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

So your fragrance-free shampoo favorite will come down to your hair type and its condition, but we’re pretty sure Phillip Kingley’s No Scent No Colour (view at Neiman Marcus) formula is our unanimous favorite. It’s cleansing, still a treat to use, and it leaves the hair silky but fresh. Tied in second place are the Susteau Moondust Hair Wash Fragrance-Free (view at Sephora) (for its sustainability cred and lovely formula) and Augustinus Bader’s The Shampoo (view at Nordstrom). Even though the latter is expensive, it’s by far one of the most luxurious, effective hair washing experiences we’ve had.

What to Look for in a Fragrance-Free Shampoo

No Fragrance

Before you call us Captain Obvious, Trichologist Lisa Caddy points out that ‘fragrance-free’ typically means “the absence of all synthetic perfumes”. You might want to double-check if your formula contains natural fragrance, or perhaps, is just formulated with ingredients that have an aroma (think peppermint, rosemary, or lavender). What you can and can’t use will come down to personal preference and sensitivities. 

FAQ
  • What are the benefits of fragrance-free shampoos?

    Caddy tells us that for those with allergies or sensitive skin, “highly perfumed products can cause irritation or contact dermatitis, so it’s best to avoid the ingredient at all costs.” 

  • Are fragrance-free shampoos safe for all hair types?

    “The fact that a shampoo is fragrance-free shouldn’t compromise the effectiveness of the formula, nor should it mean other important ingredients need to be left out,” explains Caddy. 
    “A good fragrance-free shampoo can work for all hair types if it contains good cleansing agents along with sufficient moisturizing ingredients.” 

    The only real difference is the sensorial element—you might not get that aromatic, frothy shampoo lather with a fragrance-free iteration.

  • How often should you use fragrance-free shampoos?

    If you’re sensitive, use a fragrance-free formula every single time you wash your hair. The frequency of this will depend on your lifestyle and hair type. Thin, oily strands or those who work out often might want to shampoo every second day, whereas those with thick, dry, or coiled hair can stretch it out to once weekly (or thereabouts). 

How We Researched

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Emily Algar is an experienced freelance writer who covers all things beauty. Her work has also appeared in Popsugar, Vogue Australia, Grazia, Cosmopolitan, and more.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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  3. Now’s a great time to switch to a fragrance-free shampoo. Refinery 29. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/fragrance-free-shampoo#slide-2

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  5. Umar, Sanushi & Noreen, Sana. A Close Look at Aloe Vera Barbadensis and It's Effect on Hair Health

  6. Carson CF, Hammer KA, Riley TV. Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) oil: a review of antimicrobial and other medicinal properties. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006;19(1):50-62. doi:10.1128/CMR.19.1.50-62.2006

  7. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

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