Can Kids Use Adult Shampoo? (Quick Answer!)

By KidSpaceStuff •  Updated: 04/15/24 •  7 min read

In this article, I’m set to explore the frequently asked question, “Can kids use adult shampoo?” Many parents ponder this question as they wander the aisles of personal care products. 

To address this, I’ll be delving into the intricate differences between children’s and adult shampoos and examining the potential impacts on a child’s delicate skin and hair. So, if you’ve ever wondered whether it’s safe or not to lather your little one’s locks with your shampoo, this article is crafted with you in mind. Let’s dive in!

Now, Can Kids Use Adult Shampoo?

Yes, but it’s recommended that children use shampoos specifically designed for their age group rather than adult shampoos.

This is because children’s skin produces less oil daily than adults, which makes them more susceptible to synthetic perfumes, colors, and preservatives typically found in adult hair products. Adult shampoos can contain harsh chemicals that strip oils from the hair, which can be detrimental to children’s hair as it lacks sufficient oil production.

Differences Between Adult and Kids Shampoo

When it comes to personal care products, one might wonder if there’s a difference between kids’ and adults’ versions. Particularly in the realm of shampoos, there are indeed several key distinctions that make each type more suitable for their respective age groups.


Adult shampoos often contain stronger chemicals, including synthetic perfumes, colors, and preservatives. These are meant to address a variety of adult hair concerns, such as oiliness, dryness, dandruff, and hair loss. On the other hand, kids’ shampoos typically have fewer and milder ingredients to be gentle on young scalps and hair.

Oil Stripping

Adult shampoos are formulated to strip more oil from the hair, as adults’ scalps generally produce more oil than children’s. Kids’ shampoos, however, are designed to be gentler and less stripping, since children’s scalps produce less oil.


Kids’ shampoos are often “tear-free”, meaning they are less likely to irritate or stinging if they get in the eyes. This is a feature not commonly found in adult shampoos.


While both adult and kids’ shampoos can be scented, the fragrances used in kids’ shampoos are usually milder and are often fruity or candy-like to appeal to children. Adult shampoos often have more varied and stronger scents.


This isn’t about the shampoo itself, but it’s worth noting. Kids’ shampoos often come in fun, colorful bottles with cartoon characters or animals to attract their attention and make bath time more enjoyable. Adult shampoos, on the other hand, usually have more sleek and simple packaging.

The Impact of Adult Shampoo on Kids

Using adult shampoo on kids can have several impacts, mainly due to the differences in the formulation of adult and kids’ shampoos.

  1. Skin and Hair Dryness: Adult shampoos are designed to remove more oils from the hair, as adult scalps produce more oil. If used on kids, these shampoos could strip away too much fat, leading to dry hair and scalp.
  2. Irritation: Adult shampoos often contain more potent chemicals, including synthetic perfumes and colors, which can be too harsh for a child’s sensitive skin, potentially leading to skin irritation, dryness, or even allergic reactions.
  3. Eye Discomfort: Kids’ shampoos are usually “tear-free,” meaning they’re less likely to cause stinging if they get into the eyes. Adult shampoos don’t have this function, thus getting them in a child’s eyes could cause discomfort or momentary eyesight blurriness.
  4. Potential for Allergic Reactions: Because adult shampoos often contain a more significant number of more potent chemicals, the chance of a child having an allergic reaction to one of these ingredients may be higher. Signs of response might include redness, itching, or swelling on the scalp or skin.

Remember, every child is unique, and their sensitivity can vary. Always do a patch test before fully applying a new product, especially for children with known sensitivities or allergies.

The Benefits of Kids Shampoo

A picture of siblings taking a bath together

Kids’ shampoos have several benefits tailored to meet the needs of children:

  1. Gentle Formulation: Kids’ shampoos are designed to be gentle on young, delicate scalps and fine hair. They’re typically free from harsh chemicals, minimizing the risk of scalp irritation and dryness.
  2. Tear-free: One of the main benefits of kids’ shampoos is that they’re often “tear-free.” If the shampoo accidentally gets into your child’s eyes during bath time, it’s less likely to cause stinging or discomfort.
  3. Balanced Oil Removal: Children’s scalps produce less oil than adults’, and kids’ shampoos take this into account. They’re formulated to clean effectively while leaving enough natural oils to keep your child’s hair healthy and shiny.
  4. Fun Scents and Packaging: Kids’ shampoos often come with fun, fruity scents that kids enjoy. The bottles often feature bright colors and characters, making bath time more fun and engaging for kids.
  5. Less Risk of Allergic Reactions: Kids’ shampoos typically have fewer ingredients and avoid harsh chemicals, so they are less likely to trigger an allergic reaction.

When Should Kids Switch to Adult Shampoo?

There is no definitive age to switch from kids’ shampoo to adult shampoo as it depends on the individual child and their needs. However, the transition generally happens around puberty, usually between ages 8 to 13. This is because the body begins to undergo changes around this time, and the scalp may start producing more oil, which might require a more robust shampoo formulation found in adult products.

Another factor to consider is the child’s ability to wash their hair. If they can do this without getting shampoo in their eyes, they may be ready for the switch, as adult shampoos are not usually “tear-free.”

Are you searching for the best kids shampoo? Check out the video below.

Tips for Parents Who Wants to Use Adult Shampoo For Their Kids

If parents are considering using adult shampoo for their kids, here are a few tips:

Tip #1: Test First 

Conduct a patch test before applying adult shampoo all over your child’s head. Apply a small amount on their wrist or the back of their neck, and wait for at least 24 hours to see if there are any adverse reactions.

Tip #2: Choose Wisely 

Opt for adult shampoos that are hypoallergenic and free from harsh chemicals, dyes, and fragrances. These are less likely to irritate a child’s sensitive skin.

Tip #3: Consider the Child’s Age 

As a general rule, consider waiting until your child is at least pre-teen years or older before using adult shampoo, as their skin will have matured more.

Tip #4: Watch for Dryness

Adult shampoos can strip more oil than kids’ shampoos. If you notice your child’s hair or scalp becoming dry or irritated, switching back to a kids’ shampoo or trying a different adult shampoo might be best.

Tip #5: Avoid Eye Contact

Teach your child to keep their eyes closed while you’re washing their hair, as adult shampoos are not usually “tear-free.”

Tip #6: Monitor for Changes 

Pay attention to changes in your child’s hair or scalp after switching to adult shampoo. Consider switching to kids’ shampoo if you notice any adverse reactions, such as redness, itching, or dryness.

Remember, each child is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. Always prioritize your child’s comfort and safety when deciding about personal care products.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, it’s better for kids to use shampoos made for their age group.

While kids can use adult shampoos, it’s not generally recommended due to the different needs of children’s hair and skin. Children’s scalps produce less oil and are more sensitive, so kids’ shampoos are formulated to be gentle, moisturizing, and less irritating. 

Adult shampoos, on the other hand, contain harsh ingredients that can dry out and irritate a child’s scalp, potentially leading to discomfort or allergic reactions.