Many experts say that shampoo can be switched at age three, but some parents and physicians say younger children don’t need it. Opinions vary by country.
In Japan, they do not start to use shampoo until they are about two years old. This practice is called “No poo” and keeps hair looking healthy even as it grows to an impressive length of six or more inches.
Most Japanese women clip their hair up into a topknot for the day with no visible strands coming down from the back of their neck. They believe that allowing one’s natural oils down from the head is similar to “washing” one’s hair.
These women will often reapply a clear gel-like substance to the spots where strands have come free and “glued” to their necks. There is a product in Japan (and China) called “Neo Moni” that can be used to remove this gel, or one can cut it out.
In America, children begin shampooing at age two or three with enough regularity that most parents run into trouble when vacationing without shower facilities. Some U.S. doctors might prescribe shampoo to treat cradle caps if the child has a medical condition that warrants it or if the condition does not improve after trying lotion or cream for a few weeks.
You should also fidget with the baby, soaping them up, blotting or scrubbing them off, and checking if the condition has improved. However, parents and doctors agree that children should not be shampooed every day. This can strip the hair of its natural moisture and oils, leaving it dry and prone to damage, breakage, and dandruff.
Nor should kids be exposed to shampoos containing dioxanes, as these are suspected carcinogens linked with kidney damage and congenital developmental disabilities.
There is also some evidence that dioxane may interfere with brain function in unborn babies. The ADA’s Commission on Toxicology recommends those shampoos containing these substances not be used on infants or small children.
These same shampoos are also not recommended for those with skin conditions. They often contain high concentrations of salicylic acid that can cause irritation or further clog pores.
Your child should have developed the coordination needed for shampooing by age five or six. At this point, parents may want to introduce a gentle shampoo designed for children—most are tearless and hypoallergenic.
Boys seem to be more sensitive than girls to strong fragrances found in kids’ shampoos with a fruit scent. If fragrance is an issue/source of discomfort, consider using shampoos made with essential oils, which are less irritating to the skin and can also help control dandruff.