Home of the SafeMama Cheat Sheets!

Sourcing Safer Products For Families Since 2007.

Ditch the Dyes Cheat Sheets

Cheat Sheet: Safer Hair De-tanglers

By Kristie Turck •  Published 04/26/11 •  8 min read

Last updated on August 20th, 2022 at 12:05 am

Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few different brands of spray-in detangler out there.   It’s a bit of a hunt to find them, but I managed to come up with 8 different brands of safer detanglers.   I want to be clear that these are safer options, not completely chemical-free, but free of at least the big ingredients we like to avoid, such as parabens, phthalates, SLS’s, propylene glycol and PEG’s.  There are three that have phenoxyethanol in it, which we try to avoid, most of the time, but it isn’t possible 100% of the time.  Given that it’s a trace amount, and it’s not in any other products I use on a day to day basis,  I’m OK with it.  I feel better knowing that it’s not something like phthalates or parabens, instead, but that’s obviously a choice you have to make for yourself. And I’d rather give you that option too.   And now…

The Lineup:

California Baby Calming Hair Detangler: We’ve long been a fan of California Baby and have been using their products for years.   I’ve used nearly all of their products and have been satisfied with the quality and the results (their calendula shampoo and conditioner has been fabulous for my daughter’s chronic cradle cap).   Their stuff is pretty pricey, but definitely worth it.   So this was my first purchase in my crazy quest.

Price: $11.49

Size: 8.5 ounces

Scent: Lavender

The results: Overall, California Baby is a winner.   The price is a little steep, but not horribly priced and I think you get quite a bit (depending on how much you use on a regular basis, it should last you awhile).  It was lightweight and the scent wasn’t too overpowering, which definitely is a plus.  After nearly four years of using natural products, I’m way over the smell of lavender.   It coats the hair nicely without leaving it feeling sticky, hard, or gummy.   It wasn’t instant detangling, but it definitely made it easier to get the knots out.  My daughter didn’t complain one bit.

TruKid Dancing Hair Detangler: We haven’t really recommended TruKid as much in recent years, even removing their sunscreen from last years cheat sheet, due to the majority of their products containing phenoxyethanol, including this one.  But it’s also free of the other major ingredients we like to avoid.  I hope that in the future TruKid will remove phenoxyethanol from their ingredients list, because they’ve got such a fun line, and they work well.   Again, I’m including this, because there are far fewer safer detanglers on the market than there are shampoos and body washes.  The amount you would use on a regular basis is pretty minuscule.  Again, this is a decision you have to make for yourself.

Scent: Citrus

The Results: I have to say, I’m a bit of a fan of this detangler.   There are a few drawbacks to it, one being that it has phenoxyethanol, another being that the bottle is a bit smaller. On the other hand, it’s easier to come by (drugstore.com has it, and their services is fast and phenomenal).  As for the effectiveness, it doesn’t work as well as California Baby, but it wasn’t horrible. It claims that it’s not sticky, which isn’t entirely true.  I did find it a bit sticky upon contact with my hand, but it didn’t last and it didn’t leave any residue on my daughter’s hair, instead leaving it soft and manageable.  Also, it smells fantastic.

Babo Botanicals: This detangler is the most expensive I’ve come across in my hunt (second only to Nature’s Paradise Organics), but this one actually comes in a smaller “sample” size bottle, which is perfect for our pool bag, or for a weekend trip.  I don’t know about you, but I hate dragging full size bottles of product with me everywhere.   So, the con is that it’s expensive, the pro is that I can buy the smaller size to alleviate those tangles while we’re out and about (seriously, she twirls her hair all.the.time. So this is a necessity)

The Price: $15.99

Size: 8 ounces

Scent: Berry

The Result: Ok, first off, I LOVE the smell of Babo.  It reminds me of inhaling the Strawberry Shortcake dolls I had as a kid.   It’s one of those little things that makes me happy.   It goes on nicely, however, it does leave a bit of a crunch to my daughter’s hair, which I’m not digging.  I’ve used it post swim lessons, and also on clean, dry hair, and have gotten the same result.   I’m sure a few combings would leave it back to feeling soft again, but it does have a bit of a residue to it if you use too much.   Overall, it works well at getting the knots out. They also make a lice repelling spray, and a UV sport conditioning spray.  We never think much about protecting our hair from the elements, but they’re just as susceptible to damage.


Gaia Natural Baby: Gaia Natural Baby products are from Australia.  You can find some of the product line in Whole Foods, but what I’ve seen is pretty limited, and I didn’t see this there.  I ended up ordering this online.   This is free from all of the major chemicals we like to avoid, and in general, the ingredients list isn’t bad, and relatively short in comparison to some of the other detanglers.

Scent: Lavender

The Results: Gaia works generally about the same as California Baby.  I have no complaints.  The smell is a little stronger, but it’s not noxious, and it works on the knots (or my as daughter calls them, “knotty knots”) without too much fuss.   It didn’t leave any sort of residue, and her hair felt soft afterwards.   This makes it easy for me, if  for some reason I can’t get California Baby.  I can get this.  Right now, my compulsion to try every detangler means, I have them all over the house and I don’t have to go running.  I keep this bottle in our powder room, so that I can also use this on my son’s hair.  His hair is short, so he’s (k)not (hee hee) prone to knots, but he has a double cowlick, so his hair is all over the place.  I spray this in his hair (because my husband forbade him to smell like berries) before leaving the house so he doesn’t look like an orphan.


Nature’s Paradise Organics Kid Gentle Tropical Detangler: Nature’s Paradise has by far the best and shortest list of ingredients.   Certified USDA Organic, the detangler utilizes apple cider vinegar as its main detangling component.   It was also one of the most expensive, but I had been dying to try their products for a long time, and this was the perfect opportunity.  Also, out of all of the detanglers that I’ve tried, this is the ONLY one with a USDA organic seal, which if you’re enrolled in Mama U (and don’t skip Kathy’s middle school class, you rebellious teenagers, because I’m taking role), you should know that this is a big deal.

The Price: 14.99

Size 8: ounces

Scent: Pineapple

The Results: I had extremely high hopes for this particular detangler.  First of all, I could have sworn this also came in a watermelon scent, which is what ultimately drew me to this detangler in the first place.   Something different smelling, then either lavender or citrus.   But when I received the bottle, it had this weird smell.  The apple cider vinegar is definitely present, and then on top of it, is the faint smell of pineapple.   I was skeptical.   Last night, in lieu of a bath, I sprayed my daughter’s hair down to remove the tangles, and it combed through with absolutely no resistance at all.  I’ve long been a fan of vinegar, however, I’ve been skeptical of the whole “no ‘poo” apple cider vinegar method of washing hair.  But this just puts another check mark in the pros for vinegar (don’t be expecting me to go any ‘poo anytime soon).    After it started to dry, I noticed a tacky greasy residue, and my sails were deflated.  I was so excited about this detangler.   And then!  This morning, she woke up with the softest, nongreasy, non tangly hair.   So this stuff?  Yes, loving it.

Pipette Leave In Detangler (looking into this one)

Hairbrushes For Detangling Kids Hair

So what are my favorites?  My top favorite is Nature’s Paradise Organics, however, I’ve only used it at night, before bed, not during the day,  so the daytime winner would be a tie.  Between California Baby, and Gaia Naturals.  Neither of them leaves a residue, and they both get the knots out easily enough.   I use these during the day when I have to get my daughter’s fine hair wet to put it up in a pigtail.  It makes my job, and hopefully yours, far easier because there’s nothing cuter than a little girl with long whimsical hair, except when you have to comb the knots out.

Keep Reading