Sulfate or Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

Woman buying shampoo

What even are sulfates? Chances are the question has crossed your mind more than a few times over the past few years, as sulfate-free shampoo has been on the rise for the past eight years. You’ve probably heard that sulfates are bad for you and that you should use them, but chances are you aren’t too sure why. To finally put all the sulfate inquiries to an end, read on and find out exactly what sulfates are, and the benefits of using sulfate free shampoos.

Essentially, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (e.g. SLES, SLS, ALS), most commonly known as “sulfates” are ultra powerful cleansers that are added to shampoo to cut through grease and grime, and allow shampoo to lather and give it the sudsy, bubbliness that we all love. Sulfates aren’t only found in shampoos either; sulfates are a common ingredient in bar soap, face wash, toothpaste, and even dish detergent, toilet cleaner, and kitchen wipes. Yes, dish detergent, toilet cleaner and kitchen wipes. The thing is, somewhere along the line, consumers began asking for more lather, as they believed more lather resulted in a better clean; they were wrong. Believe it or not, the amount of lather has nothing to do with how well a shampoo cleanses.

Using sulfate shampoo you are taking the chance of creating total stress and turmoil on your locks. There are four (pretty major) drawbacks of using sulfate shampoo.

  1. Scalp irritations/ scalp acne/ scalp rashes: Crazy, right? One’s first thought to rid scalp acne is probably to wash it with a hard-core shampoo; this is the wrong way to go about it though! Sulfates may actually worsen scalp irritations including acne, dandruff, and eczema.
  2. Dry and damaged hair and scalp: As mentioned above, sulfates cut through grease. While this might make sense at first, it is important to realize the “grease” shampoo is cutting through are actually the healthy and natural oils on your scalp. This means that by the time you’ve lathered and rinsed, you’ve stripped your hair of all its natural moisture (that which conditioner can’t replace), and will find your hair and scalp quite dryer than usual.
  3. Fading hair color: This one may not affect everyone, as it is particular to those who color their hair. Remember, sulfate shampoo is a hard cleansing detergent that is even used in kitchen wipes. The same way that a kitchen wipe strips beat juice disappear from a cutting board, it will strip the hair color right off the hair cuticle.
  4. Hair loss: In addition to stripping your hair of its natural oils, sulfates have actually been found corrode the hair follicles. Corrosion leads to lasting damage, lasting damage leads to hair loss.

And sulfate-free shampoo doesn’t have any of these drawbacks? You are probably asking yourself at this point, and to answer your question: sulfate-free shampoos are dissimilar in the very fact that they don’t irritate the scalp, damage the hair, fade color or initiate hair loss. That said, there are a two things to keep in mind when making the switch to sulfate-free shampoo.

  1. You may miss the later, but remember, later does not equate to clean. It might feel a bit strange washing your hair at first, you’ll get used to it!
  2. You may notice that your hair is actually oily. When using a sulfate shampoo, all of your hair’s natural oils were stripped, in defense of the harsh sulfates, your hair may have a few days of an oil surge when you first switch to sulfate-free shampoo. Your hair will catch on to the change you’ve made and the oil production will seize.

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