*This post may include affiliate links which means I might get a small commission f you purchase through my links (at no extra cost to you). Please click here for my full disclosure policy.
If you’ve ever done any research about shampoos and hair care, you’ve probably come across sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulphate (usually shortened to SLS or SLES) and ammonium laureth sulfate (or simply ALS). Sulfates a popular ingredient added to make shampoos lather…and yeah, I know that most of us love our lather and are happy with the suds cutting through all the oil and dirt on our hair but…
…Is Cleaner Always Better?
While getting rid of all the dirt and deposits, did you know that the same sulfates (which are also used in making your household detergents and cleaning products by the way) also strip your hair and scalp of natural oils and lift the cuticle making hair dry and frizzy.
This makes you need more conditioner to try to soften the hair and other hair products -probably laden with silicones-to try to get some moisture back into your hair and make it feel smooth, shiny and silky again. This usually leads to product build-up and it becomes a vicious cycle because you again need the lovely foamy sulfatey (hah…is there such a word?) shampoo to get the clean hair feeling again…and the cycle repeats itself.
Sulfate containing shampoos may also further weaken damaged or fragile hair and possibly lead to hair thinning or hair loss. The dryness caused from stripping the hair follicles at the tips could result in splitting of the hairs and increase tangling and flyaway hairs which would be a bigger problem for people with naturally dry or curly hair.
Asides Dry Frizzy Weaker Hair, Are Sulfates Otherwise Bad for You?
There has been quite a bit of research regarding the possible harmful effects of sulfates to the body, to answer questions such as if they penetrate into the bloodstream as many topical products do and with some articles going so far as to examine if there could be possible carcinogenic effects from long term use of sulfates on the body.
However, scientific studies have not shown that sulfate containing shampoos cause cancer. Sulfates are actually generally considered to be safe and that’s why they are included in so many hair and skincare products (as well as laundry detergents, car cleaning solutions, surface cleaners and yes…even your lovely old floor cleaners).
That said, sulfates are known irritants. They are incredibly effective at removing oil (which is why they make such good soaps and detergents) and they actually also strip the scalps outer layer which is supposed to be protective.
So, while sulfates are not as evil as some claim, anyone with sensitive scalp/ skin or eczema might want to steer clear of sulfate-containing products anyway as they have been implicated again and again for causing irritation, inducing itching, contributing to dryness and generally making such issues worse.
There have also been repeated reports about acne around the hairline and on the scalp following the use of sulfate free shampoos. The mechanism of this is not well understood but there have been theories about rebound oil production by the glands due to the ‘hyper-cleansing’ effect of the sulfate containing shampoos and also theories about clogging of pores due to a film left behind by sulfates. While these theories have not been proven, many reports indicate an improvement of the condition when the use of sulfate containing shampoos was discontinued.
Also, if you color or dye your hair and after chemical treatments (such as keratin), hair stylists would usually recommend using a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to prevent the color from fading maintain the hairdo. It definitely seems that there are many proponents against the use of sulfate-containing shampoos.
Are These Reasons Enough to Stop Using Regular Shampoos?
Personally, I have made the switch to using sulfate-free shampoos after doing my own bit of research because even though I am convinced that sulfates are probably generally safe to use as long as you apply them only briefly and rinsing up thoroughly afterwards, I don’t like the idea of using the same ingredient that is used to foam up and wash off tough dirt and stains to ‘care’ for myself and my family.
We have found that even though some of the sulfate-free shampoo may not lather up like its sulfate-containing ‘cousins’, you actually get used to the feeling it gives while washing and we now actually kinda like it and we don’t miss the extra-foamy-suds much. And if you’re a bit concerned that your hair might not be as squeaky clean as it used to be previously, simply massaging well with the fingertips or using a detangling brush to gently scrub at/massage the scalp while washing would do the trick.
Also, we have noticed that it helps us to save on the amount of water we use on hair wash days! With all the talk going on now about going green, eco-tools, conservation of natural resources, sustainability and you know- saving the planet…perhaps making the switch to sulfate free shampoos is your own way of doing your tiny little bit, one drop at a time. It always helps when we get to have healthier, bouncier, shinier, silkier hair…while feeling like you’re some kind of hero of the world at the same time, lol.
Are Sulfate Free Shampoos Not More Expensive, Though?
As you know, our aim is to help you make little changes that have maximum impact. Not surprisingly, production companies have caught the anti-sulfate shampoo bug and many hair brands and now rolling out their sulfate free versions, albeit at a higher price tag. Since we’re all for the most affordable solutions while not detracting from quality and function, we did some research to find some highly recommended sulfate-free shampoos that cost less than $10, so that you don’t have to do all that work. You can click here to go that post.
What to Look for When Shopping for Sulfate Free Shampoos
When next you’re out shopping for your hair care products, you can pick some of the sulfate free shampoos from the shelves and have a look at the ingredients list. Most of them are made from coconut oil and fruits to give a gentle cleaning effect.
Some of the ingredients you should expect to see include: Coco glucoside, Decyl glucoside, Lauryl glucoside, Caprylyl capryl glucoside, Sodium cocoyl glutamate, Disodium cocoyl glutamate, Sodium cocoamphoacetate, Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, Sodium cocoyl isethionate, Ammonium cocoyl isethionate, Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate, Sodium methyl oleoyl taurate, Sodium lauryl glucose carboxylate, Sodium lauroyl lactylate, Cocamidopropyl betaine etc.
Okay, okay…too many scientific names, I know! But I guess you get the point by now: No ‘lauryl sulfate’, ‘laureth sulfate’, ‘lauryl sulphate’ or ‘laureth sulphate’. Duh.
Finally, if you’re ready to start your healthy hair journey right away, my go-to one stop online shop for affordable name brand healthy lifestyle/natural products is iHerb.com. To know more about why I love shopping on iHerb.com, please click here. And here’s a code for 5% off your entire purchase from iHerb.com: TOY3430 (Enter it into the coupon code box at checkout) if you choose to purchase from there.
Thank you for reading till the end and I hope you continue to find more inspiration for better self-care, increased productivity and beautifully organized homes. You can leave a comment about the small changes you’re making down below. Hope you have a beautiful week!