What are Sulfates?

Sulfates are chemical foaming agents. They can be found in almost all household cleaners like dishwashing liquid, detergents, and shampoo.

Sulfates help shampoo mix into water and creates that foamy texture when you massage shampoo into your scalp. Sulphates in shampoos reduce the level of surface tension between your shampoo and your skin, allowing the active ingredients in the shampoo to do a more effective job of cleaning dirt, oil and dead skin from your scalp and hair.

Am I the only one that feels like over the past few years, the haircare industry has become increasingly against products that contain sulfates? Hair companies highlight the fact that their products don’t contain sulfates and social media hair influencers swear by “sulfate-free” shampoo. This observation propped certain questions in my head on what sulfates are and why it should be avoided so I did my research on the good ol’ Google and found some rather interesting facts and I thought to share them with you.

Why the fuss?

Generally speaking, sulfates are considered safe to use and they effectively do their job of removing dirt and grime from your scalp and hair. The downside of this is that they do their job too well in the sense that they excessively strip natural oils and proteins from your hair and scalp which leaves your hair looking dry and damaged.

When should you consider using sulfate-free shampoo

Sulfates can be very damaging to certain hair types and should be avoided by some.  Sulfates can be quite harmful to people with sensitive skin and scalp especially certain skin conditions like eczema and contact dermatitis. Sulfates can also cause itchiness, redness, dryness on the scalp.

If you have colour-treated hair, sulphate shampoo might leave your colour looking faded and dull. All the coins you spent down the drain (Sad emoji).

Sulfates can also increase the amount of frizz in your hair. When sulfates make contact with your hair, they create a negative electrical charge which can create frizz after you shampoo.

Sulfate-free shampoo is especially essential for natural hair. Natural hair textures and types are one of the driest hair types due to way in which the curls are formed. With a natural challenge of retaining moisture, curly hair can’t afford any additional stripping from harsh cleansing agents like sulfates which can cause further damage and dryness.

About sulfate-free shampoos

Sulfate free shampoos have a mild cleansing agents with nourishing ingredients, breaking down dirt and retaining the needed oil for hair health. Although sulfate-free shampoos are amazing for hair protein retention, damage prevention and hair health, there are a few downsides to it. Firstly, it becomes difficult to remove the debris and grime stuck in your hair and scalp. Remember, sulphate makes it easier to remove the dirt without too much work, now it’s the opposite. Secondly, if you like that lathered up feeling when washing your hair, forget it! Less bubbling, more scrubbing!


Should you use sulphate shampoos?

That’s up to you and what you feel your hair needs. If you’re using products formulated with sulfates and they work amazingly well for you, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t continue using them. However, if you’re experiencing skin or scalp irritation, have colour- treated hair, or have dry or damaged hair, you should consider exploring options with gentler sulfates or sulfate free shampoos and see what you think.

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