Sulfates. They sure get a bad rap in some circles in the hair industry. If you take a walk down any hair care aisle, you’ll see labels proclaiming that they are “sulfate-free,” which has to mean that they are better for your hair right? Well, conventional wisdom might say yes, but do sulfate-free products really make a difference to your hair? Or is it just all one big marketing gimmick?
News flash: as a professional hairstylist, trust me, it’s no trick. Higher-quality, sulfate-free hair care products are better for the overall health of your hair. Don’t worry, I’ll explain why later.
First, What are Sulfates?
Sulfates are what make shampoo, conditioners, and soap sudsy. Sulfates are surfactants, which means that they attract oil and water and help remove the dead skin cells and grime from your hair. Sulfates are in the spotlight because surfactants have been known to strip your hair of its natural oil which can cause some unwanted problems like breakage and frizziness.
Check Your Shampoo Label
The three most common surfactants that you might encounter on a shampoo label are:
- sodium laureth sulfate
- sodium lauryl sulfate
- ammonium laureth sulfate
While each has a range of sudsing power, they all have been known to cause irritation or dryness of the scalp or hair.
At my salon in Eldersburg, MD I only use the highest quality products to help protect and nourish your hair. See the difference for yourself after a hair appointment!
Who Should Avoid Sulfates?
So should everyone avoid sulfates in shampoo? Not necessarily. People with dyed, kinky, or dry/frizzy hair should generally steer clear, as sulfates can strip color and cause already dry hair to become even drier and brittle. Someone with oily hair or dandruff might benefit from a shampoo with sulfates included, as the suds will absorb the oil which often causes oily hair and dandruff.
While those with sensitive skin or scalp problems such as eczema or psoriasis might want to find a sulfate-free option as well. While this may alleviate your skin issues or dry hair, it might take a few weeks/months for your hair and scalp to get used to a sulfate-free shampoo. During this time, if your hair gets oily faster or looks lackluster, try a dry shampoo in-between sulfate-free hair washes.
Do Sulfate-Free Products Make a Difference?
While most people equate the sudsing of their shampoo with its cleaning power, you can get your scalp and hair clean without surfactants. Since you won’t have the lather that a product with sulfates offers, you will have to be more rigorous with the massaging of your scalp to get it clean.
The best way to wash your hair with sulfate–free shampoo is to pay extra special attention to your scalp and roots to help get rid of dead skin cells and oil. You might need to rinse more than with traditional shampoos and may even need to wash more than once.
Sulfate–free shampoo can make a difference to hair that is lacking in moisture, or hair that is color-treated. Normal shampoo with sulfates can strip the color out of your color–treated hair more quickly than sulfate-free shampoo and can be a contributing factor to dryness in frizzy or natural hair.
Haircare Tip: If you notice any dryness or irritation after washing your hair, try washing your hair less often, or even use less of your hair product than you’re used to. You can get a good clean with a smaller amount of shampoo, no need for a handful of suds!
So what’s the bottom line?
Honestly, the reality is that most people will be fine with a shampoo with sulfates. Sulfates are effective and considered safe when used as directed in soaps and shampoos, but they do have the potential for drying out hair or causing irritation. If you have any of these issues, it might be a good idea to try a sulfate-free shampoo.
While sulfates have been labeled as the bad guy by some companies in the hair care industry, we hope this blog post has alleviated some of your worries. If you do use a shampoo with sulfates and don’t encounter any dryness or issues with irritation, you are good to go! Keep sudsing! But if you do notice any issues, it might be time to give a sulfate-free option a try.
Say Hello to Great Hair
Have questions about issues with your hair or scalp and need a recommendation for a sulfate-free or regular shampoo, I’m happy to help! At Jill McCormack Hair, I take the time to discuss your hair care needs with you one-on–one so that you will walk away loving your new look. Make sure to book now to reserve your spot for top-rated hair services in Eldersburg, MD!
5-stars “Jill has been taking care of my very unruly hair for years. She is amazing. I get so many compliments on my hair, it’s condition, cut and beautiful color. People have actually told me they are jealous of my hair- something no one ever said before I met Jill! I travel often but always plan my trips around my hair appointments! She rocks 💜” – Theresa P.