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  5. What Is Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Why You Should Try It

The term sulfate-free shampoo has emerged as one of the hottest buzzwords in the haircare industry. While many experts may talk about its countless benefits and promote it, have you ever wondered what sulfate-free really means?

In this article, we discuss everything from the uses, benefits, and importance of sulfate-free shampoos. If you're curious about the sulfate-free movement or want to make the switch, read on to know more.

What Is Sulfate-Free Shampoo? What Does It Do To Your Hair?

Sulfate is a salt that forms when sulphuric acid reacts with other chemicals. Although various types of sulfates are used across industries, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are the two most commonly used sulfates in the haircare industry.

These compounds are produced from petroleum and plant sources such as palm and coconut oil.

Sulfates are considered to be great cleaning agents. [1] Their primary purpose is to produce a rich lather when you wash your hair to help remove grime, oil, and dirt.

Although sulfates may often be regarded as a staple ingredient in shampoos, they might not be suitable for everyone, especially if you shampoo your hair every day.

Benefits Of Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Sulfates are aggressive detergents that may strip your hair of its natural moisture. Overusing sulfate shampoos can make your hair dry, rough, and brittle. It may also cause scalp-irritation in some people.

Since the benefits of using a sulfate-free shampoo outweigh its drawbacks, many people opt for it.

Some of the most significant benefits of using a sulfate-free shampoo include the following:

  • Sulfate-free shampoos help retain the natural moisture of the hair so that your hair does not lose its natural shine and softness.
  • If you have colored hair, sulfate-free shampoos are a blessing. Unlike their counterparts, these are gentle on the hair and won't strip your hair of its color too fast.
  • Sulfates are harsh on the scalp and may cause irritation and itchiness. Sulfate-free shampoos are much milder and can help you control scalp inflammation.
  • Sulfate-free shampoos are gentle for your eyes too. They don't produce an unpleasant burning experience if you accidentally get a bit of shampoo in your eye.
  • Since they are made mainly out of plant derivatives, sulfate-free shampoos are environmentally friendly.
  • Sulfate-free shampoos work wonders on low porosity hair, which means that your hair finds it difficult to gain moisture. They help moisturize your hair and tame frizz.
  • Sulfate-free shampoos help you avoid long-term exposure to possibly toxic chemical compounds.

Who Should Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

While sulfates effectively help remove oil and dirt, those with skin and scalp problems should try to avoid sulfate shampoos.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sulfate-free shampoo to people with rosacea [2], eczema, and contact dermatitis.

When Do You Need To Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

If you have pre-existing skin problems, sulfate shampoos can flare up conditions. If you have eczema, contact dermatitis, rosacea, or other skin problems, a sulfate-free shampoo is a great alternative.

Your doctor may also recommend you to use sulfate-free shampoo if you are allergic to sulfate-based products. Some of the obvious signs of sulfate allergy are:

  • Itchiness
  • Rashes
  • Redness
  • Hives

Important Note:

Allergic symptoms may occur due to other factors too. Speak to your doctor to evaluate if you have a sulfate allergy.

How Do You Know If Your Shampoo Is Sulfate-Free?

The best way to find out if you are using a paraben and sulfate-free shampoo is by reading the labels. Watch out for labels that have any one of these ingredients [3]:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Triethanolamine (TEA)

Are Sulfates Actually Bad For Your Hair?

Sulfates were once believed to be carcinogenic, but that is simply a myth. [4]

Most products that contain sulfates have a very low concentration, so even if they are not great for your hair, they are not that bad for you.

However, sulfates can indeed make your hair drier or be too harsh for your hair. Check your hair health and switch to a sulfate-free shampoo if you want to maintain the natural shine and softness of your hair.

Can You Wash Your Hair Everyday With Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

A daily hair wash is only required when your hair is extremely oily. Whether your hair is dry or oily depends upon the texture of your hair. Usually, hair that is straight and fine is oilier than thick, curly hair.

While prolonged and daily use of sulfate shampoos can make the hair rough and brittle, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner can be used every day without damaging your hair.

Why Is Your Hair Greasy After Using Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

If you feel that your hair is still greasy after using a sulfate-free shampoo, you’re not alone. Many people feel their hair is greasy, seconds after using a sulfate-free shampoo. This largely depends on your hair type and the ingredients present in your sulfate-free shampoo.

At times, the ingredients are so mild that your hair may feel greasy even after a thorough wash. Many sulfate-free shampoos have ingredients like decyl glucoside or coco glucoside that are very mild cleansing agents. [5] Due to their mildness, they may not be able to get rid of buildup fully.

If you want to overcome this, you will need to add some extra effort to form lather and remove buildup.

Can You Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo On Colored Hair?

It is always advisable to use sulfate-free shampoo for colored hair. Since they are mild and work gently, they won't dry out your hair, or fade your color too fast.

What Are The Problems With Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

The biggest problem with sulfate-free shampoo is that many manufacturers replace sulfate with olefin sulfonate, which is a ‘close cousin’ to sulfate.

Although it may become sulfate-free with a mild variation, it can be harsher than the original sulfate. Similarly, the sodium lauryl sulfate in sulfate shampoos can be replaced with sodium Laureth sulfate that can also make it harsher.

So, if you are looking for a safe sulfate-free shampoo, go for plant-based and organic shampoos or make one at home.

Wrapping Up

Having said all of this, you don't need to let your hair go unwashed or avoid shampooing altogether.

Remember, everyone's hair type is different, and preferences may vary. You can choose a shampoo of your choice if you do not have any pre-existing skin or hair problems and are not allergic to sulfate.

If you develop allergic symptoms or conditions such as scalp itchiness, redness, swelling, and hair fall, it is essential to consult with your dermatologist.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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