If you’ve taken a stroll down the shampoo aisle recently, you probably noticed several brands advertising a sulfate-free formula. These “low-poo” shampoos have seen an increase in popularity over the last decade due to the larger demand for a natural and more holistic approach to beauty. Sulfate-free shampoos use mild detergents* to remove dirt and oil from the hair, while also leaving your locks moisturized.
Sulfates were first introduced to the hair industry in the 1930s. Chemists realized that by adding these sulfuric compounds, most often Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, into shampoo they could achieve a cheaper and more effective cleansing product.The reason sulfates are such effective cleansers is that they are soluble in both water and in oil. These surfactants combine with the dirt and oil on your scalp and then easily wash away with water.
More recently, people have begun to speculate the lasting affects of sulfate use. There is no physical evidence that sulfates cause anything other than mild to serve scalp irritation for those with skin sensitivity. The biggest problem surrounding these surfactants is that they work too well, stripping your hair of its natural oils. This can leave the hair dry and brittle and more prone to breakage.
Should you switch to Sulfate-Free shampoo?
There are a couple things consider before you throw out all of your old shampoo.First, sulfate-free shampoos don’t offer as much lather as the sulfate-full counterparts. This may not seem like a big deal for some, but it can be a bit jarring going from shampoos that foam up in your hair to ones that offer little or no suds.Secondly, many products on the market contain ingredients that build-up overtime causing your hair to feel coated and dry. This product build-up blocks your hair from absorbing moisture and can only be removed by clarifying with sulfates.
If your hair is prone to dryness or damage then sulfate-free shampoo is typically a better option for daily/weekly shampooing. These mild cleaners remove enough dirt and oil to leave your hair feeling clean but not so much that it feels dry and crunchy. Try saving the sulfates for a monthly clarifying wash to help remove any additional residue your everyday shampoo may leave behind. This way your strands stay healthy and happy.
In the comments let us know what are some of your favorite clarifying shampoos?
*Interested in learning more about sulfate alternatives? Check this article detailing some of the most popular replacements.