Sulfate in Shampoo: Why Isn’t It Great for Hair?

+ 2023

Sulfate in Shampoo: Why Isn’t It Great for Hair? + 2023

You may have noticed that most shampoo products are labeled with the “sulfate” content. But what exactly is sulfate? It is often added to shampoos, soaps and other personal care products for cleaning purposes. In fact, it can be found not only in your shampoo, but also in paint remover, tire cement, and dishwashing liquid. Sulfates have been used as industrial cleaning agents since the 1930s. So sulfate may not be the best ingredient for your hair.

What Exactly Is Sulfate?

In technical terms, sulfate sulfuric acid salt. In shampoo products, it is often used as a detergent and cleaning agent, as it is effective in breaking down the oils and dirt on the surface of your skin or hair. Sulfates work by sticking to oil or dirt molecules and then dragging them away with water.

Why Is Sulfate Found in Shampoo?

Sulfates are the foam-forming ingredients we often associate with the “cleaning power” of shampoo. However, you don’t really need your shampoo to lather to be effective. While it takes some getting used to, there are plenty of sulfate-free and foam-free shampoos out there that are just as effective.

Why Should You Avoid Sulfate in Shampoo?

Sulfate is a great cleanser. However, since it removes natural oils, it is very damaging to the hair and skin. It can dry out the hair and cause scalp irritation. Sulfate in shampoo also strips your hair color – so if you’ve dyed or bleached your hair, it may be best to look for a foam-free option as well.

Who Should Avoid Sulfates?

While anyone wishing to have healthy hair can benefit from avoiding sulfates, certain demographics may benefit even more. These include people who have:

  • sensitive skin
  • Eczema or psoriasis
  • dry or curly hair
  • Colored or chemically modified hair

How to Avoid Sulfates in Shampoo

Fortunately, there are many great sulfate-free shampoo options out there. You can usually find these products wherever you go to buy shampoos, and they’re often priced the same or comparable to sulfate-containing shampoos, so there’s no financial downside to switching.

Sulfate-free shampoos are usually labeled on the front of the bottle, so they’re easy to spot. If you are unsure whether a shampoo contains sulfates, check the ingredient list on the back. If you see “sodium lauryl sulfate” or other derivatives of this ingredient in the list, the product contains sulfate.

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