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Benefits of Sulfate Free Shampoos

Have you ever looked at the ingredients label of a shampoo bottle and wondered what “sodium lauryl sulfate” or “sodium laureth sulfate” are? These chemicals are called surfactants - they are the foam-creating chemicals that make these types of shampoo rise to frothy heights. The billowy lather they can create is pleasing to the eye and the touch, but, as it turns out, it isn’t very good for your hair.


Sulfates are considered acceptable to be used in brief-contact situations where they are thoroughly rinsed away, according to the FDA. This is because prolonged contact with either of these chemicals can cause mild irritation to the skin, eyes, and other parts of the body. In the best case this isn’t a problem, but it’s a significant concern for people who have sensitive skin or acne, since sulfates can aggravate irritable skin and cause breakouts.


Sulfates don’t always wash cleanly out of your hair. The residues left behind tend to weigh down and dull the natural gloss of your hair, particularly if you use too much shampoo or don’t rinse it thoroughly. The residue builds up over time, and attracts dirt and oil so you need to wash your hair more often.

Some non-sulfate shampoos are engineered to help release these residues, while others are just designed not to leave residue behind. Whatever the case may be, this is a big selling point in the non-sulfate shampoo market, and for good reason. Really clean hair feels smoother, fresher, and cleaner, and it’s easier to style and manage.


Related to irritation is the issue of overdrying. Sulfates are very powerful cleaning agents, and even when used in the low concentrations found in shampoos, they are excellent at stripping fatty molecules away from everything they touch. This means that they don’t just clean away excess oils from your hair; they strip all the oils off your hair, scalp, and even your hands when you shampoo. You’re left with none of the stuff that usually forms a moisture barrier, keeping your skin and hair from drying out. Then you need to replace those oils with conditioners and lotions. Gentler non-sulfate shampoos are configured to work the other way around: you may need to lather, rinse, and repeat a few times to get as clean as you want, but you won’t be left with dry hands at the end of the process.

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