Are Sulfates Bad For Your Hair?
Sulfates have been the topic of much discussion and debate in the Beauty and Personal Hygiene industries.
More frequently, you will see labels on shampoo, soaps, toothpaste etc., that claim that they are free from Sulfates or SLS. You may be asking yourself: what’s the deal with Sulfates? Are they actually bad for me and my family?
Today, we dive into what why sulfates are used in so many products, and some of the reasons why you may want to avoid them.
WHAT ARE SULFATES?The three most commonly known sulfates are Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALS). These are the ingredients you want to look out for when choosing your shampoo and other cleansers.
Sulfates are chemical compounds that are used in cleaning products of a wide range, from car wash soaps to hygiene and beauty products, for several reasons.
First of all, sulfates act as a surfactant – meaning they help break down oils. Water is unable to single-handedly wash away the buildup in your hair consisting of the sebum produced by your skin, along with hair products, dust and dirt. Cue the sulfates to break through and remove this buildup. In addition to that, sulfates are also a foaming agent. They add that foamy lather to your wash day, that we’ve come to associate with being clean.
Sulfates are still commonly used because they are the cheapest type of surfactant, and let’s face it – they get the cleaning job done. However, the “bubbly” clean feeling may come at the expense of the health and long-term appearance of your hair and scalp. Let’s look into some of the ways that sulfates can affect us.
SULFATES CAUSE CANCER: Truth or Myth?Over the last two decades, there has been much speculation on the link between sulfates and cancer.
The most commonly found claim is that sulfates become carcinogenic when they react with formaldehydes. (TreeHugger.com)
However, so far these claims appear to be wolf cries without evidence or research to back them up. According to the American Cancer Society, sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate are not known carcinogens (LiveStrong.com; TreeHugger.com)
WHY GO SULFATE-FREE?So, if Sulfates are not cancer-causing monsters, are they safe to use? Well, that depends on your hair type and the treatments that you have applied to your hair previously. Here are just some of the top reasons you may want to take the sulfate-free route.
Individual SensitivityWhile there are no direct links to serious life-threatening disorders connected to sulfates – at least not in the amounts used in an average shampoo, some people may still experience some discomfort or allergy-like reactions. They can manifest in red or flakey skin, and sometimes increased hair loss. If you experience these symptoms after using a sulfate-based shampoo, try switching to sulfate-free options.
Curl, Coils and WavesCurly hair tends to be particularly more prone to damage and dryness than straight hair. This is one of the scenarios where the oil-busting powers of the sulfates can do more harm than good. By stripping your hair of sebum, they rob your hair of its natural protective and moisturizing mechanism.
For all types of curls, try the Reshma Beauty® Henna Infused Shampoo. Using the milder Cocoamidopropyl Betaine as its main cleanser and the power couple of Coconut extract and Coconut oil, it will replenish and moisturize your hair strands, leaving you with naturally moisturized, bouncy look.
Hair ColorMore often than not, hair dyes are laden with drying and damaging chemicals that penetrate and damage the hair structure – that is, unless you opt for a gentle, naturally-based hair color option such as Classic Henna or 30 Minute Henna. Sulfates can exacerbate the issue, when applied to hair that is already weakened by a lifting hair dye. Moreover, sulfates can make your hair color wash out quicker, which in turn will make you have to dye your hair sooner.
To avoid additional damage and to help keep your hair color longer, try the Reshma Beauty® Henna Infused Shampoo It is free of sulfates and parabens, and it uses the Henna extract for its restorative and protective benefits, leaving your hair looking thicker and shinier.
Keratin TreatmentAnother type of hair processing that does not mix well with sulfates is keratin. As you may know, keratin is a chemical treatment that straightens the hair strand and makes it smoother with a protective layer. Some compare its effects to Henna, the latter being all-natural alternative with a milder effect.
According to Mark Woolley, celebrity hairdresser and founder of, "Regular use of sulfates doesn't work well with keratin treatments, as they contribute to the breaking down of the chemicals within said treatment." (Refinery29.com)
Because these treatments can be costly and may also have a damaging effect on the hair, you would probably want to hold off on sulfates, so as not to counter the keratin effect.
NO TO SULFATES, YES TO NATURAL & MILD INGREDIENTSIn conclusion:
- While sulfates do not pose the risk of cancer, they can be an irritant for some people with individual sensitivities. They also do not work well with certain hair types and hair treatments, such as chemical hair dyes and keratin.
- The most common sulfates to look out for are Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALS).
- Look for shampoo that uses milder cleanser, such as Cocoamidopropyl Betaine, to help protect your sensitive scalp and tresses. Bonus points if they are balanced with restorative natural ingredients.
Reshma Beauty hair care products are sulfate-free and use an array of natural nourishing and growth-boosting ingredients for your locks, from HENNA and COCONUT Shampoo and Conditioner to the Henna-Infused Deep Conditioning Hair Mask. Treat your hair with the love it deserves.
Have you already made the switch to Sulfate-Free? If so, how has it affected your hair and health? If no, are you planning to make the switch? Let us know in the comments!