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Best Sulfate Free Hair Products and Why You Should Make the Switch!

Updated on March 16, 2018
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Punkmarkgirl is a freelance writer with a passion for DIY projects, natural health & makeup - featuring the best products for oily skin.

Sulfate-free products continue to hit the market, as consumers realize that this ingredient can be harmful to skin and hair. Sulfate-free Shampoo, Conditioner, and Soap have been especially popular within the past few years. This has left many people wondering…what are Sulfates, and why are they so bad? Here are the answers to your questions, along with a list of some of the best Sulfate-free products available.

Why are sulfates bad for my hair and skin?

Shampoo and conditioner formulated with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Ether Sulfate (SLES) contain salts and chemicals which typically dry out the hair cuticle and follicle so badly, they can cause irreparable damage. Although SLS is a well known cleansing agent, it's surprisingly found in many hair conditioners as well. The high salt content of this chemical defeats the purpose of the conditioner, by parching your tresses, drying out your scalp, and fading color treated hair.

It has also been found that high concentrations of SLS in hair products and bubble bath actually eat away the natural lipids that moisturize your skin. If you’ve been suffering from dry, itchy skin and/or minor hair loss, SLS may be the reason why. Did you know that SLS is a common de-greaser found in industrial and engine cleaners? Pretty disturbing that millions of people routinely apply this chemical to their hair and bodies!

If sulfates cause problems, why do companies put them in their products?

For one thing, SLS is meant to strip away dirt and oil, which is why it provides the cleansing and foaming properties in many shampoos and soaps. This is also why your hair may feel “squeaky” clean after using a product containing SLS. Cleanliness of course is not a bad thing, but your body produces natural oils that moisturize your hair and body. When those oils are stripped away, it leaves us with dull, dry hair and lackluster skin that cannot be replenished with topical moisturizers. If you do use products that contain sulfates, it's best to use them only occasionally.

A more sinister answer to this question... Sulfates are a cheap "filler" that companies can use to bulk up the volume of their products, thereby putting more money in their pockets. To put it simply, when quality ingredients are scarcely used, the company makes more money. This is why you'll almost always find sulfates in very low cost shampoos, conditioners and soaps. Higher quality name brands are starting to make the switch to sulfate-free varieties, now that the secret is out.

Are higher priced, sulfate-free products worth the cost?

So, is it worth it to pay more for items that do not contain sulfates? In a word, YES! The damage left behind from SLS can take years to reverse. If your hair feels straw-like or coarse, and appears dry and frizzy, sulfates are probably to blame. Remember, SLS strips the natural oils from your scalp and hair, causing strands to become dry and brittle, eventually leading to breakage. It also dehydrates the scalp, which can cause dryness, sluggish hair growth, and flaking skin. The recovery process can take months to years, depending on how long you've used products that contain sulfates. Spending a few dollars more on quality haircare and soap is definitely worth the cost.

In addition, if you have color-treated hair or have used the Brazilian Keratin Straightening Treatment, products containing SLS will cause the treatments to last half as long as they should. The sulfates strip color and keratin from your strands at an accelerated rate, compared with SLS free products. There have also been arguments that SLS is a carcinogen, potentially causing tumors and cancer. Although most articles state that this has not been solidly “proven”, why take the chance when there are alternative methods of hair care?

What are some good options for sulfate-free hair care products?

Making the switch to sulfate free shampoo and conditioner doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are several drugstore brands you can find which only cost a couple bucks more than their SLS containing counter-parts.

L’Oreal has created their Ever Pur line which is sulfate free and contains natural ingredients such as Rosemary and Juniper. In addition to smelling wonderful, your hair will be left feeling silky and soft with no tangles. As an extra bonus, the Ever Pur products retail for only around $6.99 each.

Two other excellent SLS free lines are from Giovanni and Alba Botanica. These can be found at most Whole Foods and Walmart Stores. The Giovanni Organic Line offers a solution for every type of hair, and even has a Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo for those who want to remove product buildup without lathering on the SLS. Giovanni items retail for $10.00 - $15.00 per bottle. The Alba Botanica product line is enriched with herbal extracts, botanical oils, and plant proteins which effectively cleanse while providing moisture. Alba also provides a wealth of body and facial care products that do not contain sulfates, and are very high quality. These typically retail from $10.00 - $20.00 per item.

If you don’t mind paying a bit more for your hair care items, try a product line called No Frizz by the company Living Proof. An innovation in frizz-free shampoo, conditioner & styling products, Living Proof has discovered a new molecule called PolyfluoEster. This break though ingredient manages to fight frizz, and is a hair-enhancing replacement to the typical silicone based serums on the market. Silicone is yet another ingredient you want to avoid, as it only causes more long term damage to your strands. Silicone effectively seals out ALL moisture from your hair, leading to severe dryness and breakage. No Frizz products retail for $15 - $35 and do not contain any silicones or sulfates, making them a top choice for silky, healthy, frizz-free hair.

Will my hair get clean if I use sulfate-free products?

Sulfate-free shampoo does a great job cleansing hair - but many people are skeptical that if they don’t use a sulfate based shampoo, their hair will be full of product buildup and oil.

If you have a severely oily scalp, consider using a deep-cleansing shampoo that contains SLS only once every 1-2 weeks. Limited use ensures that excess oil build-up will be removed, but won’t strip your hair and scalp of so much oil that it leads to dry frizzy hair.

Alternately, look for hair care products that contain deep cleansing essential oils - which remove product buildup and excess sebum, without damaging hair and scalp. Try Mattify Cosmetic’s Treatment for Oily Hair and Scalp, which is an essential oil blend that amps up cleansing power when added to any shampoo.

The same thing goes for those with oily skin, because products that strip the skin of moisture can actually cause skin to produce even MORE oil! It’s best to use soap that does not contain sulfates or alcohol, and look for those with naturally nourishing and cleansing ingredients, rather than harsh additives.

Do you plan on switching to sulfate-free products?

See results

The truth is, many ingredients added to cosmetics and hair care products have adverse long-term effects on our hair, health and complexion. Your gorgeous, moisturized tresses will thank you for making the switch to sulfate-free products!

© 2010 Ashley Bergin

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    • profile image

      candor167 6 years ago

      Yes, I totally agree with cheeky girl- I too, hv bn looking more into natural products as well.

      One love & Ty for sharing this with me!

      Ps I too, will be following you as well!

    • Cheeky Girl profile image

      Cassandra Mantis 7 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

      I have found that many products out there can have an adverse affect on my hair, and I prefer using natural products on my hair to keep it soft and fresh. Have been Using Timotei for a few years and I trust it completely as it uses natural fruit extracts and is clean and gentle on hair. Otherwise, this is a great hub here! I enjoyed reading it. Cheers!

      Oh yes, I just voted for this via twitter. :)

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