All about sulphate-free shampoo

Three years on from Sulphate-free shampoo being the next big thing in hair care and it’s still one of the most searched keywords on So if you have haven’t already jumped onto the sulphate-free train, here’s a refresher course on if you need to make the shampoo switch or not.

What’s a sulphate?

Sulphates are ingredients that cause products to foam when they come into contact with water. They do this by lowering the surface tension between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid like your hair. They’re designed to clean – from hair to your dishes – that’s why you’ll find them in everything from facial wash and shower gel to common household cleaning products. The most common sulfates you’ll spot in ingredient lists are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS).

So what’s in a sulphate-free shampoo then?

Sulphate-free shampoos don’t lather as well as regular ones because they don’t contain the heavy surfactants which cause that foaming action we expect from shampoos and body washes. This doesn’t necessarily mean a shampoo with sulphates does a better job at cleansing; it simply foams better than those without them, which means it spreads faster and more easily. So don’t be alarmed if your shampoo does lather,

Who should use one?

If you suffer from allergies, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis or general reactions to products, consider switching to sulphate-free shampoos. They’re gentler on your scalp and less likely to cause irritation.

They’re also better options to use when caring for hair after chemical treatments like Brazilian Blow-Outs and other straightening processes. If you colour your hair often, a sulphate-free shampoo will also keep coloured hair looking vibrant. It strips away the dirt and also strips away colour, revealing different tones.

Sulphates have been associated with contributing to frizz due to their tendency to strip hair of its good oils, as well as the bad ones you are trying to remove by washing.

But it’s not all doom and gloom

There is a lot of scary information out there on the issue but sulfates are considered safe. There has been no conclusive study or proof that says that SLS and SLES can cause cancer but both have been proven as potential irritants to skin. So it really does depend on your hair type; those with dry, coarse or colour-treated hair will benefit from using a gentler cleansing choice to prevent their hair from feeling super dry. Beauties with oily hair will probably find that they need to use a shampoo with sulfates to truly feel like their hair is clean.

Some products to try

Sulphate-free shampoos used to come with a hefty price tag and involved a trip to a salon. These days there are plenty of options available from most of the bigger brands too. Here are our some of our favourites…

HASK Monoi Oil Nourishing Shampoo, R139

INOAR DayMoist Shampoo, R245

L’Oreal Pure Colour Shampoo, R139

Marc Antony Defrizzing Coconut Cream Curls Shampoo, R139,95

Mizani Moisture Replenish Shampoo, R202

OGX Nourishing Coconut Shampoo, R169,95

The Body Shop Rainforest Shine Shampoo, R110

5 Responses

  1. Sulphate-free shampoo is the best investment you will ever make! I have highlighted/flashed hair and sulphate-free shampoo helps keep my hair healthy and soft. I use the Marc Antony range and it’s worth every cent.

  2. I am curious since I have been using Sulphate Shampoo for my whole life and have suffered from frizz even before I started colouring my hair. I really want to try it out and see if it actually reduces frizz, since it is not that more expensive than my regular shampoo and might be a good investment.

  3. I never understand the whole point of using sulphate-free shampoo’s on ethnic hair… now I get it. It strips away your natural oils and we have dry hair already, so it makes it worse… Wow. I actually learnt something today.

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