Not so many years ago, “sulphate-free” was a beauty buzz term; today, just about every hair care brand has a sulphate-free range available. But what are sulphates and why are they notoriously bad for your hair? Is there really such a major difference between shampoos containing sulphates and those that don’t?
Sulphates are chemicals used as cleansing agents in household cleaners, detergents and shampoos. There are two different types of sulphates used in shampoo: sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate. These ingredients have a lathering or foaming effect that effectively removes dirt, oil and build-up on the hair. Sulphate-free shampoos will have little to no foam when lathered.
Many women say that they like the foamy sensation when they use shampoo – it makes their hair feel “cleaner,” and we totally get that, however, there is no evidence to suggest that sulphate-free shampoos do not clean the hair as well as sulphate-containing shampoos do. It’s all about the mindset – we associate foam with cleanliness, but in reality, there are sulphate alternatives that do the job just as well (and even better!).
So why are they considered “bad”?
Although sulphates are good at removing dirt and oil, they aren’t very gentle on the hair and scalp and may causes sensitivity. Sulphates are known to strip the hair of its natural oils which may causes damage to dry or very fine hair types. They are also notorious for stripping hair colour, which means your colour won’t last as long as you’d like, and may lead to the need to colour the hair more often. Plus, sulphates causes frizziness. They create a negative electrical charge which leads to frizz after you’ve shampooed.
What do the pros say?
“Sulphates are included in shampoos as chemical foaming agents, i.e. assisting in cleansing. But sulphates can strip the natural oils from the scalp and hair. That can make hair dry and brittle. Using a sulphate-free shampoo, your hair’s condition improves AND it will make your hair colour last longer” – Hendrien Kruger – Inoar.
“Sulphates can strip natural oils from the scalp and hair, leaving hair dry and brittle. If your scalp is sensitive, sulphates can cause irritation like redness, dryness and itching. People with dry or frizzy hair should opt for sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner to maintain the natural oils on the scalp and hair. Using sulphates on colour-treated hair can be too strong and may strip the colour – opt for sulphate-free to ensure your colour lasts much longer.” – Shannon Matzner – Marketing Manager for Nu-Hair.
“A sulphate-free shampoo is recommended especially for natural hair because it doesn’t strip away your natural hair oils. Sulphate is like a restart button and as a natural you want to preserve all oils since our hair is prone to drying. People who do the Brazilian treatment are also recommended to use a sulphate free shampoo so it’s a win, win situation!” – Liesl Katzen – Curl Chemistry.
BeautySouthAfrica-approved sulphate-free products to try:
Authentic Beauty Concept Glow Cleanser (R380 for 300ml)
A gentle yet effective cleanser that moisturises and seals the cuticle to preserve coloured hair. It has the most gorgeous scent of date and cinnamon, milky woods, vanilla and tonka. But most importantly, it thoroughly cleanses the hair while preserving its moisture and colour.
Brazilian Sulphate-Free Shampoo (R93.95 for 250ml)
This hydrating shampoo formula leaves hair clean without stripping away its natural oils. It is gentle on the scalp and perfectly suited for chemically damaged hair as well as colour-treated hair.
Inoar Sensitine Shampoo (R560 for 400ml)
This multi-functional shampoo moisturises and decreases the discomfort of dry and sensitive scalps, and helps regulate the excessive oil production on oily scalps. Sensitine cleanses, moisturizes the cellular origin of the threads and eliminates the discomfort caused by chemical processes and external agents, for soft, shiny and healthy hair, from the first use. Shea Butter prevents hair breakage and promotes hair growth.
Nu-Hair Treatments Protein Booster Shampoo (R84.95 for 200ml)
This gentle formulation is enriched with keratin, ceramide and panthenol to strengthen weak hair, help reduce breakage and repair damaged hair. It contains refreshing peppermint oil to gently cleanse the scalp and improve hair growth. In addition to being sulphate-free, it is also paraben-free. With regular use, hair should become more resilient, shiny and smooth.
What is your favourite sulphate-free shampoo?