HAIR: Should You Go Sulfate-Free?

Jennie JacksonBeauty, HairLeave a Comment


Would you wash a beautiful silk blouse with a cheap powder detergent? Probably not. You would be left with a faded, rough, and worn looking garment and be regretting the money you spent on it. The same goes for how you treat your color treated hair. I use high quality color on your hair and the products you use at home to maintain directly effects how you hair will look and feel.

So what exactly are Sulfates?

Sulfates (or sodium laurel) are surfactants. Surfactants are a detergent, wetting ingredient and emulsifier. It creates the suds in many beauty and household products like dish washing liquid. It’s an inexpensive foaming agent made by mixing sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, and sodium salt. Sulfates attract dirt and oils and then break them down. The problem with this ingredient in shampoos are that they are harsh and strip your scalps natural oils and has also been associated with eczema.

But what about Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate? If you look at the ingredient list on the back of many sulfate-free shampoos you will see this ingredient listed. It sounds identical to sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and at first I thought it was a big scam that companies were calling their products sulfate free when they included sodium lauryl sulfoacetate. I did some extensive research and found that sodium lauryl sulfoacetate is also used to create the suds and bubbles in shampoos but is derived from coconut and palm oil. This makes it a less harsh product to use on your hair and scalp. Below is a helpful chart on the difference between the two.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate VS. Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
Sulfate free

Another ingredient with a lot of buzz around it is Parabens.

Parabens are chemicals found in many cosmetics that are used to preserve the products and prolong their shelf life. They prevent bacteria from growing in the bottle of the product. About 85% of beauty products have them. In the late 90’s a study showed parabens in breast cancer tissue and it was further looked into. It was found that parabens mimic estrogen in the body. As a result many countries put paraben limits in products. Since they can disrupt the hormone levels in the body it is safer to avoid them.

I don’t feel it is a serious choice. The fact is brands have to use some ingredient to preserve your product with to last on your shelf for months at a time. So if not parabens it will be substituted with most commonly glycol to preserve.  I choose to use as many oil based body lotions and face creams as possible that do not use preservatives since it’s a larger area of skin contact. Most sulfate free shampoos are also paraben free,  so it’s a win win.

What brands to buy:

A few of my favorites that I love and use are Kevin Murphy, Euphora, and Oribe.

If you find yourself not able to purchase these brands I would try L’Oreal Paris Sulfate-Free line at the drugstore. It has a lot of surfactants in it but uses more oils than any other drug store product I have seen. Or check out a health food store selections like Sprouts or Wholefoods.

I hope you have found this information helpful, let me know what sulfate free products you have tried and love!

Also if you are like me and want to know what those long and foreign sounding ingredients are on the back of your product bottles I recommend picking up a copy of A Consumers Dictionary Of Cosmetic Ingredients.


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate chart


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