What is Sulfate in Shampoo?

What is Sulfate in Shampoo?

If there’s one thing you should prioritize the most when determining how to optimize your hair health, it’s your hair washing routine. Washing your hair is an extremely tricky balance to strike, as you need to wash your hair well enough and frequently enough to remove dirt, sebum, and product buildup, while you also want to avoid washing your hair too frequently or harshly to prevent dryness and hair damage. Like most things in life, hair washing is a blessing when done in moderation, but can very quickly be a huge detriment to your hair when done improperly or when done excessively.

Although dialing in on your hair washing frequency is vital for avoiding over washing your hair and causing dryness, you also want to make sure you are using the proper shampoo for your hair type. Shampoos need to be designed with surfactants, which are ingredients which reduce the surface tension between dirt and your hair strand to leave your hair clean. However, these surfactants can vary in strength, with some being quite gentle and providing just enough cleaning power to clean your hair follicles and scalp, while other surfactants can be so strong that they strip the hair of its natural oils and cause dryness and breakage.

Of all the surfactants that can damage your hair, perhaps none are as dangerous as sulfates.  Plenty of shampoos advertise that they are sulfate free, and for good reason, as they can cause tremendous harm to your hair. Read below to learn more about sulfates and their dangers.

What are sulfates?
Sulfates are surfactants that are extremely effective at removing dirt and grime, due to their excellent cleansing properties and unique ionic charges. These sulfates are also excellent at lathering and creating bubbles, which is why they are commonly added to shampoos and body washes due to the perceived “cleansing power” of lathered shampoos. Some of the most common sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. These are two of the strongest surfactants in use in the cosmetic industry and produce the most lather and foam of any products.

Why are sulfates bad for your hair?
Although sulfates are excellent at cleansing the hair and scalp, they are also the most harsh in their application. Sulfates can cause extreme dryness of the hair and scalp, removing natural oils and moisture during the cleansing process. This can not only leave the hair strands stripped and dried out, but this can also cause irritation and inflammation of the scalp, leading to hair loss and a variety of other hair follicle health issues.

If you have chemically treated or colored hair, you’ll also want to avoid sulfates. Not only will these sulfates further damage the already weakened cuticle layer of chemically treated hair, but it can also remove much of the pigment of your colored hair, causing fading and premature color loss. For best results, look to avoid shampoos with sulfates and opt for many of the newer, more gentle surfactants on the market!

Back to blog