For many women transitioning to natural hair, doing research on growing their hair, or those who are just generally health conscience, you will find most places say to use a shampoo without sulfates.  The problem is that the majority of shampoos and conditioners on the market have sulfates in them.  One can spend a lot of time walking up and down the isles of the beauty supply isles looking at ingredients list trying to find one without sulfates in it.  And really, why use a sulfate free shampoo anyway?


What are sulfates?

A sulfate is a surfactant.  Well, what's that?  A surfactant is an organic compound that on one side is attracts to water and the other side attracts oils.  Why do you care about this?  Because its soap!  This is how stuff gets clean.  When you later up the side attracted to the oils and dirt latches on.  When you rinse, the dirt is washed away.  So, if sulfates are surfactants why would you want your shampoo sulfate free?  The point it to get your hair clean right?

 There are different kinds of sulfates used in shampoo:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Myreth Sulfate
  • TEA Laureth Sulfate 

These are a few examples.  Obviously they are not all used at once.  The first 2 in the list get the biggest bad rap for being dangerous to your hair and skin.  Science tells us that these chemicals are dangerous and highly irritating chemicals.  


Dangerous chemical?

If you search several websites they will tout several adverse affects from cancer to blindness.    The problem I have with this claim is this: if you look up the material safety data sheet for sand, it is also an irritant that should be handled with a lab coat, goggles, and gloves.  Have fun with that the next time you decide to go to the beach!  When people site scientific material they fail to mention the conditions in which the materials are tested.  If you buy a concentrated form of any of these, they are very dangerous.  That amount is not the same put into your shampoo.  When you receive other cleaning materials in their concentrated form, it says to dilute them so they are safe for your use.  Isn't that the point?  So consider this before you go throwing away all of your shampoo because they say it has the same ingredients as a degreaser.  Palmolive is a degreaser too, but you wouldn't use that to wash the oil off your garage floor.  At the same time, you have no problem washing the dishes you eat off with it either.  The concentration or amount is important.  This is not a good enough reason to use a sulfate free shampoo.


Careless manufacturer or marketing ploy?

They will also claim that these ingredients are extremely cheap to come by and shampoo manufactures use them to cut costs.  It is true that these in particular sulfates are cheap to come by.  So are manufactures cutting costs?  Maybe.  But think about this.  If you have already taken the time to search for your sulfate free shampoo, you will find that they are significantly more expensive that regular shampoo.  Even in the TRESemme line, their Naturals shampoo is definitely smaller and more expensive than their dozens of other shampoos and conditioners.  There is so much hype about sulfate free shampoo that is an entire marketing scheme now!  So, evil corporate world cutting costs at the expense of its consumer a reason why use sulfate free shampoo?  I say no.


So, Why Use Sulfate Free shampoo?

Believe it or not, I am not against the use of sulfate free shampoos.  Just understand why you are using them.  

If you are an individual who has sensitive skin or a skin conditions such as eczema, you may want to consider using a sulfate free shampoo.  If you see a change in your condition take note of you conditioners, body washes, even toothpaste.  All these can have one of these sulfates in it.

If you are going natural or looking for ways to grow your natural hair long the single most important thing is to pay attention to your hair!  You will find many who sing the praises of  using a sulfate free shampoo.  There are others who say that using a sulfate free shampoos are very drying and stripping of their hair.  As a natural myself, I don't use shampoo at all.  I use a method called co-washing where I wash my hair with conditioner.  My hair responds better to this method.  It's all a matter of what your hair needs.


So now what?

Are sulfates something you should watch out for in your shampoo?  Yes!  Not because people have villainized their existence, but because you know and understand what they are.  You understand an know what your hair care needs are.  You see what it is that you put on your body.  You can tell if it is helpful or harmful.  So why use sulfate free shampoo, because you are a knowledgeable consumer.