You may have noticed that more and more products are becoming organic, good for Mother Earth, or green, natural, and healthy, etc. One of these new trends is the removal of sulfates from shampoos. So what is sulfate, why is it in the shampoo, and does that make sulfate-free shampoo better than the shampoo with sulfate?
Sulfate is a shortened version of sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS. It is a relatively inexpensive chemical that is used in shampoos and household cleaning products. It is the ingredient that makes the bubbles which we all associate with cleaning and breaking down of dirt and oil. So when we shampoo our hair, the SLS is responsible for making the foam to let us know we are cleaning our hair of dirt, oil, and other product build-up.
So what happens when we remove the SLS? First thing you will notice is the absence of a lot of foam. You may think that the shampoo is broken, but a good sulfate-free shampoo will clean your hair better than the foamy shampoos of the past. It will take a couple shampoos to convince and rid yourself of the many years of advertising and reinforcing feedback loop that bubbles clean better so more bubbles clean more better.
If the only thing sulfate does is make the shampoo foamy, why get rid of it? During the foaming, SLS generates a high pH level environment. This, we know, opens up the cuticles allowing moisture to escape which is why shampoos that contain sulfate are known to dry your hair out. It is also known to damage colored hair and reduce the brightness of the dye making it very dull. This should also make sense to us since by opening up the cuticles, the SLS and other cleaning agents can now enter the cortex and begin removing the deposited dye.
So next time you are shopping for your next bottle of shampoo at your local beauty supply store, be sure it reads sulfate-free on the front of the bottle. (But I'd check the ingredients on the back label just to be sure!)
Have a blessed weekend!