Are Sulfates As Bad For Hair As We Thought?

 By Hollis

We curly girls have been taught to avoid sulfates like an annoying ex. Why? Both personal experience and advice from naturals in the know tell us that shampoos containing sulfates are drying to natural hair, which makes it even harder to maintain the health and moisture balance we all want for our tresses. After all, some of the sulfates and detergents in conventional shampoos are so harsh they’re also used in engine degreasers and carpet cleaners! So what’s up with all the people now telling us that sulfates aren’t as bad as we thought?



Naturalistas have become so savvy when it comes to choosing products for our hair. If we catch a glimpse of commonly known sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate  (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) listed on a label, most of us discard the product without a second thought. But is that necessary?

According to the beauty experts at Teen vogue, not all products with sulfates listed as an ingredient are damaging to our hair. In fact, hair health isn’t really about avoiding the “S’ word on product labels, it’s about what chemicals surround the “S” word in the ingredient list.


Pantene senior scientist, Rolanda Johnson Wilkerson, explains the key is to look for a combination of sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. ”When they’re both used in a shampoo formulation, they are very suitable and safe for mild and gentle cleansing,” Why? “Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are both surfactants, which act on the hair surface to remove dirt, sebum, and other product residues, and they also have properties that enable lather,” Beauty brands are now very careful to use sulfates in a way that’s gentle yet effective—so no more need to steer completely clear!

The takeaway? If you’re looking for a bubbly lather and that squeaky clean feeling, sulfates are your friend! If you still want to avoid them completely (and that’s totally fine too!), just remember that those guys probably won’t foam up, so they’ll produce a more hydrating, creamy wash that’s great for curly or super thick hair. You really can’t go wrong.

Hmmm. I doubt this advice will change much about my haircare routine or my choice of shampoos. Even if sulfates aren’t as horrible as we thought, my hair doesn’t respond well to  their use. So I won’t be working them back into regular rotation any time soon. However, for people who love a good squeaky clean, it’s good to know you can use conventional shampoos without the worry of damaging your hair!

Will you be more willing to use shampoos and cleansers with sulfates now?




source: Teen Vogue 
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