To Sulfate or Not To Sulphate?

You have most likely heard the latest buzz over sulfate free shampoo and if you have had a keratin treatment lately, you have probably been told that this is a must have for your hair to stay healthy!.  If you haven’t, take a look on the back of your shampoo bottle and you’ll likely see ingredients likeSodium Laureth Sulfate. Perhaps you’ve heard that sulfates are bad for your hair and are now seeking the truth about sulfate free hair products.

So, lets put a few facts down here and stop the hype.

What is the role of Sulfate in Shampoo?

Try filling a glass of water to the brim, then slowly add a few more drops. You’ll notice that the water will rise above the edge but not spill over. This phenomenon is known as surface tension.

sulfate surfactant

This concept of surface tension can be applied when washing your hair. Because there are millions of water molecules covering your hair when it is being washed, this creates a strong surface tension that prevents the penetration of water through the grease in your hair.

This is where sulfates come in handy; a sulfate is a surfactant.Adding a surfactant gives shampoo the ability to break the surface tension and penetrate through the oil in your hair more effectively than using water alone.

Now try adding a drop of detergent to your full glass of water. This will break the surface tension, causing water to leak down the sides. This represents how a sulfate would work in your hair.

This means that the addition of sulfates allows for a more thorough cleansing. Sulfates can be very potent or mild depending on their chemical composition. The reason why sulfates have been used in virtually every shampoo over the last few decades is because they are ridiculously cheap to manufacture and create many foamy bubbles.

Sulfates –  Foam and Bubbles

Sulfates like Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) are used to make nice, foamy bubbles, also known as lather. Many people are misinformed and associate lather with cleanliness. In fact, the amount of lather has no relationship to the quality of the shampoo, but the psychological effects of a thick, rich, creamy bubble makes us feel that the product is better for our hair.

sulfate free hair products

But now you’ve been educated that foam and bubbles are not necessary to do the job. What’s worse is it takes forever to drain.

Which Sulfates are in Shampoos?

The following are different forms of sulfates that may be added to your shampoo. There are some kind of sulfate (surfactant) in all shampoos, there has to be to cleanse the hair properly. They well be listed under another name or guise but they will be there in one form or another. I’ve listed them in order of most to least potent.

  • Sodium Myreth Sulfate
  • Triethanolamine (TEA) Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Ammonia Laureth Sulfate

Should you use Sulfate Free Shampoo?

Firstly, I want to shut down the myth that sulfates are carcinogenic. There is no scientific evidence behind this claim.

The most common sulfate found in shampoo is Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS). It is true that a more potent type of SLS is actually used as a car engine degreaser, however these are not the same formulations that are used in shampoos. The sulfates do not remove natural oils from both your hair and body, leading to dryness, thinning, or even hair loss.

SLS  products used in modern day shampoos do not have the ability to penetrate through the skin and enhance allergic responses, damage skin cells, and cause skin roughening, leading to conditions such as contact dermatitis.

sulphate free shampoo

Sulfates are a great additive to help clean your hair. So you’re left with a dilemma. Do you want to scan the supermarket shelves for a ‘so called’ sulfate free shampoo and believe all the marketing hype, designed purely to remove the hard earned coffers from your pocket. Or buy a good quality shampoo that will leave your hair and scalp clean and fresh and do its job!

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