How Sulfate-free Shampoo Restored My Scalp

About 10 years ago I came across The Curly Girl Method. Not that I really have curls of myself, but the method promised that it was also suitable for girls with wavy hair. If I followed the steps I would get a nice bunch of shiny curls.

One of the first things I had to do was to get rid of my sulfate shampoo and conditioner. I had to buy sulfate-free shampoo (and conditioner) instead. That was quite difficult. At that time, it wasn’t easy to find sulfate-free shampoos in the Dutch drugstores. So on a hair forum I found a tip to use a mild (sulfate-free) conditioner as a shampoo.

The Curly Girl Method didn’t work well for me. Despite following all the steps carefully, I didn’t get beautiful curls. In fact, it straightened my hair. The curls lasted for an hour and then my hair fell down straight. I think it was because of my Asian hair type, but at that time I didn’t know my hair was Asian.

Even though The Curly Girl Method had failed, I didn’t say goodbye to one thing: sulfate-free shampoo. I noticed that my dry scalp started to recover as soon as I stopped using sulfates.

And I also received that confirmation from the hairdresser. My hair was no longer dry, only damaged. Since then I haven’t use any shampoos with sulfates.

In this post I’ll tell you why sulfate-free shampoo is beneficial for your scalp and hair and why it isn’t suitable for every hair type. Stick with me to find out more about it.

What are sulfates?

Sulfates are cleansers that degrease your hair. They consist of salts or esters of sulfuric acid and have two parts: an oil soluble part and a water soluble part.

It works as follows. First, the oil soluble part adheres to the dirt of your hair. Then the water soluble part ensures that the dirt dissolves and will rinse away.

Sulfates also cause the shampoo to foam. That’s why sulfates are mainly found in cleansing products.

Shampoos latter because of the sulfates
Photo: Jupiterimages via Photo Images

Are sulfates harmful?

Many people ban sulfates from their shampoos because they are said to be harmful. But is that the case?

Sulfates exists in several degrees: from mild to aggressive. The more aggressive the sulfates, the more they clean and degrease your hair. Unfortunately they can also dissolve the natural oil layer of your scalp, causing your scalp to become dry and irritated. So be careful when you have a sensitive or dry scalp. Your scalp may react to aggressive sulfates.

Unfortunately, sulfates are also bad for the environment.

Which are aggressive sulfates?

So there are mild sulfates and aggressive sulfates. And as I said earlier, aggressive sulfates could irritate your scalp. But how do you know which sulfates are aggressive?

The most aggressive sulfates are: Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). These information can be found on the ingredient list of your shampoo.

View the ingredient list of your shampoo to see if it contains sulfates
Photo: Alona Shiniehina via Getty Images

Should I ban sulfates?

If you should ban sulfates depends on whether your scalp reacts on sulfates. For example, if you have a very oily scalp, you may not be bothered by aggressive sulfates. But again, if you have a dry or sensitive scalp, it’s better to ignore aggressive sulfates.

Milder sulfates can therefore be a good alternative. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Coco- sulfate (SCS) are milder sulfates. But it could also be that your scalp reacts to these mild sulfates as well. Then you could consider a sulfate-free shampoo.

I found out that my scalp is very sensitive to sulfates. My scalp gets very dry because of it and so does my hair. That’s why I banned sulfates in my shampoo. But I recommend finding out for yourself if your scalp reacts to sulfates. Then decide whether or not to ban it.

But if you are environmentally aware, then you should definitely ignore sulfates in your beauty products!

Front Photo by alexandra lammerink on Unsplash


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