Updated: Feb 1
There is so much talk about sulphates in hair products, and we are most definitely misinformed. If you are interested and don't want to sieve through countless articles trying to sell a product. This article is for you!
Why do we need them? - They remove dirt and grease from the hair and scalp and they are really really good at it!
What's the downside? - They are so good at what they do they can cause irritation to the scalp. Sulphates also strip off the natural oils on the hair (the lipid layer that protects).
Are there any health risks? - From my research, the general scientific consensus is that no, sulphates do not appear to pose any health risk outside of possible skin and eye irritation.
Is there an alternative? - Yes! There are non-sulphate options, see below.
I have heard that sulphates strip out hair colour?
This is an interesting question.........
Harsh sulphates will remove the natural lipid layer. This means the hair is unprotected and water can penetrate the hair more easily, resulting in colour loss. The more damaged the hair, the faster the colour fade when using sulphates.
Can shampoos and conditioners be sulphate free? - When hair-care companies say their products are sulphate free, they are generally talking about being free of alkyl sulphates, like SLS, this are the harsher variants of Sulphates.
Other ingredients like glucosides, isethionates and betaines are mild, non-sulfate alternatives that lather well and gently clean hair. non-sulphates or synthetically made do not behave in the same way, you will not get the lather and squeaky clean feel you are expecting from a sulphate. Should your hair feel squeaky
Should your hair feel squeaky clean? Squeaky clean = no lipid layer
Other ingredients like glucosides, isethionates and betaines are mild, non-sulfate alternatives that lather well and gently clean hair. non-sulphates or synthetically made do not behave in the same way, you will not get the lather and squeaky clean feel you are expecting from a sulphate.
It's time for you to make your mind - The facts are here and you can make the decision what is important to you and your hair. If you suffer from a sensitive scalp or scalp irritation it is definitely worth researching the ingredients that are in your products.
When a hair-care company says they’re sulfate-free, they’re generally talking about being free of sulfates, like SLS and SLES (see below) These are the harsher variants of Sulphates that strip natural oils.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) in most shampoos, it lathers really well, cleans the hair and scalp of dirt and grease but is very harsh.
ALS – Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate - a gentle cleanser and has the larger more complex molecule which is harder for outer layers of skin to absorb so is seen as much less likely to irritate sensitive skin.
SLM - Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate - is a water-soluble, coconut-derived, surfactant that also happens to be sulfate-free. This ingredient is an incredibly mild surfactant and is considered to be one of the safest on the market.