Sunday, January 14, 2018

The TRUTH about Sulfates

Sulfates can be very confusing. We constantly here that sulfates are bad for your hair, and to opt for sulfate free shampoos and haircare. But on the flip-side some people have fine hair and don't want to use heavy products that weigh their hair down. You also don't want to use products that cause a lot of buildup and don't cleanse your hair well. So what's a person to do? Sulfates? Sulfate Free? It seems like all hair care products have some form of sulfate ingredient even when they say they don't. Who do you trust? And why are some sulfates bad, but others are okay? I hope to answer all of these questions today.

I am going to try to give you some clarity on this topic today. Sulfates are in of themselves fine. They are what we call a surfactant (which is a product that creates lather and separates dirt/oil from solid surfaces). However like everything else there are some high quality, gentle sulfates that don't strip your hair or skin, and some that are very cheap and harsh and drying.

So which sulfates are bad and why? This is a short list of sulfates I won't ever use. They are hash and drying and they harm the scalp and hair. Most of these sulfates derive from palm oil which is a cheap resource that has a lot of controversy surrounding it. You can read more about the controversy of palm oil here. Regardless they are all made from cheap ingredients and are harsh on your scalp and skin.

  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate

This is the reason you won't see me review a lot of inexpensive shampoos and conditioners. Some of the ones I have been asked to review include the Lush Godiva Bar (which has Sodium Lauryl Sulfate listed as it's FIRST ingredient), Pantene Pro-V (which lists Sodium Laureth Sulfate as it's second ingredient) and the Garnier Wholeblends (which listed Sodium Laureth Sulfate as it's third ingredient AND Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as it's fifth ingredient). Most shampoos have some form of sulfate in them, and they are typically within the first 5 ingredients (usually the first 3 even). But I am not going to spend my money on something that will strip my hair and dry it out.

"but Angela, I have been using Pantene for years and my hair doesn't feel dry after I get out of the shower" 

So here is the reason why - Conditioner. What cheap brands do is they have harsh surfactants in their shampoos and then you use conditioner. The conditioner usually has a lot of wax and silicone in it which creates a nice little coating on your hair that makes it look shiny and feel soft. But underneath that shiny wax coating is dry damaged hair. However this coating doesn't buildup over time usually because the shampoo is harsh enough to cut through that coating. Some conditioners don't have that wax in it, but they instead have a lot of oil. Usually these oils are a selling feature. Now don't get me wrong, I love me some hair oil. But after dousing your hair in oil it's going to feel shiny and soft, even if it's damaged underneath the oil. As the oil absorbs fully throughout the day your hair will feel more and more dry and frizzy. The only combination that works is a good quality shampoo with gentle surfactants and a wax free conditioner that won't coat the hair, but instead smooth and hydrate.

So now onto part two, good sulfates. These sulfates are higher end.
  • Sodium Cocyl Isethionate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
  • Sodium Socoyl (or lauryl/lauroyl) Sarcosinate
  • Ethyl PEG-15 Cocamine Sulfate
  • Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
  • Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate
  • Methyl Cocoyl or Lauryl Taurate 
  • Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate
These sulfates are usually derived from natural plants that are known for being hydrating and nourishing such as coconuts. Others are completely man made (which costs more), and are manufactured to be gentle while effective. 

This list may explain why some things are labeled as "sulfate free" but words like "sulfoacetate" and "sulfate" still make an appearance on the ingredients list. A lot of those products are really referring to Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (which are the two most common). Now just because a brand is considered "high end" or "professional". Doesn't mean it is free of these harsh ingredients. Make sure you read your labels. A lot of brands used to use higher quality ingredients and once they established themselves switched to a cheaper option. 

"So which brands can I trust then?"

I have a lot of brands that after writing this I am no longer recommending. Some of these brands I figured out as much as how long ago they made the switch, while others I can only see that they currently cut corners with harsh sulfates. However there are some brands that are more forthcoming with their ingredients, and do use higher quality ones. Some of them include:

  • Framesi
  • Joico
  • Sexy Hair
  • AG
  • Living Proof
  • Phyto
  • Alterna
This is of course not a complete list, however I feel that these brands do all have high quality products and ingredients. Some lines are iffy. For example Redken has cheap sulfates in most of their shampoos. I still love their styling products, but can't in good conscious recommend all of their shampoos like I have in the past. Although their Frizz Dismiss shampoo has been cleared by me and it is still AMAZING. Matrix and unfortunately most of Biolage by Matrix are using cheap ugly sulfates. Paul Mitchell is also another name brand perpetrator. But like I said before, this is not the end-all be-all list of who to trust. All of these brands have exceptions. READ YOUR LABELS.

But I have yet to find a label in the drugstore that doesn't include these cheap ingredients. Pantene, Aussie, Herbal Essance, Dove, Garnier, these all consistently include cheap fillers. I mean, read your labels, and if you find one that is better, send it me! I'd love to know! But I haven't found any exceptions at Walmart yet. 

And if you choose not to use conditioner, your labels are even more important. As you can see in this article - I think you should ALWAYS use conditioner. But if you aren't make sure you are at the very least using a high quality and gentle shampoo. 

Now there are exceptions to the rule. Medicated shampoos often use harsher sulfates. This is because opening up the cuticle of the hair and stripping away all oils helps to deliver the medicated ingredients to the scalp better. Also some volumizing shampoos use harsher sulfates because it adds volume. But good brands are sure to have light weight ultra nourishing ingredients to counteract the damage. However I still find that Big Sexy Hair and Joico's Body Luxe are better lightweight options that are still free from harsher sulfates. 

1 comment:

Thank you for reading and then commenting on my post! I appreciate your support and I hope my blog has been helpful to you! Let me know if you have any beauty related questions or products you'd like reviewed by sending me a message using the contact form on the right (which can not be seen on mobile devices).
-Angela ♥