Tuesday, January 22

Shampoo Sulfates & Surfactants

Researching what it means to have naturally curly hair led me to hear a lot about sulfates being a big NO in the community. I looked at my textbook from cosmetology school to find out more about what makes sulfates so scary.
  • What Are Sulfates & Surfactants?
Water has tension which holds it together. When it rains each drop stays together before hitting the ground because of the surface tension helping it stick. Once it hits the ground the surface tension is broken and it spreads onto the ground. When you are in the shower the water falls onto your hair and is held together by this tension.

Sulfates and surfactants are added to shampoo in order to break the waters surface tension so it will become MORE of a liquid and spread easier onto your hair. The shampoo then penetrates through the product buildup and dirt on your scalp easier achieving a deeper clean. Detergents and are what makes your shampoo lather but the lather doesn't really help your hair any. When you get this lather into your eyes it stings from this chemical. Baby shampoo is usually labeled "no tear" or "tear free" formulated. They can say this because baby shampoo does not contain sulfates so nothing in the shampoo burns when it comes in contact with the eyes. It still doesn't mean shampoo is good to get in a baby's eyes!
  • But Why?
Sulfates such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate are very commonly used in 90% of commercial shampoo's and in high concentrations are used to de-grease car engines! It strips your body and hair of it's natural oils causing your hair and skin to dry out faster than it normally would. They use the chemical to get the best results possible from the product and the whole point of shampoo is to cleanse your hair.
  • Do I Need Sulfates?
NO... Technically you do not need your shampoo to lather but YES, you will want the water in your shower to penetrate and clean your hair the best it can. This is also a challenge that comes along with well water or hard water. Media has made us all believe that when a shampoo lathers it means it's working but it would with or without this added chemical. The chemical is just used to enhance the results of the product it's in. 

Sulfates are both a good and a bad thing. The pro is that your hair will be very clean but the con is that your hair will become dry over time. The trade off of never using sulfates is that your hair will need washed more often and your hair will never be as squeaky clean as it could be. But to some people this isn't the end of the world.
  • Will Sulfates Harm Me?
Sometimes... They can worsen pre-existing medical problems or burn your eyes when they come in contact with the lather of sulfates. With repetitive exposure to sulfates coming  in contact with the eyes it can cause severe damage and blindness in infants from breaking down our cells proteins. Some studies have found the chemical can lead to cancer or hair loss as well! Chemicals included in shampoo containing sulfates have been found to effect the liver and lungs as well.
  • Who Shouldn't Use Sulfates?
  1. Age- The older you get the more sensitive your thinning skin can become.  The Sulfates can dry aged skin out and take away needed oils.
  2. Eczema- Sulfates are proven to cause extreme irritation to people with eczema.
  3. Dandruff- Sulfates will worsen this and cause more flaking from drying out the scalp even more.
  4. Oily Skin- Even though sulfates remove oil from the skin the issue is when your constantly removing them your body over produces oil to replace what's been lost. It's a vicious circle of having an oily scalp --> using sulfates to get rid of oil --> your body produces more oil to replace what was stripped away so you start the cycle over again increasingly making it worsen.
  5. Dry Hair- Not only ethnic people get dry brittle hair. Sulfates will just worsen the dryness causing more harm than good. It could even lead to dandruff over time.
  6. Ethnic Hair- African American hair especially can be brittle and dry by nature. Chemicals like relaxers create overly porous hair as well. The sulfates just worsen the dryness and can cause the brittle hair to be breakage prone.
  7. Chemically Treated or Color Treated Hair- Sulfates will strip the color out of your hair slowly over time with each wash or dry out and break off chemically lightened damaged hair.
  • Irritating Sulfates:
  1. Sodium Myreth Sulfate
  2. Tea Laureth Sulfate
  3. Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate... The best cleaner, the cheapest, and the most popularly used.
  5. Ammonia Laureth Sulfate... The most irritating sulfate!
  • What Else Contains Sulfates?
  1. Toothpaste... except for Sensodyne
  2. Conditioner
  3. Shaving Cream
  4. Body Soap
  5. Bubble Bath
  6. Liquid Soap
  7. Body Gel
  8. Laundry Detergent

Beware Of  Head & Shoulders:

While going to hair school I was warned about all the bad stuff inside of head and shoulders. I decided to try it out for myself and I hated it. I think It made my scalp even dryer and more sensitive. My hair felt like straw after as I struggled to get my fingers through the tangles. Here's a breakdown of some of the ingredients listed on the back. I found that it was filled with multiple sulfates, silicone's, and alcohol!
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate- It's the 3rd most irritating sulfate and is the second ingredient. It can cause skin and eye irritation.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate- 3rd ingredient and the second most irritating sulfate. Has been used in medication as a laxative in enemas. It can irritate the face, eyes, and skin and worsen pre-existing skin issues. When used in toothpaste it can cause the recurrence of canker sores.
  • Dimethicone- 4th ingredient and is a commonly used oil based silicone. This silicone is also used in contact lenses, medical devices (breast implants), caulking, lubricating oils, Rain-X, and heat-resistant tiles. This chemical coats your hair creating a barrier that moisture and hair products cant get past.
  • Cocamide MEA- Also a surfactant or detergent and foaming agent made of fatty acids
  • Zinc Carbonate- A feed additive or medication added that can have harmful effects when inhaled. It can cause coughing or wheezing. It can also irritate the eyes and skin as well as cause liver issues in high exposure incidents.
  • Sodium Xylenesulfonate (Sodium Xylene Sulfonate)- A sulfate that is used as a thickening agent. It can also irritate the eyes, skin, lungs, and liver. It's the 8th ingredient.
  • Cetyl Alcohol- A softening oily alcohol that is used in shampoo as a lubricant and thickening agent. This ingredient gives the product moisture helping your hair to feel soft and smooth. But it still works as an oily type of sulfate breaking waters surface tension. It's used to lubricate industrial machine parts like nuts and bolts also. If overused it can make the hair feel oily.
  • Magnesium Sulfate- A drying agent also known as Epsom Salt. This can also be used as a laxative.
  • Sodium Chloride- Also known as table salt.
  • Sodium Benzoate- A salt used to preserve the ingredients in the shampoo.
  • Benzyl Alcohol- An aromatic preserving alcohol. It's commonly used in head lice shampoo. It irritates the eyes, skin, and lungs. 
  • Are Their Any Sulfate Free Shampoo's?

You can get sulfate free shampoo and conditioners at Sally Beauty Supply stores, Wal-mart, CVS, Wal-greens, Target, and Publix. 

~There will be a ton of links below for all of the products. 
Just Click the product name and it will take you to the website.~
Popular Brands:
Natural Hair:
& SO MANY MORE... With all of these options why would you ever need to use sulfates in your hair?

  • Even though many products say that they are sulfate free on the packaging doesn't mean that its true. Always check the ingredient label on the back of the bottle before purchasing it to make sure. Some products turn out to be low in sulfates instead.
  • Try to shop at a more popular stores and ask about their return policy. That way you aren't wasting money on products you use once and hate. 
  • Check YouTube for reviews on specific items to see what others have to say before going shopping. 
  • Be on the look out for sales and coupons floating around. Some websites like Miss Jessie's may even send you free samples to try!
Curly Pudding, Pillow Soft Curls, Super Sweetback Treatment, Curly Meringue, and Creme De La Creme Conditioner

~"I've had enough, this is my prayer, that I'll die living just as free as my hair."~


  1. This is a very nice blog and that you shared Comparison with hair shampoo, these are very beneficial for choose best hair shampoo. gl/EhBeuh

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