I Hate Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Switched to sulfate-free shampoo and hate it?  Yes, it is not surprising with many other haters too after suffering hair damage.

Sulfate-free shampoo bad experience

Is Sulfate-Free Shampoo Really Better For Hair? Many had poor experiences from itch, grease, breakage which is unexpected and we gathered them across the Internet:-

  • Kayla Gamel said, "I switched to all sulfate and paraben-free shampoos and all of them slowly caused my scalp to itch, burn and lose a lot of hair"
  • BurberryStreet in Reddit said, "Now my hair is frizzier, and it gets greasier faster (I used to be able to go without a wash about 4-5 days, now have to wash every 3 days or wear a hat, and I hate hats). The breakage doesn't seem to be down at all, although my hair does seem to be growing faster. The most annoying side-effect is tanginess. Even though the leave-in-conditioner is supposed to be a detangler, I develop baby dreds daily. I have to comb out my hair 3-5 times a day to keep it knot-free."
  • Dovienya added, "My hair has never been greasier or less manageable. Even straightening my hair doesn't have the effect it used to - now it starts getting pouffy and wavy after a few hours. I've been experimenting with various brands of shampoo, from expensive salon shampoos to organic and sulfate-free shampoos."

Sulfate effect on hair

Wella education expert Sophie Ruggiero said "Sulfates are detergents that are very beneficial in products within the hairdressing industry. They are active ingredients that make shampoo foam, and they really work to clean the hair's surface as well as the scalp."

2 studies conclude the effects of sulfate is mostly an irritant only in high concentration:-

  • According to a 1983 study in rats and rabbits published in the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, sulfates are considered safe in concentrations below 1 percent or when used for short periods of time.  SLS between 0.1% to 10% were tested on humans and any concentration over 2% will cause some degree of skin irritation. 
  • In another 2015 review published in Environ Health Insights, the main concern of irritation to eyes and skin can be easily addressed by proper formula development and appropriate irritation testing performed by the product manufacturers. SLS is considered a sustainable material because of its 100% biobased content, biodegradability, and low potential for bioaccumulation.

Ruggiero continued, "They tend to have a bad reputation, mainly for drying out hair and zapping color. Those with sensitive or excessively dry skin may also find that sulfates increase irritation when not rinsed off properly, and in that case, investing in a sulfate-free shampoo might be a better option. But the amount that is used in shampoo is actually very minimal. Most shampoos are packed with conditioning and caring agents which ensure the client gets the cleansing they require from shampoo, plus nourished hair."

When You Don't Need to Use a Sulfate-Free Shampoo? Based on the studies, as long as you don't get skin or hair irritation from your shampoo, there is no need to change to a sulfate-free shampoo.

SLS-free might not mean sulfate-free. Annabelle Personeni, Botanical Chemist, A’kin explains that “sulfate refers to a category of cleansers that include ingredients like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) both of which are very harsh, strong cleansers”. There are also Laureate varieties (SLES) that are slightly less harsh. These will all be listed on the bottle but Annabelle says “sometimes the product will say ‘SLS free’ referring to one of the sulfate ingredients, but it still may contain ALS which is a sulfate.”

Why does sulfate-free shampoo make my hair frizzy, dry, and unmanageable?

Natural shampoo contained lots of oils, such as tea tree oil or coconut oil, that caused buildup that is difficult to rinse (just imagine rinsing oil stains with water). Those buildups left behind caused problems such as frizzy or oily hair.

  • Kristen Shaw, a celebrity hairstylist, shared "I love natural shampoos," Shaw says. "However, they have to have the right chemistry to work." A lot of shampoos that rely on natural ingredients are loaded with oils that might leave residue behind (for example, coconut oil-based shampoos) and a buildup that is difficult to rinse out


I hate sulfate-free shampoo was a movement long ago against the misinformation and problems arising from early generation sulfate-free shampoo. 

Efforts have been made to get the information as accurate and updated as possible. If you found any incorrect information with credible source, please send it via the contact us form
Sky Hoon
Hair Lover, Idea Starter. He started HairQueenie, which is ranked #27 in the FeedSpot Top 40 Hair Care Blogs and mentions in ManeAddicts and Tempest. Hair is not everything but something. He started Hairqueenie to share great hair products. Over time, he found there are more value to share answers to hair problems that cannot be found easily.
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