What are Sulfates?

 

We've all heard from one person or another that we should use sulfate-free shampoo because they aren't good for hair. But why exactly is it bad? A better question yet, what are sulfates?

If you're looking on the back of a shampoo bottle and see the ingredients sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLEF) or ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), then sure enough it contains sulfates.

Sulfates are all surfactants; a mixture of molecules that can attract water and oil which allows shampoo to separate dirt and oil. It's a chemical that is often found in not only shampoos, but in a variety of household cleaning items. For decades now, it's been used as an ingredient in shampoos for its foaming properties. It's cheap and effective in removing impurities from your hair. 

Now that you have an idea of what sulfates are and why they're so commonly used in shampoo, here's a few things to know on why they are bad for your hair. 

  • Sulfates have the potential to be an irritant on your hair, skin, and even eyes. Of course the severity of the reaction varies from person to person.
  • Sulfates may cause stripping of essential oils in your hair, resulting in hair feeling and looking dried out.
  • Continuous use of shampoos containing sulfates may cause long-term damages to hair, including the health and appearance of it. 

But this isn't to say that sulfates aren't safe to use because they are. They have long proven to be effective for cleaning. It is just a matter of determining what works best on your own hair.