In the world of beauty, you barely have time to blink before the ‘next big thing’ crops up, claiming to be better than all that have come before. In the world of shampoo, the current buzzword seems to be “sulfate free“, but what exactly does that mean and does it pay to ditch the sulfates?
What is sulfate free shampoo?
Most standard shampoos contain the detergent sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) – it’s a cheap detergent, used in many other cleaning products, and also helps to create that rich, foaming lather that we’ve come to expect from our shampoo. Recently though, there have been concerns about its safety that have made people wary about buying products that contain it. SLS is an irritant and there is evidence to show that it can aggravate sensitive skin with prolonged exposure. Alongside this, there have been claims that SLS is overly harsh on hair, stripping it of essential oils, drying it out and fading hair dye prematurely.
So now you’ll find a whole host of sulfate free shampoos on the shelves, with brands fighting it out to prove that their shampoo is kinder and gentler to your hair. But ..
Is sulfate free really better?
Though it’s true that SLS is accepted as a potential irritant with prolonged exposure, there’s no evidence to suggest that its use in shampoo is harmful. There’s certainly no evidence to suggest it’s cancer causing, despite the claims you may read, and no, there are no reliable studies to show that sulfate free shampoo will keep your color treated hair looking fresher for longer.
In fact, you may find that washing with a sulfate-free shampoo leaves your hair feeling a bit heavy and dull – it is meant to be gentler on your hair, but some have found that hair just doesn’t feel … clean clean. And washing your hair without working up the bubbly froth that sodium lauryl sulfate creates may take a bit of getting used to.
That said, if you do have sensitive skin it may be worth your while checking out some sulfate free brands to see if they do make a difference. There are plenty out there to choose from, whether you’re after volumizing or clarifying shampoo, or perhaps want something formulated for curly or fine hair. As always, different hair types aren’t necessarily going to react the same way to the same product, so the best sulfate free shampoo for one person isn’t going to suit everyone. It’ll be a matter of trial and error, as always, to see what works for you.
Where to buy it
So many brands are getting in on the act, it’s not hard to get your hands on a shampoo that’s free of SLS. Everyday brands like TIGI and L’oreal have their own sulfate free ranges, though you may find yourself paying over the odds if you want a premium, organic product.
When it comes down to it, sulfate free shampoo may be hot news but it doesn’t necessarily live up to its claims. Don’t be scared into paying more to avoid the SLS, but if you think your hair needs a gentler touch or think your shampoo may be aggravating your skin, trying out a sulfate free alternative may well suit you.