What Is Sulphate-Free?

There are a lot of words and phrases that get thrown around the beauty industry, and lately we’re seeing the term ‘sulphate-free’ more and more frequently on our haircare bottles. But what does it actually mean? Is it really better for our hair than normal shampoo?

Let me give you the run down on sulphates, or sulfates, without the complicated jargon.

Sulphate-free means, quite obviously, that your shampoo does not contain sulphates. The most common that you’ll find in the ingredients list on the back of the bottle are sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) and ammonium lauryl sulphate (ASL).

Sulphates are what cause your shampoo to lather up. These are chemicals designed to separate oils and grime from your hair and trap them in the foam which are then washed away with water. Sulphates are very good at what they do. As a detergent, they have no trouble cutting through the oil and grease in your hair. This means that, in the process, they can also strip your hair of the oils it produces, and requires, naturally. Because of this, sulphates are developing a reputation of drying out the hair follicle, leaving it brittle and prone to breakage.

It’s because of this shift in opinion that sulphate-free shampoos have starting popping up on the market. The chances are, you’ve already heard your hairdresser recommend one.

Sulphate-free shampoos still clean your hair, but to a slightly lesser degree. Using a milder detergent, they do cut through some of the grease in your hair, just not to the same extent as shampoos which use sulphates.

There are two main noticeable differences when using sulphate-free shampoo. The first, that you’ll discover immediately, is the lack of suds. With no sulphate in the ingredient list, there is nowhere near the amount of foam created as you lather up in your hair. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve simply been trained to expect suds when we shampoo. I know I personally love a good lather as I wash my hair, so it felt quite odd when I first used sulphate-free.

What you’ll also notice when using a sulphate-free shampoo is how soft your hair feels. This is because the product itself isn’t stripping away as many natural oils. Your hair, therefore, remains more hydrated.

There have been all sorts of health risk claims about using sulphate-harbouring shampoos. Some have even linked its use to cancer. At this point in time, there is no substantial scientific evidence to show that sulphates pose any large health risk. The most they are officially responsible for are irritation to the scalp and skin, particularly to those who experience skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and other sensitivities.

It all comes down to personal preference; it’s all about your hair. If you have a lot of product in your hair, or hair that produces quite a bit of oiliness, sulphate shampoo may work better for you. If you don’t suffer from greasiness, have a sensitive scalp, or are struggling to get your locks into good condition, sulphate-free is a great option.

For me, I’ve dabbled in both but on the whole stick with a sulphate-containing shampoo. If, on the odd occasion, I feel as though my hair doesn’t need something so harsh, I pull out my sulphate-free shampoo for a gentler wash. It gets the job done while leaving my strands in better condition.

Have you switched to sulphate-free shampoo? What’s your verdict?

Rachel x


Image Credit: Hello Hair Instagram

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