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What Is Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

Plastic bottles of shampoo.
Many women prefer sulfate-free shampoo.
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  • Written By: J. Leach
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2014
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A sulfate-free shampoo is a shampoo that does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS is also known as sodium laurilsulfate or sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS or NaDS0). It is a popular chemical in commercial hygiene and cleaning products. The chemical is particularly useful in applications where the removal of oily residues is needed. While the sulfates used in hygiene products have not been shown to be carcinogenic, the chemicals can irritate the scalp, excessively strip essential oils, and cause hair to be dry.

People with sensitive skin, or who are allergic to sulfates, may wish to avoid these chemicals. A sulfate-free shampoo would be much gentler on the scalp, and not cause an allergic reaction — unless, of course, the user is not allergic to any other ingredients. Many users report that their hair is much softer and less dry when using a sulfate-free shampoo.

When first using a sulfate-free shampoo, most people often feel as if their hair is not getting clean because sulfates are responsible for creating that thick, rich lather that many people desire when shampooing. This can take some getting used to because the hair will not feel as dried out, and some users may associate that stripped feeling with being clean. The hair will be clean, but will be softer and silkier.

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Ingredients that are desirous in a sulfate-free shampoo are glucosides and gylcerine. Glucosides are derived from plants like sugar cane. Glycerine, also an organic compound, is a byproduct of animal and vegetable oils and is a colorless, thick liquid. Baby shampoos uses deyl glucoside because it is very mild. Coco glucoside, an additive derived from fruit sugar and coconut oil, is also a popular glucoside additive used in many skin care products.

SLS is a powerful surfactant. The term surfactant is actually a shortened form of surface active agent — a chemical agent that lowers the surface tension of liquids, to allow them to be spread more efficiently. It basically stabilizes a mix of oil and water through surface tension stabilization.

Shampoos that contain sulfates, and even those that do not, are surrounded by controversy. There are reports that claim sulfates are dangerous. There are also claims that sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners merely replace the missing sulfates with extra ingredients and other potentially dangerous chemicals. The onus is on the consumer to check the labels of any sulfate-free products, and look for natural ingredients.

Sulfate-free beauty products are generally more expensive, and are becoming more readily available. Beauty and bath products that are green — products that do not contain any unnatural chemicals that may be harmful to the environment — have become very popular. Sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners are in greater demand because of environmental concerns, as well as for health reasons.

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anon126848
Post 4

I use Squeeze Me Clean cleanser, the whole line is paraben and sulfate free. I order it online.

naturesgurl3
Post 3

I've been using sodium lauryl sulfate free shampoo for several years now, and I'd never consider going back.

Besides being better for the environment, the sulfate free shampoo and conditioner I use seem to work so much better than my old ones.

I really feel that it cleans my hair more naturally, and doesn't strip it out like a lot of sulfate-based shampoos do.

Besides, it's not like sulfate free shampoos are all that more expensive than the regular brand shampoos.

And you can even make a sulfate free shampoo at home -- I've never done it, but I know there are tons of recipes online.

I would definitely recommend going sulfate free to anyone who is even marginally interested -- you won't be disappointed.

closerfan12
Post 2

What is a really good organic sulfate free shampoo?

I recently read about the side effects of SLS, and now I really want to start using sulfate free hair shampoo.

Does anyone reading this have a favorite brand, or know of the best way to choose a new SLS free shampoo?

TunaLine
Post 1

I had heard of sodium laureth sulfate free shampoo, but I have never tried one. I thought that sodium laureth (or lauryl or laurel) sulfate was what made the shampoo frothy.

How can a sodium laurel sulfate free shampoo still get the same kind of lathering power as a regular shampoo?

And is sodium laurel sulfate really that bad that we need to buy sulfate free shampoo? Those brands are often very expensive, and I'd like to think that they work the same as normal, chemically ones.

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