Blamed for frizz and damage the world over, are sulfates really every hair do’s worst friend?
I’ve been doing a little research and found out that the answer is actually… it depends!
So basically, the issue with sulfates is they may make your scalp and hair too clean. They act as detergents and cause the foaming of shampoo- depending on the strength, they can strip natural oils away, along with the grime of the world and all the products you may have piled on. Those natural oils can keep dry hair and scalps from being quite so dry… Take me, for example. I have weirdly curly, very dry hair. So dry, that when I wake up in the morning, it would appear someone from Arizona had snuck into my bedroom overnight and attached a tumbleweed to the top of my head. A head like that needs to retain some of it’s natural oils! As do folks that have any kind of dry skin or scalp issues, like itching, redness, eczema or psoriasis. In these cases, yes- even less intense sulfates (those where the “laur” ends with “-eth”, rather than “-yl”) should be avoided. A lot of people are not completely comfortable with a shampoo that doesn’t lather- there are plenty out there with sulfate substitutes that still foam up- but there’s a lot to be said for a cream based shampoo, like Deva Curl’s No Poo. If you can get past the feeling of putting conditioner on your head twice, these cream shampoos give you a great clean and retain plenty of moisture in hair that wants to act like it was hay in a previous life. those who color their hair are wise to avoid sulfates as well- the harshness of the cleaners can strip your color away faster than it fades out on its own.
But what about folks who don’t color their hair, or have any dryness issues? What about people who have scalp sebaceous glands on overdrive? I think we’re so conditioned (pun intended) to protest sulfates because an advertiser (or 200) told us to. Are they getting a raw deal? One afternoon, I was socializing at a good friend’s home. As I excused myself to use the bathroom, she lept from the sofa and intercepted me.
Her: I think I left the shower curtain open a little…
Me: So what??
Her: …and I don’t want you giving me crap for the brand of shampoo I have!
Am I that bad about it?? Ok, maybe. I shoved her aside and ran for the shower only to see a bottle of extremely economy shampoo, a brand that I (along with approximately 49,000 websites and bloggers) have publicly insulted for being one of the absolute worst, chock full of the most offensive variety, sodium lauryl sulfate. I looked at her with the disappointment of a mother hearing her child has flunked preschool. “Why?!? Why would you do this after all I have shared with you!?!?” But I was forced to take pause as I actually looked at her hair… wait a minute, her hair always looks healthy and amazing… HOW IS THIS SO? After confessing that she’s been using this supposed crap for years, using the money she saves on shampoo to buy better brands of wine than I do, it hit me- some people need a little extra oil stripping! If you have excessively oily scalp, a sulfate shampoo could actually save you time- maybe you wont have to wash it everyday if you get it a little more squeaky clean?
I’ve read/heard in a number or places that shampoo application should focus on the scalp and just a rinse of the suds through the rest of the length is adequate to get the hair clean, but less concentrated suds are less harsh on the the older, possibly damaged ends. And then conditioner should focus on those ends, not on the scalp, which is supposed to be helping condition itself. Which makes perfect sense.
So there you go! Sulfates aren’t great for some, but for other people, they simply don’t live up to the evil hype. For more detailed info, check out the Self Magazine article I scavenged!
Keep having an awesome summer!