What’s The Buzz About Sulfate-Free Shampoo?
Have you noticed a spike in sulfate-free shampoo?
And what exactly are sulfates?
Sulfates are detergents used in shampoo and many other cleaning products. In shampoos, they are very good at what they should do, that is, foaming up and cleansing hair and the scalp by cutting through dirt and oil.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are two of the most common sulfates in shampoos.
And, naturally, the term “sulfate-free” shampoo means a shampoo free of sulfates!
Is a sulfate-free shampoo a better choice for your hair?
Well, there are different opinions about that.
Many cosmetic chemists say that sulfates like SLS and SLES in shampoos are great, they foam up and do an excellent job cleansing your hair and scalp without any downside.
On the other hand, there are some chemists who say that sulfates are too harsh chemicals for your skin.
The reason why they consider sulfates such as SLS and SLES too harsh for your skin is that they don’t only remove dirt and oil to clean your hair but also remove ALL natural oils on your scalp, which may cause skin irritation, dryness, brittle hair, flaking skin and dandruff.
Since sulfates can cause skin irritation, many chemists and hairdressers agree on, that sulfate-free shampoos are a better choice for people with sensitive skin, psoriasis, eczema or similar skin conditions.
So the next question is:
If you don’t have sensitive skin, no eczema etc, is it then safe to use shampoo with sulfates?
Or is there a more serious downside with sulfates?
I’ve done a little research on the internet and I’ve read some different research reports on PubMed.
One report says in the conclusion that sulfates should be avoided to be on the “safe” side, since they may cause health issues in the long-term, SLES may buildup in the liver, lungs and brain and so on, it may be contaminated with e.g. 1,4 Dioxane…. (see more at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458934/#ref31)
On the other hand, many chemists say sulfates are harmless in shampoos as long as the ingredient formula doesn’t exceed approved doses of sulfates and you rinse it off carefully.
I’m not a chemist and have of course not read all research there is about it… but from my own little “research” on this, it seems to me that…
…There are other ingredients lurking in shampoos that are much more to be concerned about than sulfates.
Some of these ingredients are:
- 1,4 Dioxane: some products containing SLES have traces of 1,4-dioxane, which is formed as a by-product during the ethoxylation step of its production. 1,4 Dioxande is a known carcinogen.
- DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine): DEA works as a wetting agent, alone its harmless, but when it comes into contact with other common personal care product ingredients it can become a carcinogen called NDEA or nitrosodiethanolamine.
- Parabens: often used as preservatives in shampoo and other personal care items. They are suspected to disrupt the endocrine system and some research indicate it may cause some forms of cancer (not all parabens are on the “Black list”, for more informaton about different parabens, visit: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/search.php?query=paraben.
- Formaldehyde: formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are used in many personal care products, particularly in shampoos and liquid baby soaps. These chemicals, which help prevent microbes from growing in water-based products, can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions.
- Phtalates: phthalates are a group of chemicals used in hundreds of products i.a. PVC plastic, hair sprays, aftershave lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes and other fragrance preparations.
Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting “plasticizer” chemicals, linked to early puberty in girls and other reproductive harms. Children and teens are likely to be particularly sensitive to hormone-disrupting chemicals.
So these above mentioned potential ingredients in shampoo seem much worse than sulfates to me, but even so….
…here’s the reason why I still think sulfate-free shampoo is a better choice:
Sulfates are penetration enhancers.
What does this mean?
Well, first of all when you wash your hair with warm water your pores open up, making it easier for any health damaging ingredient in your shampoo to enter your blood stream. But on top of this: penetration enhancers such as sulfites enhance the risk and make it even easier.
In case you don’t know, you should always be careful with what you put on your skin, because toxins that are absorbed through your skin bypass your liver and enter your bloodstream, tissues and glands with no protection whatsoever…
Our skin is permeable, it absorbs what’s applied to it. Some research suggest that ingredients absorbed through your skin can result in body concentrations 10x higher than oral doses.
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So considering this, a sulfate-free shampoo is probably a safer AND healthier choice.
Today, it’s no problem at all to find sulfate-free shampoos, many hair salons sell them and you can find them in most every shop.
But if you want to avoid not only sulfates, but all chemicals that may cause health issues long-term, then the best choice I would say is to not only choose a sulfate-free shampoo, but an organic shampoo, that is a shampoo made of as natural (=organic) ingredients as possible from a company you trust.
The problem with even small doses of many different chemicals is the risk of a gradually buildup of toxins in your organs, and any unpredictable harmful reaction when combined with each other.
And take e.g. phtalates, if you don’t want that in your shampoo it’s not as simple as shopping for products without phthalates listed on the ingredient label. It can be a “hidden” ingredient in fragrances, perfumes and aroma boosters.
“…It’s often difficult to know if phthalates are in a product because manufacturers aren’t required to list the specific chemicals that make up fragrances — and those fragrances can often contain phthalates, which are used to make smells last longer. To be sure, look for labels that say “no phthalates” or “phthalate-free.”
“The level of risk you want to assume and how cautious you want to be is a personal choice,” says Swan. “Some people will go out of their way to avoid every conceivable risk and some will say they aren’t going to worry about anything. Most people fall somewhere in between….”
One way to avoid potentially harmful chemicals in shampoo is to make your own!
Just Google it and you’ll find lots of DIY shampoo recipes you can test on your hair. Just test some, and then tweak them till it works for your own hair!
Here’s a problem I’ve found with sulfate-free and natural shampoos…
Have you ever tried an all-natural (organic) sulfate-free shampoo?
Then, I don’t know about your experience of it, but I’ve tried some different shampoos and brands, and one problem I’ve found with many of these “natural” shampoos is that after some hair washes, they tend to leave shampoo residue in my hair, that makes it feel unclean and look rather dull… a result I of course don’t want!
What I’ve found that usually fixes this problem is to have 2 different shampoos and alternate with them every other hair wash or so.
And here’s another “little trick” that usually works great if you have problem with shampoo residue!
When I use my all-natural shampoo, I pour some shampoo into my palm and add some Bicarbonate of Soda (about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon) to it, then wash my hair with this mix as usual. You can also dissolve the Bicarbonate in some warm water before you add it to the shampoo.
By doing this, there’s usually no shampoo residue left in my hair – and even better:
No unwanted potentially health damaging chemicals in my bloodstream either!
Another thing I’d like to mention is the packaging of shampoos and other personal care products as well.
Most of these items are packaged in plastic containers, and if these contain chemicals like BPA or phthalates, then these chemicals can get into your system from the container via your shampoo….
Therefore, I’m very happy to have found a company, that manufactures its own shampoo – and other personal care products – without potentially harmful ingredients, AND use SAFE containers for packaging.
If you’d like to know where I buy my all-natural, toxic free and sulfate-free shampoo… here it is: => Natural and Toxic Free Shampoo
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Please share with us your favorite natural shampoo and your favorite DIY shampoo recipe if you have one!
I’d also appreciate it if you Like and SHARE this post with your friends if you found value!
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PS: Do you sometimes use dry shampoo if you don’t have time to wash your hair?
Then here’s a tip for you!
Instead of using dry shampoo, which is also claimed to have some rather unhealthy ingredients, use Bicarbonate of Sodium!
Just put some Bicarbonate into your palm, approx. 1/4-1/2 of a teaspoon and sprinkle it on your hair and scalp.
It will absorb oil and moisture, so your hair looks cleaner until your next shampoo!
** Are you looking to buy a Dry Shampoo? Check out this guide from Review.com! **
PS II: If you want to AVOID potentially harmful ingredients in your shampoo and other personal care products:
Make it EASY for you – simply switch brands! Click the link below for more information:
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Healthy Beauty; by Samuel S. Epstein, MD
Not Just A Pretty Face; by Stacy Malkan