Why are so many hair products advertising they are free from sulfates? Are sulfates bad for hair? Do sulfates cause hair loss? Why do sulfates have such a bad reputation? Let’s look into this “hot topic” to get some solid answers.

Sulfates are a type of chemical called surfactants, which is a substance that tends to reduce the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved. They are chemicals used as cleansing agents. Many household cleaners, detergents, and shampoos include sulfates in their ingredients.

The purpose of using sulfates in shampoo is to create the lathering effect. The two main sulfates used in shampoo are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. Sulfates help make shampoo more effective by cleansing the hair of its natural oils and helping to remove product build-up. If your hair is not cleaned effectively, damage may occur from the build-up left behind.

As with many chemicals, the harsh nature can also have a negative effect on your hair and scalp. Sulfates are known to strip away the proteins and oils that naturally occur in your hair and on your scalp, resulting in dry and brittle hair. To make matters worse, if you have a sensitive scalp, you may experience redness, dryness, and itching.

There are benefits to using sulfate-free hair products. The sulfate-free shampoo helps retain the natural oil and moisture in the hair. People will not experience as much scalp dryness, irritation, and inflammation due to the absence of harsh chemicals. People with dry, frizzy, curly and ethnic hair will benefit greatly from sulfate-free hair products. These hair types already deal with a higher level of dryness. Using a sulfate-free product will assist in retaining what little natural oils these hair types have.

Sodium Sulfate

Although not scientifically proven, there are many who believe that sulfate-free shampoos cause blocked hair follicles, due to ineffective cleaning. This may result in a higher likelihood of hair loss. We do know that scalp dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels are not impacted by sulfates. As a result, a direct link cannot be made to hair loss. As with any type of scalp irritation, if someone experiences skin irritation as a result of sulfates, it is possible to temporarily experience hair loss. Therefore, it is safe to say that it is the scalp irritation itself that can cause temporary hair loss, and sulfates are just one potential way for the scalp to become irritated.

Lisa Stewart

Contributing Editor, Lisa Marie Stewart, has 40 plus years of writing, marketing, creative development, Editor-in-Chief, and Creative Director experience. Initially studying journalism and English, and ultimately received a Business Administration and Management B.S. degree with honors.

Ms. Stewart has authored, managed and directed teams at Fortune 500 companies to create corporate policies and procedures, human resource guides, emergency preparedness manuals, technical instructions, articles, newsletters, internal company magazines, retail store transition instruction guides, change orders, year-end financial brochures, website content, social media blogs, and posts.

Additionally, Lisa hosts her own YouTube channel entitled: Living My Best Life