In the past two years, there has been a huge transition in hair care product development and marketing towards sulfate free products. This is happening not only within professional product lines, but with many standard store brands as well. Why? Is it the latest fad, or marketing maneuver?
The answer is yes, and yes…but with good reason.
Look at almost any label around your house that is attached to any kind of soap, cleaning agent, shampoo, degreasers or bubble baths and you will find the ingredient Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Lauryl Ether (SLES), or a combination of both. These cleaning agents have been the most relied upon ingredients in household cleansers for decades. These agents are responsible for the pile of lovely,sudsy, foamy, wonderfully comforting bubbles and lather that we crave as confirmation that our clothes,
dishes, cars, babies and even yes, our hair- are all being cleaned thoroughly.
The problem is that bubbles and lather have nothing to do with cleansing, and everything to do with SLS and SLES, which in layman’s terms means SALT…one of the most drying, caustic things on Earth. Sodium Laurel Sulfates and Ethers are often used in clinical allergy testing as an irritant, and areused to degrade protein down into smaller parts during DNA testing. The bottom line is, salt denatures, degrades and dissolves proteins…but it sure makes pretty bubbles...
So how does this effect your hair color? Well, the pigments that you pay to have your colorist put into your lovely locks are made up of protein too, so while you are shampooing away what you think is dirt and grime, you are also washing away your beautiful hair color. If you are a daily shampooer, and are using a sulfate based shampoo, you are doing significant harm to your hair. If your hair feels like matted dog fur when you rinse your shampoo out, and the thought of no cream rinse gives you a panic attack, you should go sulfate free today…and just because it’s a professional shampoo from a salon doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the correct choice for your hair.
Always ask your hairdresser or a professional at the salon what is the best choice for you, and be honest about what treatments you have had on your hair. Sulfates also can effect scalp and skin conditions. Many people using shampoos loaded with sulfates will only aggravate their condition by using these products. Sulfates are found in almost all soaps and facial
products that are not all natural, so you may want to consider this if your skin is consistently irritated…it could be your favorite foamy friend.
Like so many things in life, experts are finding out what’s not good for us after all, and sodium sulfates are definitely not the ideal product for your hair or skin…but the kitchen floor is a great place for them.
If you or your children are not particularly sensitive, and you have virgin, untreated hair, a commonly produced shampoo or bubble bath may be just fine, but for the other half, who like to highlight, color, and otherwise process our hair, or those suffering from acne, psoriasis, eczema or itchy, flaky scalp…sulfate free products will change your hair and skin for the better, and you will notice a difference immediately.
Try Whole Foods or your favorite natural food store for natural alternatives. I am personally a big fan of Wen Haircare Products (www.wenhaircare.com) I carry an affordable, Olive-Oil based, sulfate free line, called Alto-Bella, in my studio (which actually suds quite a bit!)
*Remember- no bubbles doesn’t mean it isn’t doing it’s job. Reprogramming our expectations for mountains of lather is probably the only draw back to using these wonderful, healthier products.