In the hope of a cleaner and more ‘natural’ approach to our beauty regimes, there’s a never ending long list of ingredients we should be avoiding. Although parabens and mineral oil have long been slandered, it’s now the turn of sulphates to be on the receiving end of mild hysteria. The previously unknown ingredient has been a favourite of manufacturers for decades, but why are sulphates all of a sudden getting a bit of a bad reputation? I’ve been avoiding sulphates in my shampoos for time now – a personal choice based on the need to preserve and maintain my incredibly expensive hair extensions. However, it’s not because I’m scared of my morning lather giving me cancer or any such ludicrous statements, it’s simply because I want to look after my tresses in the best way possible… So what’s really so bad about sulphates and should we be avoiding them?
Sulphates are essentially cleansing agents that help
to create a rich lather when mixed with water, lifting away dirt and
grease to leave hair feeling clean. They’re commonly used in the
majority of budget shampoos and cleansers (including shower gels and
bubble baths) because they’re both effective and cheap, so much so that
they’re also used in washing-up liquid and laundry powder. Although they
do the job effectively, these common detergents can be incredibly
irritating for sensitive scalps. Not only do they wash away product
build-up, dirt and grease from the scalp, but they can also strip the
scalp and hair of beneficial oils and nutrients that help keep
everything lubricated. If you have sensitive skin or suffer from eczema
or psoriasis, sulphates more often than not make the situation even
worse – which is why doctors and dermatologists often recommend
sulphate-free shampoos and body products.
If your hair often feels dry, brittle and coarse or looks dull and
lifeless, it may be a result of the sulphates in your shampoo: they’re
hugely stripping on
the hair, removing not only the grease and dirt we’d like to be rid of,
but the goodness and natural oils that help to leave hair looking and
feeling healthy. As science and technology progresses, there’s really no
need for the majority of brands to keep using the cheap sulphates that
offer a temporary gain but long term pain. So many are now seeking
softer and more natural alternatives, which although often reduces the
natural lather of products we associate with a ‘good’ shampoo
experience, really has no impact on the hair itself. Although many
brands are really investing in new technology (including Liz Earle,
L’Oreal and MoroccanOil) it’s still incredibly common for even the most
expensive brands to be using sulphates in their formula to provide
consumers with a deceptive rich lather.
The ingredients you want to be looking out for are sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES). Effective alternatives include derivatives of coconut, such as sodium coco sulphate which is actually *not* the same as these ‘nasty’ sulphates, and the less irritating cocamidopropyl betaine. However, many brands are now claiming to be ‘sulphate free’ as they know consumers are wary about these potentially stripping ingredients, but they’re just replacing them with equally as nasty alternatives. It’s well worth doing your research if you’re concerned, sticking to ‘natural’ or organic brands that will only harness the power of nature in their formulas.
In my opinion, if you can pick up a sulphate-free shampoo that does the
job just as well and doesn’t cost the earth, then why would you continue
to use products that strip hair of its goodness? Although it’s
definitely the buzz phrase of the moment, sulphate-free is becoming more
widely understood and is definitely a selling point for many of us that
want to look after our barnets. If you’ve coloured, dry, curly, frizzy
or even over styled hair, then avoiding sulphates could help prevent the
situation from deteriorating further; it won’t solve the issue or
inject any additional goodness, but it will help you regain control. The
important thing is to make informed choices and pick what’s right for
you and your hair.
Have you made a pledge to be sulphate free, or are you just not fussed about all the hype?
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