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?

Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  




  1. Charlotte Ridgway
    September 9, 2015 / 7:45 am

    I never knew any of this!! Im going to be on the look out for one thats cheaper!! Thanks hun CharlotteSamantha //

  2. Pam Scalfi
    September 9, 2015 / 10:30 am

    I didnt even know about it before reading this article! Will have a look at my shampoos as I've recently dyed my hair!Pam xo/ Pam Scalfiā™„

  3. Abigail Alice
    September 9, 2015 / 11:22 am

    Thanks for educating me on sulphates! I have bleached hair so I should probably be staying away from sulphates if they strip the hair down more. I'll be buying sulphate free now <3

  4. Eimear Denise
    September 9, 2015 / 12:06 pm

    I had heard a lot of stories surrounding sulphates in shampoos but they had never been very clear, or else they had claimed crazy things. Love this post, very informative!Eimear | Beauty by Eimear

  5. Emily Knott
    September 9, 2015 / 12:51 pm

    I just can't get enough of your posts at the moment! Once again, leaving your site feeling thoroughly informed! Emily

  6. Kat Horrocks
    September 9, 2015 / 1:07 pm

    Very helpful, always interested to learn more about this kinda stuff! I'm trying to switch to sulphate free shampoos as they strip away my hair colour that I spend so much money on!! Seems silly and if it also benefits my hair then it's well worth the switch for me.Kat |

  7. Gigibird
    September 9, 2015 / 6:25 pm

    I am very sensitive to SLS and have been using a SLS free shampoo for the last few years and it has made such a difference to my scalp and skin – it's getting a lot easier finding reasonably priced SLS free shampoos – not so much shower gels but a good old bar of soap does the job fine even if it does get a bit boring sometimes.

  8. Petra Kravos
    September 9, 2015 / 9:05 pm

    I already use sulphate-free shampoos as I am aware of their downsides.Great article though! I will make sure I share it on my social media.Petra / Be Healthy Now

  9. Anonymous
    September 14, 2015 / 10:26 am

    I suffered from itchy skin for over a year to the point I ended up seeing various specialists in the hospital and was tested for everything under the sun and was on endless medication. Then one specialist said maybe it was my shampoo and shower gel if they had sulphates in – and once I'd changed those my skin completely cleared up. I was astonished that such a tiny thing could have driven me nuts for so long.

  10. FaeriBex
    September 19, 2015 / 11:27 am

    I was very disappointed to spot that Lush shampoos have SLS in them although they do state that it's a natural part of the oils they use. Still very disappointing as I'm so sensitive I was hoping they'd be the key to my woes!

  11. Missy O'Reilly
    October 10, 2015 / 12:50 am

    I lose my hair if I use sulfate shampoo. Literally, In big patches it falls out after even 1 use. But I do still use them on my body, I'm a Lush junky so I suck it up and still use their soaps. My skin would thank me if I went back to more natural, less harsh product but I'm too addicted to the fragrance.

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