Hair Alert: What Does Sulfate Free Shampoo Do?

Shampooing our hair has been a common commodity in our modern age to rid out hair dirt, oil, and excess build-up that leaves us feeling squeaky clean. But not all is as it seems, lately a question has arisen about the factors of sulfate based shampoo versus sulfate-free shampoos.There is a lot of gossip that sulfate based shampoo is the new “no-no” because of its harsh chemical stripping properties, however is sulfate-free shampoo really our no-fault alternative?

What does sulfate-free shampoo really do?

hygiene productsTo give a quick run-down about sulfate shampoos to those of you who do not know. According to, sulfate is a detergent and surfactant, that is a cheap chemical added to many cleaning products such as shampoos, soaps, and other hygiene products that acts as a heavily foaming cleaning agent able to strip away dirt and grime. This is where the squeaky-clean feeling comes from after you use a foaming shampoo.

Kinds of Sulfates in Shampoos

Some common kinds of sulfate to look out for in your shampoo include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), and Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS). According to Environmental Working Group, risk factors of sulfate may include irritation to skin, eyes, or lungs as well as organ toxicity.

Some Effects of Shampoos with Sulfates

Common irritation from sulfate based shampoos can include dandruff, painful and itchy scalp, stinging eyes, and other irritations. says the average concentration of (SLS) in shampoo is anywhere from 10% to 25%. That is a huge amount of harmful chemicals to the user’s skin and hair daily.

However not all sulfate shampoos will have the same effect on users. Sulfate based shampoo gets a bad rap, but if you aren’t being affected negatively there is no need to switch. With all of that in mind, you might be wondering now if sulfate-free shampoos are the hidden redeemer of brittle, dandruff prone, sulfate abused hair. So, let’s consider this for a moment, if a shampoo without sulfate can do everything a sulfate can do but without the harsh chemical, then we should only be using those.

Pros and Cons of Using a Sulfate-free Shampoo

  • Pros

nourished and strengthened hairLet’s look at some positives about sulfate-free shampoo. Some claims made by sulfate free shampoos include the ability to cleanse impurities, nourished and strengthened hair without stripping off natural oils, and re-balance the hair’s natural moisture.
Because sulfate-free shampoos will not have the harsh stripping chemical of sulfate, the scalp and hair will be dealt with more gently. You can guarantee that if you were having itchy or painful scalp problems because of sulfate based shampoos, that you will no longer have an issue if you switch to sulfate-free gentler based products.

Another benefit is that there will be a reduction of brittle hair and a revitalization of natural moisture and oil. The stripping properties of sulfate shampoo, is like the stripping properties of a laundry or dish detergent, it takes away all the oil, dirt, and grime, and in our hair’s case, it takes away the oil that is meant to be there so we can maintain a healthy shine to our hair. If you have brittle and dry hair, or hair with dullness, try switching to a sulfate-free shampoo for a few weeks, and see if you regain some of the natural shine and softness that our bodies naturally produce.

If you thought that sulfate shampoo was harsh on regular, untreated hair, then imagine what it would do to heavily treated, dyed, premed or chemically straightened hair. Sulfate-free shampoo is safer for heavily treated hair because for one it won’t strip the hair of dyes, and it will help strengthen and nourish the hair.

  • Cons

Sulfate-free shampoo sounds amazing when you think of all the positives and advantage that it will add to your hair routine. But before you go out and buy a whole new set of shampoos, there are a few cons to sulfate-free shampoo that need to be addressed. First, sulfate-free shampoo is not going to clean the hair as thoroughly as a sulfate based shampoo does. This is actually a pro and a con, but the fact of the matter is, sulfate free shampoo will not remove impurities as well as a sulfate based product because it doesn’t have the chemical agents that attach to dirt and grime and pull it away. We might be able to point fingers all day and blame sulfate for our scalp irritation, but sulfate was just doing its job.

So, think of the amount of hairspray, gel, and other products that you might use on your hair daily. Because sulfate-free products are gentle, don’t lather, and not harshly get rid hair dirt easily, you might still have that grimy feeling in your hair. If you have a dandruff problem, that is or isn’t related to your use of sulfate based shampoos, sulfate-free shampoo probably won’t be able to help you get rid of it.

Another effect of sulfate-free shampoo is it won’t be able to wash away all the build-up of dandruff that remains in the scalp. Keep in mind, that over time if your hair begins to nourish itself and bring back natural oils by using sulfate-free shampoo, you might be in luck. In the case of dandruff caused by fungus, your sulfate-free shampoo might not be strong enough to combat it.


Final verdict, what does sulfate-free shampoo does? And is it a better choice than a sulfate based shampoo?

The answer is that it really depends on the person and their hair needs. If you need a stronger cleaner for your hair whether it is because of dandruff, chemical build-up, or just a better overall clean feeling, or you are not negatively affected by sulfate then you might be just fine sticking with your sulfate shampoo.

If you are experiencing any irritation, want a gentler shampoo, have dry, brittle, or color treated hair, then sulfate-free shampoo might be your best option.