Sulfate. What is it? Why is it in your shampoo and is it harmful? We answer your sulfate questions, without getting too technical. Plus, we fill you in on which sulfate-free shampoo is best for your hair type.
What is sulfate?
Sulfates are produced when mixed with sulfuric acid and a synthetic. The synthetic sulfates primarily used in shampoo are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). These sulfates are an effective emulsifier and foaming agent, aka detergent.
Interesting tid-bit: SLS was first used in engine degreaser.
Why are sulfates in shampoo?
SLS and SLES were first incorporated into shampoo way back in the 1930s. As an emulsifier and foaming agent, sulfates create the bubbly suds, giving you a sense of clean. This lathering of suds is what removes dirt from hair.
Here’s where we get a smidge technical. Sulfates are largely a surfactant, and surfactants are kind of like a magnet, and they charm the pants off water and oil, making them clingy. These charming surfactants take the clingy water and oil particles from the scalp and hair, crush ‘em up and then chuck ‘em out. Down the drain they go.
Interesting tid-bit: SLS is also used as a food additive, as a thickener. Marshmallows anyone?
What effect does sulfate have on hair?
When your hair is wet, it swells, and the hair’s cortex opens. Now remember the magnetic surfactants that charm the pants of water and oil? Well not only do they lure water and oil left on your hair and scalp from the environment, they also lure in the natural moisture and oil from your hair.
Now, think back to the first use of SLS in engine degreaser. Sulfates, while charming, can be a little too charming and strip down the hair’s natural moisture and oil causing it to become dry and frizzy.
Interesting tid-bit: It’s the sulfate in shampoo that causes your eyes to sting if you get shampoo in them.
Is sulfate harmful?
The general consensus is, sulfates are harmless. They are an irritant, which it why they can cause your eyes to sting and can cause problems to sensitive skin, however if shampoo is used as recommended and rinsed well any risks are minimal.
Some shampoos contain more or less sulfate, depending on the manufacturer. SLES is a milder sulfate in comparison to SLS, and there are sulfates that don’t disrupt the hair’s ecosystem.
If using a sulfate-free shampoo is best for you, AG Hair offer a collection of gentle formulas intended for your hair type.
Keratin Repair Refuel Shampoo – Damaged Hair
Loaded with keratin amino acids, Keratin Repair Refuel Shampoo’s sulfate-free formula gently cleanses your hair while protecting it from further damage, adding elasticity, strength, moisture and shine.
Colour Care Colour Savour Shampoo – Coloured Hair
A sulfate-free colour protection shampoo, Colour Care Colour Savour Shampoo is formulated with AG’s CARE Complex, enriched natural micronutrients and sunflower seed extract to extend the life and vibrancy of colour.
Moisture Fast Food Shampoo – Dry Hair
A lightweight sulfate-free shampoo, Moisture Fast Food Shampoo contains silk amino acids and keratin protein to provide extreme hydration to frequently dry hair.
Curl Revive Shampoo – Curly or Frizzy Hair
Developed with hydrating coconut oil, sunflower oil, moisturising pea peptides and AG’s Curl Creating Complex, Curl Revive sulfate-free shampoo cleanses hair while maintaining moisture to control frizz and invigorate curls.
Smooth Smoooth Shampoo – Coarse Hair
A sulfate-free shampoo with an abundance of coconut and argan oil, Smooth Smoooth Shampoo is mild and gentle to calm, smooth and add shine to coarse hair.
Natural Balance Shampoo – Sensitive Scalp
With the help of apple cider vinegar, Natural Balance Shampoo gently cleanses hair and scalp. It’s a sulfate-free shampoo formulated with 98% plant-based and naturally-derived ingredients.
Texture Cleansing Cream – Brittle Hair
Foam-free shampoo, Texture Cleansing Cream strengthens hair, restores moisture and enhances natural hair texture. Developed with AG’s Sea Complex it contains natural seaweed extracts to remove dirt and oil from hair without over cleansing.