Increasingly, shampoos are marketing themselves as sulfate-free. Sulfates are common ingredients in shampoo and some of the most popular shampoos contain sodium lauryl sulfate. What is this substance and why don’t you want it in your shampoo? Here’s the lowdown on sulfates.
What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?
Sodium lauryl sulfate, commonly referred to as sulfate in shampoo commercials, is an inexpensive detergent. All shampoos contain some sort of detergent ingredient to reduce grease and dirt in the hair, which is why shampoos are so commonly irritating and often the source of allergic reactions, as well as a common cause of damaged hair. Shampoo companies have traditionally used sulfates in their products because sodium lauryl sulfate
Why Are Sulfates a Problem In Shampoo?
Sulfates are commonly used in studies as a skin irritant, so the natural conclusion is that sulfates are likely to irritate your scalp. More troubling, sulfates are likely to penetrate through the top layer of skin, raising concerns that sulfates can cause damage to the deeper layers of skin and potentially even get into the bloodstream.
Given its strong detergent properties, sodium lauryl sulfate is also likely to damage your hair, both overdrying it and resulting in split ends. Perhaps most importantly, however, sulfates have been implicated as potentially cancer causing agents and may even depress the immune system.
However, most experts agree that using sulfates in small diluted quantities, as they are used in shampoos, is safe if the sulfates are completely rinsed from the skin. If you’re worried about sulfates anyway, though, there are many alternatives.
Shampoos are increasingly eliminating sulfates, and even many inexpensive drugstore brands have stopped using sulfates. This site provides a list of sulfate-free shampoos, though the list does tend to focus on more expensive brands. If you’re looking to avoid sulfates, check the ingredient list on your shampoos and avoid “SLS”.