Both men and women have used conditioners to keep their hair healthy and shiny for decades now.
Unfortunately, when the products you use in your routine come straight off the shelves of supermarkets, drugstores, or beauty supply stores, your tresses are bound to come in contact with various chemicals.
Therefore, keeping your hair soft and shiny with the help of store-bought solutions comes at a cost. Out of all of them, sulfates are now considered to be the most potentially harmful.
Here is everything you need to know about these substances to motivate you to switch to sulfate-free conditioner and other body hygiene products.
What Are Sulfates?
Sulfates are detergents also known as surfactants, and they are the main ingredients in a wide variety of hair and body washes, as well as household cleaning products. The most commonly encountered types are Sodium Laureth ether sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate. Their main role is that of creating lather and bubbles.
This property aids in removing excess oils and unwanted dirt from the surface of the scalp or skin. Due to this, they are also considered degreasers. Their fabrication started sometime during the 1930s, and by the 1950s they had been added to most washes. Today, they are the beauty industry’s most popular detergents.
By taking the look at the ingredient list of most of the conditioners your local store stocks, you will most likely find a type of surfactant right in there. Although this type of product is not typically used for cleaning, the substance is in its composition to avoid making the formula oily or overly shiny. Therefore, it’s not just in your shampoo and shower gel.
Negative Side Effects
If you have regular beauty needs, there’s nothing wrong with using a conditioner that contains sulfates. It gives the product amazing properties, and it helps clean the hair even further. Thus, you can achieve positive results with it. The problems begin when your skin or hair requires special attention and more delicate ingredients.
Due to their chemical makeup, sulfates are irritants. Therefore, if your scalp is sensitive, applying products that contain them can lead to excessive dryness and flakiness in the area. The hair will end up looking dull and dehydrated, instead of the glossy effect you were hoping for. This is counterproductive because it defeats the entire purpose of the conditioner in the first place.
Acne may even develop along the hairline because the area is stripped bare, which leaves it unprotected in the face of bacteria. What is more, if your hair is color treated, using products that contain sulfates will lead to faster fading. If you want a lasting effect and healthy tresses, avoiding these is thus essential.
As mentioned above, going sulfate-free is beneficial when your scalp is sensitive, your hair is dry, or you’ve undergone color treatments in the past. Still, that is easier said than done in a market dominated by these detergents. What replacement ingredients should you look for in your conditioners so that you achieve the desired effect?
Keep an eye out for substitutes derived from coconut oil and fruit sugars. These include Coco-Glucoside, Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Caprylyl Capryl Glucoside, sodium methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Ammonium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Socoamphoacetate, Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, or Cocamidopropyl Betaine.
The latter is the harshest of the bunch, so you might want to steer clear of it nevertheless if your hair and scalp are sensitive and dry. However, if you have an oilier region out there and still want to enjoy the degreasing benefits surfactants would have without having to use the actual ingredient, it is a viable option.
Depending on your hair type, you will certainly find a formula that works. Due to the rise in popularity of the ‘say no to sulfates’ movement, more and more cosmetic companies come out with products that respect the desires of the general beauty-consuming audience. Thus, you are bound to find something regardless of whether your hair is kinky, curly, or straight.
One potential detriment to going sulfate-free is that other conditioners end up being a lot more expensive. Surfactants are cheaper to produce, which means that the prices per bottle are also lower. Fortunately, there are some brands that manage to offer suitable products on a budget. Search your local drugstore for some options.
Going sulfate-free with your conditioner is a beneficial choice if your hair and scalp are sensitive or dry. Furthermore, if your locks have been dyed and you want to preserve the color for as long as possible, avoiding surfactants altogether is essential. Just look for the right ingredients, and you are bound to purchase the correct product.
Kayla is a self-proclaimed skincare and haircare junkie who loves testing out new products and writing about her experiences. Her bathroom shelves are always overflowing with beauty products. You name it - it's there.