Does Your Shampoo Have Sulfate? Get Rid Of It Now
Not all shampoos are the same. When shopping for a shampoo, it is best to choose one that has a label that says “sulfate-free.” Sulfates are among the worst chemicals found in commercial hair care products. Instead of nourishing the scalp and hair, sulfates strip them of their natural oils, irritating the scalp and drying the hair. Even worse, with repeated use, sulfates can cause permanent and long-term damage to the scalp and hair. Natural hair care products, such as argan oil shampoo, can be trusted to nourish and cleanse your hair without exposing you and your hair to harsh chemicals. More and more, people are finding out about sulfates and the damaging effects they cause. If you're new to learning about natural hair care, the following information about sulfates will help you to understand why it is so important to avoid their use.
What Are Sulfates?
Sulfates are chemically constructed ions that work as surfactants in cleaning agents such as detergents, shampoos, and soaps. Surfactants work on a molecular level. They prevent water beads from forming, and they break down surface tension in the water molecule. This allows the surfactant’s access to oil and dirt. The phenomenon of surface tension can be understood with this simple experiment: Place a dry sponge under running water. You’ll see that the water rests on the surface and runs off the top of the sponge. In order for the sponge to be able to absorb the water, you have to remove the surface tension by squeezing it, thereby forcing the water to be absorbed into the fibers. Surfactants, such as sulfates, reduce or eliminate that surface tension.
What Are the Different Kinds of Sulfates?
There are three different kinds of sulfates that are used in shampoos. When you see any of these ingredients, or their initials, on the label of a bottle of shampoo, this means the shampoo contains sulfates:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is one form of surfactant that also works as a detergent and emulsifier. It is a compound synthesized in a lab from either coconut or palm oil, and then reacted with other chemicals in order to produce the final product. SLS comes from coconuts, but this chemical is definitely not natural. The biggest problem with SLS is that one of the steps in the manufacturing process, called “ethoxylation,” results the contamination of SLS with dioxane, a known carcinogenic by-product. And, according to the National Institutes of Health Hazardous Substance Database (HSDB), SLS can easily cause allergic reactions to the skin. Those who suffer from eczematous dermatitis are particularly at risk of developing serious reactions from using products with SLS.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is produced in a similar way to SLS, but without the ethoxylation step in the manufacturing process. According to the National Institutes of Health Hazardous Substance Database, SLES can substantially dry out the skin and, in a similar way to SLS, is a common source of eye irritation in shampoos and other hair care products.
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
Amonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) is a high-foaming surfactant that is used primarily in shampoos. According to the National Institutes of Health Hazardous Substance Database, ALS is an eye, skin, and respiratory irritant, posing significant percutaneous toxicity when used on the skin.
What Are the Risks of Sulfates?
Not only are sulfates the number one cause of eye irritation in shampoos but, in some cases, sulfates have been known to cause irritation that can lead to the swelling of arms, hands, and face. Sulfates cause dry skin and hair. For a person who suffers from dry hair, scalp irritation or inflammation, or who has under-nourished skin, sulfates will exacerbate the problems, especially with repeated use. The dryness that sulfates cause can also lead to hair that easily tangles and cause breakage and hair loss when the tangles are subjected to combs and brushes.
Worsening dandruff and frizzy hair are other symptoms of the repeated uses of shampoos and other hair care products that contain sulfates. Sulfates strip hair of its natural oils, which can lead to a vicious cycle whereby every attempt to restore moisture to the hair by washing it ends up again stripping the hair of oil with each shampoo. Basically, shampoos with sulfates cause long-term damage to hair. The damage can be visible and can be felt. The hair may feel like straw and lack the luster of healthy hair.
And, lastly, when used in shampoo, sulfate can absorb through the scalp directly into the bloodstream where it can even cause damage to internal tissue. Why You Should Switch to Sulfate-Free Shampoo Your skin is your body’s largest organ. It has a multitude of functions to perform, and it’s very important that you take every possible step to ensure that it isn’t exposed to chemicals like sulfates, chemicals that can compromise your health.
The main concerns about SLS/SLES/ALS are the cumulative effects of long-term use. Sulfate-free shampoo is just as effective as shampoo that contains sulfates, and it won’t expose you to the hazards related to the continued use of sulfates. Switching to a sulfate-free shampoo, such as argan oil shampoo, is just a smart decision that can help protect you and your family from the irritation and hair damage linked to other shampoos.