There is much debate over using shampoos with or without sulfates. We’re here to answer the burning question: does sulfate-free shampoo cause hair loss and what are some of the benefits in your quest for healthy hair?
Written By Chia Kougianos
So, does sulfate-free shampoo cause hair loss?
There is no scientific evidence that sulfate-free shampoo causes hair loss. In fact, shampoos that contain sulfates are more likely to cause hair loss as they can dry out your scalp resulting in your hair thinning. Hair loss is often the result of genetics, poor health conditions, stress, or damaged hair.
What Are Sulfates?
Sulfates are an ingredient used in shampoos and several common household cleaning products today.
Essentially they are a group of chemicals that hold a cleaning property. They act as surfactants meaning they can attach to both oil and water.
This is an ideal ingredient in shampoo as it will help to attach to any dirt and oil build-up in your hair when you lather.
After applying water during a rinse, it will attach itself to the water washing away any dirt in your hair leaving your hair fresh and clean. Sulfates are the reason behind your shampoo becoming so foamy.
The most common sulfates found in shampoos include:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
- Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS)
Around 90% of our shampoos contain one of these three ingredients. Each differs in intensity, but they may cause effects on your skin and hair.
Why Are Sulfates in Shampoo?
Sulfates are often used in shampoo products due to their incredible ability to break down dirt and oils found in your hair.
They also have the ability to attach themselves to any dust and allergens resulting in your hair feeling clean, lightweight, and less oily.
Disadvantages of Sulfates
As we mentioned previously, most shampoos contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate in their makeup.
While sulfate shampoos are great at cleaning your hair and removing any oil, some people believe that it strips your hair of its natural hair oils as well. This will result in harming your scalp and may lead to irritation and hair loss.
Your scalp needs to have natural oils in order to stay hydrated and healthy. These oils act as a protective layer between your strands and harsh elements and toxins from the environment.
Sulfates are so effective in their cleaning capabilities that they may remove all traces of oil from your hair completely.
Why Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo?
Sulfates have great cleaning capabilities and effectively remove any dirt, oils, and allergens from your hair. Shampoos that contain sulfate are known to be quite foamy when you lather them onto your tresses.
However, some people believe that these foaming agents are too harsh on your hair and can lead to causing scalp irritation and damage.
Sulfate-free shampoos offer a much gentler cleansing of the hair and will do so without stripping away any of your scalp’s natural oils.
Does Sulfate-Free Shampoo Cause Hair Loss?
Does sulfate-free shampoo cause hair loss and is there a link between your shampoo and growth struggles?
No, there is no evidence to support the claim sulfate-free shampoos cause hair loss. These shampoos are gentle on your hair and help to reduce the possibility of breakage and split ends which could lead to your hair thinning.
It is more likely that shampoos containing sulfates may play a hand in irritating your scalp and your hair becoming dehydrated.
Once your strands lack moisture and become dry they are more susceptible to breakage. Dry hair that easily breaks may give the illusion of hair loss.
If you choose to use hair care products that contain sulfates, we recommend applying a conditioner to protect your strands and add additional nourishment.
People may also experience hair loss for many other reasons. One of the most common culprits is genetics which could result in pattern baldness.
Whereas another person may have an autoimmune disorder or experience high levels of stress leading to thinning hair.
Here are some of the most common causes of hair loss:
- Medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Lacking iron and folic acid in your diet
- Natural aging and getting older
- Hormonal changes in your body
- Scalp infections or scalp irritations
- Skin conditions – for example, psoriasis or even folliculitis
- Severe weight loss fluctuations
Benefits of Using Sulfate-Free Shampoo
If you are thinking about introducing a sulfate-free shampoo into your hair care routine, you could enjoy the following benefits:
Preventing Sebum Loss
Our skin and scalp have a natural layer of oil referred to as sebum. Sulfate shampoos tend to cleanse your scalp and hair rigorously and may rid your scalp of this natural oil in the cleaning process.
Preserving Your Hair Dye Color
Using sulfate-free shampoos will help to make your color last so you can enjoy a longer time in between refreshing your hair dye.
The harsh chemicals found in sulfate shampoos contribute to making your hair color fade and your highlights may turn brassy or dull.
Easy Hair Styling
Using sulfate-free shampoos enables easy styling of your hair whether you wish to make your locks curly or straight. Sulfate-free shampoos help to gently clean your hair without stripping it of its natural oils.
An Irritation-Free Scalp
Without harsh skin-irritating surfactants that are commonly found in sulfate shampoos, you can enjoy reduced itching and inflammation even for those with sensitive scalps.
Balanced Moisture Levels
Sulfate-free shampoos will not strip your hair of its natural moisture and oils which ultimately leads to a dry scalp and irritation.
Frizz is often a result of dry or damaged hair.
Your hair cuticles open which allow humid air to enter and causes your strands to swell which gives the appearance of frizz.
Using a sulfate-free shampoo will help to seal your cuticles and reduce the appearance of frizzy hair so you can enjoy smooth, luscious locks with a shine.
Less Hair Loss
Does sulfate-free shampoo cause hair loss or is that a result of sulfates? While sulfates may not be the direct cause of hair loss they could play a role in preventing new growth from forming.
Sulfates cause your hair to dry out and may become brittle. Brittle hair is more susceptible or breakage and could result in your hair thinning.
Sulfate-free shampoos help your locks retain moisture which will combat split ends and breakage, preventing any hair loss.
Cons to Using Sulfate-Free Shampoo
If you are thinking about introducing a sulfate-free shampoo into your beauty routine, you should also consider these disadvantages:
It Will Not Lather or Foam
Sulfates have the ability to lather and create foam while sulfate-free shampoo will not make any foam.
This may make it hard to know whether your hair is clean or not as it will not change texture when applied directly to your strands.
It Won’t Attach Easily to Dirt and Oil
Sulfates are known to be surfactants which means they attach themselves to both oil and water.
This is ideal for a cleaning product as it means sulfate shampoos can easily remove any dirt or oil build-up in your hair.
While a sulfate-free shampoo is gentler on your strands it may mean that it is less effective in its cleaning power.
Your Hair May Feel More Greasy
Sulfate-free shampoos are formulated with mild cleansing agents such as decyl glucoside or coco glucoside.
This makes sulfate-free shampoos gentler on your strands and cuticles and will not strip your scalp and hair of their natural oil.
Unfortunately, the downside is that the formula is weaker and is sometimes not strong enough to remove product build-up in your hair making it feel slightly greasy.
Sulfate-Free Shampoos Cost More
If you were to compare the price of a sulfate shampoo with a sulfate-free shampoo in the same brand, the sulfate-free formula has often proven to be more costly. This may be due to the fact that the ingredients in the adapted formula are more expensive.
Which Hair Type or Person Is Most Suited to Sulfate-Free Shampoos?
The great news is that most sulfate-free shampoos aren’t designed for a particular hair type and can benefit everyone.
As they offer a gentler cleansing alternative to regular sulfate shampoos, they are known to be suitable for all hair types.
People suited to using sulfate-free shampoos include:
- Those who are diagnosed with an autoimmune disease
- Women experiencing menopause
- Older adults
- People who are prone to dry skin and hair
- Those with frizzy or kinky hair
- People who color their hair often
- People who are experiencing hair thinning or balding
- Those who are at risk of having hair loss
Do Sulfate-Free Shampoos Work?
People often wonder if sulfate-free shampoos are as effective as sulfate shampoos. The answer ultimately lies with you and the type of results you wish to have with your hair.
Some people feel more comfortable with using sulfate shampoos as they feel their hair is meticulously cleaned while others value protecting their hair above cleaning it.
We recommend finding a hair cleansing routine that you feel comfortable with so you can enjoy clean, protected, and healthy tresses all year round.
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