(Closed) What's the deal with sulfate-free shampoo?

posted 5 years ago in Beauty
Post # 3
8042 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: December 2013

@LilliePad:  Truly I think the sulfate free bandwagon is a load of crap. If you bathe in large quantities of undiluted sulfates, yeah you’ll have problems. The MSDS of any substance (natural or synthetic) looks bad… but the quantity in shampoo won’t hurt you. It’s a lot of fear mongering. Same with the anti paraben bandwagon. I’d rather have good preservatives than get sick with bacteria growing in many natural products.

I think part of it is a scam to get people to buy more shampoo, actually. Think about it – sulfate free means less lather, meaning you’re tempted to use even more shampoo. I’ve tried sulfate-free shampoos and body washes and am not a fan. I wash my hair daily using John Frieda and/or Herbal Essences products typically and my hair is perfectly healthy, shiny, and grows fast. I also blow dry daily.

With that said, I know everyone has their own ideas of what may or may not be healthy for their bodies so fair enough. I’ve read enough articles on sulfates that I question the “OMG they are so bad for you” movement.

You could try WEN – I think it’s sulfate free. Aveeno has one as well.

Post # 4
3261 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

I stopped using sulfates somewhere in law school and it was a GREAT move for my hair and scalp health. For me, it made a huge difference in my scalp’s hydration levels. Previously, I had terrible dandruff and was constantly scratching and flaking; also my scalp itched so bad that I scratched it at night (even though I cover my hair when I sleep) and ripped a patch of it right out and didn’t notice it until I saw the clump of hair on my scarf the next morning. It took about 2 months for my scalp to fully get used to sulfate-free shampoos (I started out with Deva Curl No-Poo). That is, at first it didn’t “feel” clean because of the lack of sudsy lather and my scalp was still producing a lot of sebum. But after that initial transition period, my scalp really has achieved a balance and it’s been smooth sailing and I’m glad I did it. I’ve switched to Trader Joe’s Nourish because I mentally I just like to see soapy bubbles when I’m washing my hair, lol. Also, if I want something a little more luxurious (that is, it’s more moisturizing to my hair) I use Elasta QP lavish conditioning shampoo. FYI, that L’oreal Sulfate Free line is a hot mess and it includes other salts that are just as drying as SLS. I don’t have any other chemicals in my hair though. No color, no straightening system.  If you do use other chemicals, sulfate shampoo (especially only a couple times per week) may not do much additional damage. 

Post # 5
10367 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2010

SLS, SDS, etc are just really strong detergents. The idea isn’t that they are toxic, but rather that they strip away all the good stuff along with the dirt and grime, which can lead to hair breakage/less shine/dryness etc. They basically strip all the natural oils away. Some “hydrating” shampoos that have SLS or SDS try and counteract that. Some people have issues with those ingredients, others don’t. I’ve tried a few sulfate-free shampoos and either didn’t notice a difference, or my hair actually was worse.

Post # 6
657 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

I’ve always heard that sulfates are bad for color treated hair and mine is heavily color treated lol. I switched to the brand pureology, which is sulfate free and vegan, and I have noticed a difference. My hair feels better, my scalp is healthier, and my color lasts so much longer. 

Post # 7
5191 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: February 2013

@LilliePad:  sulfates are the ingredient that makes your shampoo lather. It’s also found in body washes, soaps, etc… In reference to shampoo it has more potential to fade hair dye vs. sulfate free but it won’t make your hair fall out or anything. 

Post # 8
8694 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2013

supposedly the SLS is carcingenic (sp) but is added because it is what makes the bubbles.

Post # 9
2961 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

I have been using sulfate-free shampoos for about 5 years. My hair is very fine, curly and dry. A very remarkable improvement was seen when I switched to sulfate-free.

Post # 10
2188 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2024

I stopped using SLS in shampoos & other hair products when my scalp got really dry, flaky, itchy. Now I only use SLS free products, my scalp and hair look and feel much better.

Post # 11
440 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2014

I use Cleure sulphate-free shampoo and it has done wonders for my hair. Only problem is I still have to use a clarifying shampoo every so often to stop build up.

Post # 12
1431 posts
Bumble bee

@LilliePad:  ok, I worked in a beauty supply for a long time and sold all that stuff. We ALWAYS pushed sulfate free shampoo and it’s major selling point was that it didn’t strip hair color like other detergents. The sulfates are really harsh. NOW, with that said… we also got commission on all the expensive sulfate free shampoos. 🙂 

Now that I don’t work there and don’t get my handy discounts- I sometimes use it sometimes don’t I will say that Biolage strips hair color more than ANY shampoo I’ve ever used. I would purposely use it and sell it to customers who dyed hteir hair to dark and wanted it to lighten faster. 

So after trying pretty much everything out there- my favorite sulfate free in Enjoy products. But the best cheap product I found that I like is the red color garnia shampoo and conditions. Sulfates, yes but makes your hair feel great. 

Post # 13
1431 posts
Bumble bee

Also want to add that because sulfates are what give the very good lather- with sulfate free you sometimes have to wash twice if the first time doesn’t lather well, the next time will. Lame when you are spending that much on the product.

Post # 14
1339 posts
Bumble bee

I use Alterna after my facialist suggested it. She said I had a lot of clogged skin around my hairline. It helped and I love how the product makes my hair feel. Never going back to the old stuff.

Post # 15
1161 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@LilliePad:  I use sulfate free shampoo because my hair is naturally dry and those harsh chemicals do NOT help! If your hair isn’t naturally dry and is more prone to getting oily you can probably use sulfates without a problem. I use Shea Moisture: moisture retention shampoo and it feels like silk…I love this stuff! I’ve also made my own shampoo with some castille soap, black tea, and honey. I haven’t used it yet because I gave it to Fiance and we’re LDR but he liked it a lot and keeps asking for more.

Post # 16
1150 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2014

Chalk another one up for the sulfate-free “bandwagon.” I switched in college and my hair and scalp have been MUCH happier. I’ve been using the Nature’s Gate Jojoba for a while- it’s pretty cheap (often on sale at Whole Foods) and is very gentle.


I have very frizz-prone curly/wavy hair and I realized the other day that I use shampoo, conditioner, detangler, mousse, and spray gel (and sometimes hairspray or shine spray). That is WAY too many products. So, I’m going to Sephora today to bite the bullet with Living Proof. I’ve heard nothing but gushing praise for it so we’ll see.


Regarding parabens, I’ve read enough about them (research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals) to convince me that they’re bad news bears. It seems pretty clear that they’re endocrine disruptors and I avoid them too. Maybe in hair products it’s not such a big deal but I would recommend to NEVER use a lotion/chapstick containing them. Most of what you put on your skin is absorbed and most of what you put on your lips is ingested. My go-to brand for lotion and shower gel is Alba.


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