Haircare 1×1: Bad Sulfate in hair shampoo?

Shampoo without sulfate? Everyone who starts a healthy hair journey will probably stumble upon sulfates sooner or later. They are said to be quite aggressive and damaging to your hair. But is sulfate-free shampoo really better? This article will be about my experiences with sulfate and how they affected my hair. I’m also going to answer some of the most important questions: What are sulfates (SLS, SLeS, ALS)? How bad are they? What do they do to your hair? And which shampoos are sulfate-free?

What are sulfates?
And why are they used in shampoos?

2 year ago, when I started my healthy hair journey, i heard of sulfate for the first time in my life. Before that I never really thought about the ingredients of my beauty-products. It may sound naive, but i really believed every word on my shampoo-bottle. Nowadays i now that all those beautiful phrases are basically marketing and not necessarily the truth. My was really damaged, so when I found out, that there is sulfate in my “mild” shampoo, i got curious and took a closer look at this ingredient:

Sulfates are wash-active substances, also known as surfactants. A surfactant is a mixture of molecules that can attract both water and oil. This chemical property allows shampoos or body washes to separate dirt and oil from your skin or hair. So basically sulfate cleans your hair and scalp from unwanted oils. The most commonly sulfates used in shampoos and hairproducts are: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. In the industry, these compounds are known by the acronyms SLS, SLES and ALS.

But a good cleaning effect is not the only reason why sulfate is used in shampoo. Shampoo and hair care is a billion dollar business and naturally businesses want to keep their costs low. Sulfates are very inexpensive to manufacture and therefore very convenient. In addition to that sulfates are very good in producing foam. Most people prefer a shampoo, that produces a lot of foam.

So far so good, but why are people talking about sulfate-free shampoo?

Is Sulfate harmful or unhealthy?

Good question, that’s hard to answer!

As far as i know sulfates are said to be safe. But just because they are safe, does not mean that there are no downsides to sulfate. First of all they are quite irritating to the skin and hair. Lots of people even suffer from flaking, when using a product with SLS, SLeS or ALeS. In addition to being an irritant, another downside of sulfate is, that it can dry out your hair. Shampoo without sulfate can be milder, because it doesn’t strip the natural oils out of your skin as much. So basically, the key attribute that makes sulfates good at removing dirt, also makes them good at stripping away protective oils. Of course every hair is different and therefore will react in a different way to chemical-formulas. Some hair types may suffer, others don’t.

Are there alternatives to sulfate (SLS, ALeS, SLeS)?

Yes! There are alternatives! If you want to skip sulfate, you can either look for a sulfate-free formula, try a hair-soap or even go no-poo (only using water). Find out if your shampoo contains sulfate, by having a look at the backside of your shampoo bottle.

And remember: Just because it says “without silicone” or “gentle” does not mean, that there are no aggressive surfactants in your shampoo.

Sulfate-free products will replace SLS, SLeS and ALeS with something less aggressive. For example Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Lauryl Glucoside, Coco Glucoside, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate or Disodium Lauroamphodiacetate.

Should you use sulfate-free shampoo?

If you want to change up your hair-routine, i would definitely recommend trying a shampoo without sulfate. It can change your hair-structure and help you healing your hair from damage. But even more important is the fact, that trying new healthy things, might change the way you see beauty-products in general! Paying attention to the ingredients of your beauty-products is a very useful and great thing to do.

Keeping a healthy beauty- and hair-routine.


If you want to keep your beauty-routine as natural as possible, you have to take a look at the ingredients of your products and decide for yourself, which ingredients you find helpful and which not.

I personally change up my hair routine a lot, but i want to keep it as chemical-free as possible. That’s why always pay attention at the ingredients. I usually find good quality in natural cosmetics and most of the time I use shampoo without sulfate. It leaves my hair strong and healthy – not squeaky clean, but luscious and voluminous. Sometimes, when I feel like I need a stronger shampoo (for example right after a oily hair mask) I use a natural shampoo with sulfate. It really depends on the situation and my gut feeling.

Trust yourself! You always will know, what is best for you.

My Top 4: sulfate- and silicone-free Shampoos

sulfate-free & silicone-free: Weleda, Shea Moisture, Art Naturals, Khadi

Fortunately, there are already many shampoo manufacturers who completely skip aggressive surfactants. Among them are many natural cosmetic brands, but also conventional manufacturers. A little research in the internet can help a lot with finding good products. My personal shampoo favorites are: Khadi, Shea Moisture, Art Naturals and Weleda.

♡ Cocoppery