When we pick shampoos, we tend to look for ones that target our hair concerns, like frizz, greasy roots or something to keep our balayage hair color from fading. Then we often choose the winning formula from the contenders based on how good it smells. We tend not to scan the labels of our shampoos, but we should. Harmful chemicals, like sulfates, are often hiding in that long list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients.
Unsure what sulfates are? Sulfates are a type of detergent that helps get hair squeaky clean and are often used as foaming agents in shampoos. They’re usually listed as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Sulfates can be harsh and sometimes even contribute to hair problems.
Ivan Rodriquez, BioSilk hairstyling ambassador, says that sulfates can damage hair because they’re strong enough to eliminate fatty acids and essential oils that strands need. Sulfates can also dehydrate hair, causing the cuticle to thin or even break. Curly- and wavy-haired people need to be especially careful because the breakage can also impact the density of hair. Those with pretty blorange or ombre hair colors should also be wary of shampoos with sulfates because they can fade hair color. What’s more, they can cause irritation to the scalp.
A sulfate-free shampoo is a gentler alternative. It still cleanses hair but uses ingredients that don’t strip strands of their essential oils or cause breakage. It’s also kinder to colored hair. Click through the gallery above to see the best sulfate-free shampoos for shinier, healthier hair.