For a while there, it seemed like sulfate free shampoos were more like a fad than a mainstream hair care choice, just like cold wave lotion or organic products. Cut to today, and sulfate free shampoo is virtually a must-have for anyone with Insta-worthy color-treated hair. Now found nearly everywhere from salons to your local drugstore—making them as accessible as regular formulations—even products such as sulfate free shampoos for natural hair are no longer niche hair care items.
We enlisted the help from Unilever’s R&D expert Leon-van Gorkom to help shed light on this popular dyed hair must-have. Read on to learn the truth:
Sulfate Free Shampoo: How It Works
1. What are sulfates?
Sulfates are an ingredient commonly used in shampoos and body washes to provide extra lather. They also act as cleansing agents to remove oil, dirt and styling residue from your hair!
2. Why choose sulfate-free shampoo?
People with very sensitive skin might have negative reactions to sulfates. It can cause skin irritation and itching for some people. Those with dyed hair also use low-sulfate products to help retain their color. Nexxus New York Salon Care Assure Rebalancing Shampoo and Nexxus New York Salon Care Color Assure Rebalancing Conditioner works well to clean and nourish your hair while also protecting your color from fading.
3. What’s the buzz on low-sulfate products?
If you have sensitive skin but don’t know about specific allergies to sulfates, try a low-sulfate option. Products with a low amount of sulfate will still give you a good lather and clean without stripping your hair and scalp. Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Smoothing Shampoo and Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Smoothing Conditioner are low-sulfate options that help give you sleek, frizz-free hair.
4. On keratin hair treatments and sulfate free shampoo:
If you’re thinking about getting a keratin treatment, you might want to consider trying a sulfate-free shampoo. Since the keratin treatment washes out, the gentler you wash your hair, the longer the effects will last. Using an SLS-free shampoo can be less stripping and may help hold onto your keratin treatment for much longer. However, according to Leon-van Gorkom, “Other straightening treatments, like the Japanese rebonding treatment, don’t necessarily require the use of a sulfate free shampoo.”
He noted, “There are many definitions of keratin treatments: Some are purely cosmetic (deep conditioning), while others rely on chemicals.” He adds, “Also, just because the product is sulfate-free does not mean it is milder. We also haven’t seen any data that color retention with sulfate-free shampoos is better than their counterparts, as color loss is predominantly driven by water, which is actually what swells the hair and allows hair dye particles to leach out.”