We rarely correlate hair loss with our daily hair care products. Rather, we tend to attribute hair loss to our genetics or health conditions. Yet, for many who wonder what is causing their hair loss, the answer may actually lie in your shampooing products.
Recently, there has been much debate over using shampoos with and without sulfates, especially in the context of hair loss. We’re here to set the record straight on your burning question: does sulfate free shampoo cause hair loss?
What Are Sulfates?
Sulfates are molecules that pull dirt and oil away from your hair and scalp. Sulfates are a type of surfactant, which is used in cleaning products to lower the surface tension in water. When sulfates are not present, it is harder for soaps to mix with water and clean oils. Sulfates are in soaps, detergents, lubricants, herbicides, adhesives, and fabric softeners.
Sulfate compounds serve a variety of purposes. However, the most common in soaps, cosmetics, and shampoos are sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS). These compounds are abundant in the cosmetic and personal care industry because they are inexpensive to make and highly effective at foaming upon use.
Why Are Sulfates in Shampoo?
Just like in cleaning products, sulfates are commonly used in shampoo products to break down oils in your hair. When mixed with water, sulfates not only help rid your hair of oil but also remove particles from the environment, including dust and allergens. When you use a shampoo with sulfates, it foams and makes your hair feel exceptionally clean. Generally, people tend to prefer to have a shampoo that lathers and foams because it makes it feel like your hair is cleaner and less oily.
What Sulfate Shampoo Does to Your Hair
Sulfates were widely used in hair care products until the beginning of the 20th century, when scientific evidence started to question whether or not sulfates were causing dry, brittle, and frizzy hair. Indeed, a pretty significant debate has been occurring since hair care professionals began to question sulfates. Are they good for your hair, or are they not so good?
Benefits of sulfates
There is no doubt that sulfates do a great job of cleansing your hair of oils. And, most people love the powerful foaming agents that provide that feeling of lathering their hair with soapy bubbles, knowing every strand is getting clean. However, sulfates sometimes work too well when it comes to cleaning your hair. It is important to note that not all sulfates are created equal, meaning that some are harsher than others.
Disadvantages of sulfates
Sulfates strip your hair of oil, leaving it squeaky clean. The problem is, our hair and scalp need some oil in order to stay healthy and hydrated. Oil is also a protectant, so it can render your hair indefensible against harsh agents and toxins when we remove all of our oils with shampooing.
Sulfates do such a great job of cleaning that they also can strip proteins from your hair, resulting in a weakening of your outer cuticle. When this happens, it can cause gaps to appear in your hair shafts, making them brittle, lackluster, and limp.
When sulfates contact your scalp (which is where we generally focus our scrubbing), it can break down the top layer of our skin and cause dryness and inflammation. Thus, people who use shampoos with sulfates can struggle with scalp irritation and may even experience hair loss.
Because people have concerns about using sulfates on their hair and skin, sulfate-free cosmetics and hair care products are all over the market. Today, you can find numerous hair care products that are free of sulfates. However, these are often accompanied by a higher price tag because the cleansing agents in these shampoos are more costly than sulfates.
Does Sulfate-Free Shampoo Work?
People often wonder if sulfate-free shampoos are as effective as shampoos with sulfates. And the answer depends on your hair type. Many people prefer to stick with sulfate shampoos because they feel their hair gets cleaner, and they don’t have to work as hard to create a lather. Indeed, some people are perfectly fine sticking with sulfate shampoos and do not have any side effects or unfavorable results.
There are many people, however, who do better with a sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfate-free shampoos do clean your head and scalp, although it may take more effort to massage the shampoo into your scalp. Despite the extra work, sulfate-free shampoos can help:
- Reduce itching, irritation, and inflammation
- Preserve your hair color because sulfates can strip away any dyes
- Decrease frizzing
- Maintain a healthy balance of your natural oils
Shop Sulfate-Free Shampoos And Conditioners For Hair Loss
Can You Have Hair Loss When Using Sulfate-free Shampoos?
The causes of hair loss are tricky to nail down. For one person, it may be the result of their genetics, whereas another person may have an autoimmune disorder or other condition. Yet, we also must accept that hair loss is not necessarily a result of a physiological process, it may also be due to our environment and the products we use on a regular basis.
Sulfate-free shampoos generally do not cause hair loss. Rather, shampoos that contain sulfates are more likely to cause thinning because they can irritate and inflame the scalp, and they break down your existing hair shafts. While many people can get away with using sulfate-based shampoos without hair loss, there are certain people who should opt for sulfate-free hair products, including:
- People with autoimmune disease
- Women in menopause and beyond
- Older adults
- People with dry skin and hair
- Those who have frizzy or kinky hair
- People who color their hair
- Anyone suffering from, or at risk for, hair loss
If you choose to use hair care products with sulfates, you need to ensure you are also using a conditioner to rehydrate and protect your strands after washing. Additionally, it is best not to wash your hair every day if you use a sulfate shampoo unless your hair is exceptionally oily.
Where Can I Buy Sulfate-Free Shampoos?
Generally, there is no harm in using a sulfate-free shampoo, so it is a great cleansing option for most people. However, if you do have oily hair, you may be better off using a shampoo with milder sulfates (like ALS).
You can find sulfate shampoos almost anywhere, but they are especially abundant online. If you have hair loss or are worried about preventing hair loss, you will want a shampooing product that is not only sulfate-free, but also helps to nourish your hair and stimulate hair growth. To find a superior, professional-grade, dermatologist-approved hair regrowth shampoo that is sulfate-free, shop the Revita shampoo and conditioner line through DS Laboratories.