What are sulfates? Why are they so bad?

April 7, 2018


If you walk into Salon Ell for a consultation, or any salon for that matter, your stylist will probably ask you what shampoo and conditioner you’re using at home. They’re asking to determine whether or not there are harmful agents in your product; in example, sulfates.


Now everyone hears all this talk of sulfates and that they are bad. But what are they? And why are they bad? We’re here to explain.


Sulfates are aggressive detergents made of mineral salt. They were introduced to haircare products in the 1930s; they were inexpensive and easy to acquire. Sulfates are responsible for the lather that we have come to associate with clean hair. Sulfates are molecules that attract both oil and water.


That sounds pretty good right? Sulfates aggressively remove the dirt and oil from your hair. But at the same time, they aggressively remove the water, leaving your hair dryer and dryer every time you wash.


Sulfates wash away natural proteins and oils your hair creates to maintain balance. They also lift the cuticle of your hair, which is the outermost layer of a strand, leaving your hair vulnerable, causing frizz. Sulfates also cause scalp irritation.


You have to be very careful when you’re strolling down beauty isles; at times, a product will say “sulfate free” but there may be other surfactant that are only one or two molecules off from sulfate and do the same amount of damage. Look out for the word “sodium”; IE Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Cocoyl Isoethionate or Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate..to name a few.


Sulfate is also used in household cleaning products and within the manufacturing and construction industry to clean heavy machinery. Do you still feel comfortable putting it in your hair?


Come by Salon Ell in South Dartmouth and we can help you make better choices for your hair. Our Kevin Murphy and Loma lines are sulfate free, paraben free and vegan friendly.

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Select bridal photos by Angela Greenlaw Photography.