Worried About Sulfates in Your Hair Care Products?

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Worried About Sulfates in Your Hair Care Products?


Maybe a change is needed

Remember back in high school after coming home from that buzzer beater basketball game where your team beat your school’s arch rival in double overtime 85-82 and you scored the winning 3 point shot? If you remember clearly, after the game your first gut reaction was you just needed a nice hot shower to keep you feeling clean and a lot better about yourself. How about that time you wanted to smell great for that first date with the guy or girl who ended being your husband or wife? That is probably a time you decided to take a refreshing hot shower as well. In either case, like most Americans, your go to shower products were and probably still are, shampoo, conditioner and soap. After putting some soap and shampoo on your body and head you proceed to add just a touch of conditioner to your head as well. You probably never even bothered to look at the ingredients listed within your shampoo or conditioner. If you would have looked more closely, assuming these are not all-natural brands, they probably contain sulfates. Shampoo companies have been using sulfates as a main ingredient in their shampoos and conditioners for years. However, in recent years sulfates have been getting a lot of negative feedback and having sulfates in your shampoo may not be the best idea. This leads to the question, if sulfates aren’t great why are they in so many shampoos in the first place and should you be worried about sulfates in your shampoo?

Why Were Sulfates Ever Put into Shampoo

A Brief History

Across the globe for centuries people have used different forms of soaps, oils and shampoos to cleanse their hair. However, the first modern synthetic shampoo to use a sulfate base was the modern synthetic shampoo Drene Shampoo. Drene was first produced in the United States by Procter & Gamble in the 1930’s and was was discontinued in the 1970’s. Most of its successors however, continue to have sulfates as a main ingredient in their shampoos until this day. But why did sulfates catch on as a main ingredient in modern shampoos in the first place? One of the reasons given is because shampoo manufacturers loved was how the sulfates were able to reduce the surface tension of water when they come in contact with each other. Sulfates are also a surfactant that does a great job at removing the dirt and oils that are commonly found in hair.
Shampoo and conditioner companies are businesses just like any other with a major goal of making a profit stretch as far as it can. Making that profit may sometimes require cutting costs in the production process of your product. Therefore, many shampoo and conditioner manufacturers choose to make their product containing sulfates because it is less expensive in comparison to other more natural ingredients that do the same thing as sulfates and would be more expensive.

Related: Sustainable Private Label Hair Products

What Are Sulfates and What Do They Do?

We’ve touched on how sulfates came to be used in shampoos and that they may be hazardous but what exactly are sulfates and what do they do?
Sulfates are derived from the element Sodium Sulfate, a white crystalline solid. They are salts of sulfuric acid. Sulfate derivatives and peroxides are used in a variety of different industries. A variety of ionic sulfates are also highly soluble in water. Some of these water soluble sulfates include Sodium, Magnesium, Copper, and Iron. In shampoos sulfates tend to cause the foaming action usually associated with personal care and other cleaning products. These sulfates when combined with water mix with your hair’s grease, dispersing the water in your hair so it can be washed away.

We briefly mentioned before that when shampoos were first developed in the United States manufacturers considered sulfates a valuable ingredient in their shampoos because they are able to reduce the surface tension of water when they it comes in contact with it. When the sulfates do this they are acting as a surfactant or something that is able to reduce water’s surface tension, allowing shampoo to loosen grease and sebum from your hair and scalp. However, while sulfates help shampoos clean your hair in this way, it also harms hair at the same time.

chemical makeup
chemical makeup

Sulfates in general, and some more than others which we will explain in the next few paragraphs, have shown to cause a range of damaging side effects especially for hair previously treated via lamination or coloring. Specifically they have the potential to fade hair color and cause it to go brittle. Such hair can be especially damaged by sulfates because it tends to have opened follicles which absorb basically everything applied to it. This ends up causing nightmares to your hair which can include exposure of split ends, frizzy, fuzzy or tangled hair. However, not only can sulfates cause damage to your hair but your overall health as well. Some of them, especially the three more serious ones listed below, have the potential to irritate your eyes, skin, respiratory and digestive systems.

Sulfates to Avoid

There many types of sulfate out there. However, there are some specific ones which can cause an exceptional amount of damage to your hair.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Don’t let this Sulfate fool you. While it may be good at removing dirt and oil from your hair it has been reported by users of shampoos containing this sulfate to cause irritation their scalp and eyes following use. This feeling of irritation has been shown to be caused by a denaturation of skin proteins, giving environmental contaminants the ability to easily access lower, more sensitive areas of your skin. Shampoos containing this sulfate have also shown to leave users’ hair feeling uncomfortably dry, tangled, or fuzzy. Sodium Laureth Sulfate has shown to strip your hair of essential oils. This can cause your hair to feel and look more dried out. Additionally Sodium Laureth Sulfate may contain toxins which could lead to cancer.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is another sulfate you need to watch out for. In addition to watching out for it make sure to watch out for many of the other names it goes by. These names include Sodium Lauril Sulfate, Sodium Dodecycl Sulfate, Aquarex ME, Hydrogen Sulfate, Duponol ME and many more. Like Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is also a major foaming agent contained in many shampoos and is associated with variety of different damaging side effects. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate has been by dubbed by some researchers as a moderate hazard that has been correlated with cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption. If you thought that was bad Sodium Lauryl Sulfate tends to be one of the more damaging sulfates out there. This sulfate has been shown to often be contaminated by 1.4 Dioxane which is associated with a series of health risks and may cause cancer as well as other negative side effects in your kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. Additionally Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can also damage hair follicles. The damaged hair follicles could lead to significant side effects including hair loss and may impede hair growth.

A large number of researchers have concluded that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can even cause some serious damage to your immune system especially on your skin. Specifically it has the potential to separate and inflame skin layers which could separate or inflame due to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate’s protein denaturing properties. The inflammation Sodium Lauryl Sulfate causes can even lead to such conditions as coughing, wheezing, laryngitis, shortness of breath, headache, nausea and even vomiting.

Ammonium Laureth Sulfate

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is another Sulfate which can damage your hair. Although it is slightly less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate it still tends to irritate the skin especially for those whose skin is more sensitive. Like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate using shampoo with Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate can cause irritation to your eyes. Ammonium Laureth Sulfate can also cause respiratory damage.

Conclusion: Stop Using Sulfates!

So if you haven’t taken the hint at this point yet shampoos containing sulfates can be really damaging to your hair especially Sodium Lauryl, Sodium Laureth and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate which not only can cause irritation to your skin and eyes but have the potential to cause even more serious problems including precursors to cancer and respiratory problems. You may still need to take some time to process the fact that the shampoo you have been using may not be the shampoo you thought it was.
However, if at this point in the article you get that it may not be the best idea to use shampoos containing sulfates especially if the shampoo you have used in the past or are currently using shampoos containing the more seriously damaging sulfates Sodium Laureth, Sodium Lauryl, or Ammonium Laureth Sulfates. You’re probably also asking yourself okay what do I do now? I know I have to stop using shampoos that contain sulfates but what do I use? The answer my friend is simple: Natural shampoos free of sulfates.


There are no shortage of companies were you can buy natural shampoos that are sulfate free however, our Innovative Private Label Shampoos and Conditioners are the best ones out there! All of our shampoos and conditioners are not only made without any sulfates but also are manufactured in a green facility that uses the most environmentally friendly production methods. All of our hair care products come in user friendly packaging made of environmentally friendly materials. Not only are all of our products 100% sulfate free but also free of other dangerous ingredients as well. Some of these damaging ingredients, which our Innovative Private Labels shampoos and conditioners are free of, in addition to sulfates, include cocamide dea, parabens, Polyethylene Glycol, and Triethanolamine. They include tons of benifical products too, we use natural oils that give you the benefits you need without the harmful affects. Make sure you also keep an eye out for future articles which describe why, like sulfates, these ingredients are especially dangerous to have in your shampoo and why all of our Shampoos and Conditioners are 100% free of them.

check out our Innovative private label Homepage for loads more!

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