Why use “Sulfate Free” shampoo and conditioner?

Sulfate Free. We see it highlighted on shampoo bottles like it’s a big deal, but what does this really mean? Why is it important for us to use sulfate free shampoos and conditioners?  I did a little research and here’s the short + sweet + simple answer.

Sulfate is an inexpensive chemical used by companies to provide cleaning power and bubbly lather in our shampoos (and some conditioners).

It cuts through grease and provides the bubbles that we love, so what’s the problem? The concern is that sulfates can cause skin irritations, worsen skin problems and can even be linked to hair loss! Sulfates are cheap and effective as a detergent, but our delicate scalp, hair, and hair follicles aren’t able to handle the harsh chemical- especially as we age. 🙁

Here are a few types of  sulfates you want to look out for (in order of most irritating to least).
1. Sodium Myreth Sulfate | 2. TEA Laureth Sulfate |  3. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (Probably the most common) |  4. Ammonia Laureth Sulfate

If you’re experiencing hair loss, skin breakouts, or dry skin… consider switching to a sulfate free shampoo and conditioner.

The harsh sulfates may be causing you more harm than good. Btw, this might be going overboard… but I even go as far as rinsing my hair without getting any of the rinse water onto my face! I know, I’m neurotic (at times).

If your shampoo doesn’t explicitly state that it’s “sulfate free,” it’s probably not. Next time you’re shopping for a shampoo and conditioner, consider trying one that’s sulfate free. There’s plenty of great products that don’t use sulfates and provides great cleansing power and lather at every price point! Here’s what I’ve been enjoying lately!

Drugstore Brand:

Not Your Mother’s Shampoo: (8oz: $5.99) Available at: Drugstore.com | Ulta
Made with essential vitamins, herbs and bioactive extracts, this salon formula will have your hair stronger, healthier and, in turn  longer by the time prince charming comes for you! Way to Grow is for already existing hair; it does not grow new hair. May be used for chemically treated hair. Made in USA

Not Your Mother’s Conditioner: (8oz: $5.99) Available at: Drugstore.com | Ulta
Made with essential vitamins, herbs and bioactive extracts, this salon formula will strengthen, moisturize and give your hair a silky texture by the time prince charming comes to you!

  • Smell: Strawberries! Yum. Seriously so good.
  • Shampoo: The lather is a bit watery, but my hair feels clean.  Remember, lather does not = clean!
  • Conditioner: Conditioner feels like a really thick lotion. Does a great job at detangling my permed hair and leaves it feeling soft! Great value. 🙂

Department Store Brand:

Serge Normant Meta Silk Shampoo: (8oz: $24) Available at: Barney’s New York | Sephora
Sulfate free formula cleanses away excess oil and daily debris, protects and perfects, never strips or depletes. Gentle enough for colored and chemically treated hair, including straightening processes. Enriched with Natural Rice and Camellia Oil that nourish hair to silky smoothness while adding volume, bounce and vibrancy. Keravis™*, a Vegetable Protein increases hair strength while Cedar Bark Extract, from the mountains of Morocco, clarifies hair and scalp. Leaves hair balanced and resilient, with increased shine and luster.

Serge Normant Meta Velour Conditioner: (8oz: $24) Available at: Barney’s New York | Sephora
Help hair regain its natural brilliance and vitality for long-lasting style and movement. Gentle enough for colored and chemically treated hair, this deep conditioning formula hydrates, detangles and thickens hair without adding weight. Natural Botanical Oils, Rice and Essential Fatty Acids nourish hair to silky smoothness while adding volume, bounce and vibrancy. Keravis™*, a Vegetable Protein, strengthens and protects the cuticle while Cedar Bark Extract, from the mountains of Morocco, clarifies to leave hair balanced and restored, increasing shine and luster.

  • Smell: It doesn’t smell flowery, fresh or fruity like most hair products. It’s hard for me to identify the smell, but if I had to describe how the smell makes me feel: luxurious, sophisticated and rich. 🙂
  • Shampoo: Thick lather. Hair feels super clean after washing.
  • Conditioner: The conditioner is VERY creamy but doesn’t weight down my hair. My hair literally ‘soaks up’ the conditioner when I work it into my hair. 🙂

I’ve noticed I don’t lose as much hair since making the switch to sulfate free shampoos and conditioners. I don’t think I’ll be going back to products that use sulfates. 🙂

Now that you have beautiful and clean hair… how about trying out some no-heat waves (tutorial here) or an easy sock bun (tutorial here)!

Hope this has been a helpful review!

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43 Comments

  1. November 8, 2015 / 10:56 pm

    Can sulfate free shampoo relax a perm? I used RUSK Color Protecting Shampoo sulfate free on my new perm after 6 days and the curl relaxed greatly? Is ION Color Solutions Sulfate Free better for permed hair? Thank you.

  2. Kayla
    October 24, 2015 / 6:16 am

    How long does it take for your scalp to adjust to sulfate free shampoos? I attempted to switch some months ago and couldn’t take the adjustment period. My scalp became super itchy, I shed way more than when I was using sulfates and had to was my hair way more often. ☹️

    • November 4, 2015 / 6:19 pm

      Hi! Thank you for visiting and for your comment. I honestly didn’t have any trouble adjusting to the sulfate free shampoos. I found myself to shed much less too. Which sulfate free shampoo did you try?! I wonder if the replacement ingredient they used instead of sulfate is causing you to have this reaction?!

  3. kara
    June 26, 2015 / 8:11 am

    I am making the switch! I have recently had issues with my hair shedding like crazy! It is tangled and frizzy and dry! It sucks! I have tried everything even prescription shampoos and seen doctors. I have tried vitamins, skipping washes, drinking water…blah blah blah. No results! I am so glad u guys are sharing because it is helping people! I have never heard of this and being a vegetarian i am shocked that there is so little information about this! How did we not know? Well now we do ! I am switching and ill let u know how it goes! I have had a full medical work up so i know i am in excellent health. It has to be the shampoo. I already pay for the expensive shampoos and products because til now i figured that i was losing hair because of the cheap products. But after a year of using the pricey stuff and still have severe irritation of my scalp and having to use Nizoral shampoo with no reults….i am switching! Thank u so much girl! Much love!

  4. June 25, 2015 / 5:01 am

    I never checked whether my shampoo contains sulfate or not. But this post really made me think. I am definitely going to check contents when I buy shampoo next time.

    • June 26, 2015 / 12:46 am

      Hi Tara. Whether you decide to purchase a shampoo that contains sulfate or not in the further, I think its great that you are informed so that you can make a decision that works best for you. 🙂 Thanks for visiting and for your comment!!! xoxo

  5. March 13, 2015 / 4:36 am

    You fail to mention the KeraCare range of Sulfate free Shampoo and Conditioners. The KeraCare 1st Lather Shampoo is a great bet for me anyday, anytime. Enjoy.

  6. ericka
    February 11, 2015 / 7:09 pm

    I noticed this article doesn’t talk specifically about sulfate damage to hair(other than hair loss) WEN commercials make it sound like hair shine, texture etc. is compromised. Any thoughts?

  7. January 26, 2015 / 7:57 am

    Can i use olives oil ?

  8. Tracey Turner
    January 10, 2015 / 5:54 am

    I switched to a sulfate and paraben free shampoo and conditioner and I don’t like the way it makes my hair feel? Is it just something I need to get used to? It doesn’t feel as clean and it seems heavy and limp. Any suggestions?

    • January 25, 2015 / 10:25 pm

      Give it time it’ll come around eventually. My hair did the same with carols daughter Sulfurate free shampoo

  9. July 17, 2014 / 4:52 am

    I have found a good brand of sulfate free items at my local Walgreens. It’s called Marc Anthony Professionals and it comes in a blue tube. I don’;t perm but my Grammy does and she has been trying to find a shampoo for her hair. I think I will hit up Walgreens today to see if I can fins something for her.

  10. Tali
    February 2, 2014 / 8:08 am

    Thanks for the article; I’m so glad people are spreading the word about sulfates! They’re really not something we want to be putting in our hair.

    As for good sulfate-free drugstore products, Organix is my go-to shampoo line. http://www.organixhair.com/frontpage
    Their coconut milk shampoo is my favorite – it’s like a tropical vacation in a bottle!

  11. Lorraine
    December 27, 2013 / 4:19 pm

    There are several sulfate free shampoos and conditioners out there now from inexpensive ones you may find at Target to salon brands that are pricier. L’Oreal has a line that includes products for curly hair and color treated hair. There are even some Suave products are sulfate free. You just have to check the ingredients. It truly makes a difference. No one has hair that needs a strong detergent to get it clean!

    • December 28, 2013 / 3:44 am

      You’re right! We have to treat our hair with gentle care. Thank you for visiting and the comment!

  12. Jan
    November 17, 2013 / 7:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I have just now started having peri oral dermatis and they think it’s the sulfate that’s causing the breakouts. Can’t wait to go purchase this tomorrow.

  13. Mercy
    September 17, 2013 / 9:27 pm

    i want to share my testimony on how i gain my nature hair back in just three weeks: i had very thick curly hair.i straightened my hair 2 yr ago.they after some time started 2 fall out.i also having dandruff problem all d time, before i used shampoo called antidruf containing ketoconazole and tugain 2%(minoxidil) have stopped using chemical one year ago.but still i am loosing a lots of hair everyday and my hair has become so thin. when a friend of my visit me and i explain how i lose my hair every day, she told me she was having the same problem 3 months ago and he contacted DR OPINGO online, i please with grace and she gave me DR OPINGO email, i email him immediately and explain about my hair to him, he told me not to worry that he is going to help me out.After DR OPINGO have prepared the spell cream i use for good three weeks my hair grow fast and was very thick, all my girl friends love and cherish my hair thank you DR you can contact his email at: ([email protected]) his cream will make your hair grow fast and thicker.

  14. glowfishgirl
    June 22, 2013 / 9:44 am

    Another good bet for sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners and hair salons. Ask your hair stylist.

    A note about sulfates: Did you know that there is no real cleaning value in them? They are purely a sudsing agent and were first used by the petroleum industry to monitor the flow of cleaning fluids passing through gas and oil pipes. The suds helped the tracking of the cleaning solutions–when there were no suds, no cleaning solution was left in a pipe! Like many bi-products of the petroleum industry, such as mineral oil, sulfates found their way into personal products, with the marketing of gimmick of “the more lather, the more clean” your hair, body, laundry, etc., would be.

  15. Kaitlyn
    June 10, 2013 / 8:37 pm

    Do you have any other recommendations for drugstore sulfate-free shampoo? I can’t find Not Your Mother’s shampoo anywhere near me.

    • June 10, 2013 / 11:12 pm

      Sorry, I haven’t tried any other drugstore brands that are sulfate free. Maybe you can try ordering online? I think there are links in my post. Let me know if you find a good brand! Good luck. 🙂

      • June C
        October 23, 2015 / 10:37 pm

        Hair One at Sally’s Beauty Supply is Great..! Just like WEN

    • January 25, 2015 / 10:29 pm

      Try carols daughter on line. I love their conditioners

  16. April 7, 2013 / 6:22 pm

    What you say about not using Sulphate, makes a lot of sense. No wonder I can see a difference in my hair from using so much shampoo with it over the years. And no wonder, because, as you so eloquently say, I’ve been “stripping\” all the goodness away from it. Glad you gave some good substitute shampoo to use too. Following your lead, I am now going to try saving what hair I have left, by going Sulphate Free. Wish me luck.
    And thanks
    Roberta

  17. Venessa
    March 16, 2013 / 9:04 am

    Right now, My hair is coarse, brittle, colored and curly. oh and major frizz!! I read endless amounts of tips to help my hair from, using frizz ease to doing the at home treatment of egg yolk. I have never heard of sulfate free shampoo. I guess i would have if i get my hair done but i am more a do it yourself type. Yes it does get me in trouble when cutting my hair but hey.. it grows back. I am for sure going to try this sulfate free shampoo and cross my finger. I want to try that Pro naturals that was infused with argan oil. Also hear that was good for the hair. I will keep a look out. I also wanted to ask Has anyone tried the WEN hair products. If so, do you think it is something i should invest in with my said above hair type?

  18. January 27, 2013 / 4:03 am

    I cowash with as I am coconut cowash but I did buy peppermint conditioner with NO SULFATES!!!!!!!!

  19. jen
    September 15, 2012 / 7:56 pm

    Wow thanks for the info, my stylist has been prodding me for months to change over to sulfate free shampoos. She uses one called Pro Naturals and it’s based on argan oil so everytime she uses it on my hair it’s so soft and silky, no frizz at all. It’s only online though so I haven’t been able to get my hands on some 🙁 After reading this I want them even more now!

    • September 15, 2012 / 8:00 pm

      I know but it’s one of those things that you’ll be glad you made the change once you do it. As I get older, my hair falls out so much… I was afraid I would go bald. Switching to a sulfate free shampoo and using MoltBene’s Clay Mask Esthe has really helped the health of my hair and scalp. 🙂

  20. daisy
    August 3, 2012 / 9:45 pm

    i switched to not your mothers shampoo and conditioner and it helped big time!
    so coming here when i need beauty info!

  21. June 8, 2012 / 6:00 pm

    Recently I switched to The Body Shop’s sulfate-free Rainforest Radiance shampoo and my hair has been very grateful (also my skin, my senses, the environment). And really, if I mix it with water in my hands first, I still get a decent lather. With the great sales they have it has been affordable too!

    • June 8, 2012 / 6:54 pm

      Thanks for sharing the great info! Please visit and comment often~ xo

  22. Dora
    June 6, 2012 / 8:01 am

    Great post! I’ve made the switch, thanks PrettyGossip.com!! 🙂

  23. May 16, 2012 / 4:29 pm

    I also made the switch to sulfate free a few months ago and I can tell a huge difference. I only wash my hair 2 to 3 times a week and rely on dry shampoo to avoid having to wash it more often. But about once a week or two, I still use a shampoo with sulfates because it helps to get rid of buildup. I deep condition once a week, so I usually do it after I use the sulfate shampoo. I also stopped combing my hair when it is wet. All of these things put together have allowed me to grow my hair out whereas before it would always just break off and never seem to grow.

    • May 16, 2012 / 4:46 pm

      sounds like you have a great hair routine! thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. please visit and gossip with me often!! xo

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