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Sulfates? Why or Why not? : Hairdressing Articles
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Sulfates? Why or Why not?

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Sulfates? Why or Why not?

Postby Jeni Giles » 01 Feb 2011 11:14 pm

Big controversy has been swirling around this topic, especially when it comes to haircolor. So since I'm kind of a hair geek, I figured this would be the perfect place to put all of my research about this topic to work!

What exactly is a sulfate? Well it comes in many different forms, Sodium Laurel or Laureth and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate. Sulfates are surfactants, that means they dispurse the water and allow lathering. Lather doesn't mean it's cleaning, just that the product can form bubbles. Bubbles don't remove dirt and/or oil, the surfactant molecules are gathering around air instead of dirt and oil. Sulfates do exactly what they are meant to do, clean the hair. They are a detergent. From the most harsh to the least:
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammoinium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, TEA lauryl Sulfate, TEA Laureth Sulfate.

Is there a benefit to using Sulfate free? HMMM...depends! If the hair is not chemically treated, the client has oily skin, hair, scalp or scalp and hair conditions. If the client is a swimmer, heavy product user or has environmental buildup, then yes, there are benefits.

Sulfates are typically found in chelating and clarifying shampoos. They are best used for pre chemical service shampoos because they will remove build up, excess dirt and oils and provide a clean working surface.

What are the draw backs? Because a sulfate is a type of detergent, they can be harsh on color treated hair. They can cause fading and make the hair feel dry or brittle, depending on the hair type.

So what would I recommend? If the client doesn't color, any shampoo will be fine, even a clarifying or chelating shampoo on a daily basis. If my client is color treated, high lighted or bleached, sulfate free or a TEA sulfate detergent is the way to go, it will help prevent fading because the detergent isn't as harsh.

Think of a sulfate base shampoo as really cheap laundry soap and a sulfate free shampoo as Woolite. Which one would you use on YOUR $200 cashmere sweater? (ok, if you actually have a $200 cashmere sweater other than the one you admire in the shop window!)
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Re: Sulfates? Why or Why not?

Postby chris the limey » 02 Feb 2011 12:02 pm

Thanks for posting this useful information Jeni.

I have noticed too that sulphate free shampoos are becoming the "next big thing". Presotto mentioned them to me around 18 months ago as "SLS Free Shampoos" when talking about which products were hot in Australia at the time. Over here in the UK, there wasn't really a big movement towards SLS free but lately I've noticed a few new products basing their marketing on this.

I do have a question for you...what is the chemical that cleans the hair in place of the sulphates? Did you find out?

Thanks.
;-D
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Re: Sulfates? Why or Why not?

Postby Jeni Giles » 02 Feb 2011 04:41 pm

Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate and Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate are a couple of the alternative chemicals, there also vegetable, nut, and fruit derivitives that are naturally occuring surface active agents that help shampoo lather and clean.
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Re: Sulfates? Why or Why not?

Postby InRainorShine » 15 Apr 2011 04:27 am

Awesome post, I am a big Sulfate-Free supporter, and I am constantly baffled when 'color safe' shampoo's have these harsh sulfates in them!?! It seems like such an oxyMoron. I have Very color treated and bleached hair, and I try to use the most gentle shampoo's.
Thanks for sharing your research, it's good to have a good technical reminder of why I always use Sulfate-Free.
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