Shampoo without sulfates (SLS and SLES)

Shampoo without sulfates (SLS and SLES)Before we talk about the best shampoo without sulfates it is important to understand what sulfates are. How do you know that these substances are in shampoo? There are more and more cheaper shampoo brands in the shops that are said to be 'sulphate-free'. Is this really so? And are SLS and SLES really that bad for hair? In this article you can read the sense and nonsense of sulfates. Let's start with what exactly SLS and SLES are and what they are used for in cosmetics.

What are sulfates, SLS or SLES

Sulfates are a group of cleansing foaming agents, namely Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). Also called surfactants, or surfactants. These cleaners are often used in shampoo, but also in cosmetic products such as toothpaste, hand soap, (baby) bath foam and even face wash.

 Shampoo without SLS

How sulfates are made

Sulfates are made artificially in a lab. Usually from a vegetable source which is then chemically converted. SLES can be made from palm oil or coconut oil. SLS can be made from petroleum, coconut or palm oil. And even though sulfates are made from natural ingredients, that doesn't mean sulfate in shampoo is good for our hair. Organic hair products without sulphates, parabens and silicones you see more and more often on store shelves these days. This is already a sign why you should not use synthetic additives such as sulfates for your hair.

How to recognize sulfates

On cosmetic packaging you can usually recognize sulphates by names that end in '-ate':

  • SLS = Sodium Lauryl Sulfate / SDS = Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • SLES = Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate / Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • IF = Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • ALES = Ammonium Laureth Sulfate

Why sulfate-free shampoo?

Sulfates can damage your scalp and make your hair dry, dull and sallow. Is SLS or SLES always bad by definition? This is quite difficult to say. Research shows many conflicting results about sulfates. Some reports claim that SLS is a carcinogen and should be avoided. While other sources seem correct to suggest that SLS and SLES are not carcinogens – but very… irritating can work on the skin. Even though there are officially no restrictions on the use of SLS in cosmetics; it is generally regarded as one of the most irritating surfactants. It would particularly irritate the skin, scalp and mucous membranes.

Did you know? In research SLS is often used to irritate the skin to reduce signs of a atopic skin to investigate? So why is the same substance used in cosmetics when it is known to irritate the skin? This is because SLS is relatively cheap. A small amount already creates a large amount of foam. And when mixed with salt, the product thickens, making it appear as a concentrated compound. This is especially useful if there is a large amount of water in a product.

Did you know that too? SLS was originally (and still is) used as a floor cleaner, degreaser and car wash chemicals?

Buy the four benefits of sulfate-free shampoo

To be on the safe side, opt to buy a sulfate-free shampoo. These are the four benefits of a good sulfate-free shampoo:

  1. Preserves the hair's natural and moisturizing oils. Keeping the scalp's natural balance and moisture levels is one of the best benefits sulfate and silicone-free shampoo provides. This is especially important for dry and damaged hair. The better the scalp stays naturally hydrated, the better the condition of your hair.
  2. Long-lasting hair color. Did you know that the best sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner also keeps hair color in your hair longer? This is really true! Shampoos without SLS can extend the durability and brightness of the hair color by four weeks or even longer.
  3. No frizzy hair. Fluffy hair may have been fashionable in the 80s, today most people want to get rid of frizzy hair. One way to avoid frizzy hair is, as you can probably guess; shampoo without SLS
  4. Reduce scalp sensitivity. Remember when we mentioned earlier that SLS and SLES can irritate the scalp? Sulfate-free shampoo can help soothe a sensitive scalp immediately. In addition, it makes hair softer and smoother. Especially if you combine it with a natural hair rinse.

“Sulfate or SLS-Free Shampoo” - really?

Some think that all shampoos in soap form do not contain sulfates. That is not the case. It is also good to know that many SLS-free shampoo brands proudly report that the products do not contain sulfates. For example, there is more and more cheap sulphate-free shampoo on the shelves of drugstores. But be careful! For example, these products often contain Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS).

This is a form of greenwashing because the production process for Sodium Coco Sulfate is almost the same as for SLS. The difference is that instead of isolating just one fatty acid (lauric acid), SCS is made from a mixture of the fatty acids in coconut oil. So this is a 'smart' way to not have to put all "fatty acid" sulfates in the ingredient list. Instead, Sodium Coco Sulfate is used by cosmetic brands as a name for a mixture consisting of; sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium caprylic sulfate, sulfate, sodium cetearyl sulfate, sodium oleic sulfate, etc.

This means that the Sodium Coco Sulfate can actually contain 40 to 50% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)! So take a good look at the INCI list of products. Before purchasing any product, make sure you understand the listed chemical composition of the ingredients.

Do you have questions about a buy shampoo without sulfates, silicones and parabens? Please feel free to contact us. We are happy to help you!

Do you want a sulfate-free and natural shampoo bar buy but don't know which one you need for your hair type? Then read: the best sulfate-free shampoo per hair type.


Read also

Buying a special shampoo for babies is because you want the best for your little one.

Natural baby shampoo