Sulfates – and whether they are good or bad for hair – have become part of the mainstream conversation about hair, with experts weighing in on both sides.
But sulfates aren’t the full story; they are just one of a series of surfactants used in many hair products – and if you are concerned about the potential effects of sulfates, you might want to give other surfactants – which include Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate – a wide berth.
In short, the argument for using surfactants is that they lather satisfactorily and grab oil and dirt from the hair with ease, while their detractors say that they contribute to stripping colour and moisture from hair. The latter argument has gained a lot of traction, and as a result it is now common to see shampoos marked as ‘sulfate-free’ like Schwarzkopf’s BC bonacure pH 4.5 Colour Freeze Micellar Sulfate-Free Shampoo, or Kerastase’s Bain Fluidealiste as an easy option for those hoping to avoid the less desirable effects of using it on hair.
To make the switch, you may have to go through a period of adjustment. Surfactants are responsible for that pleasing lathery ‘clean’ feeling in hair, and steering away from them means that the process of washing hair will feel different if you do so with a surfactant-free shampoo. If you choose to take this route, persevere – once used to minimal lather, hair will feel as clean and soft as it did after using products containing surfactants.
You could also try co-washing, which involves eschewing shampoo altogether and instead using a conditioner to wash hair. This works particularly well on curly or afro hair, but may weigh hair down slightly or attract more dust and grime. Again, if you choose to wash like this, it may take a few weeks before you’re happy with your hair, but converts claim that once through the initial period of switching, that hair is shinier and healthier than ever before.