We’re starting to hear more and more about sulphates in our shampoos and body care products, and we don’t know how to feel. These days, thanks to an increased interest in ‘natural’ beauty and demand for chemical-free products, the shelves are lined with more options than ever boasting ‘free-from’ ingredients. Surely, natural is better?

Here’s where the confusion comes in. There are pros and cons to choosing shampoos which contain sulphates. Pro, sulphates help clean your hair thoroughly and can help make it feel fresh. Con, sulphates can strip your hair of their natural oils, encouraging frizz and weakening colour. It can be difficult to make a decision, particularly when you consider how many of your favourite shampoos contain sulphates.

First things first, let’s understand what sulphates are and what all the fuss is about.

What are sulphates?

Sulphates are chemicals that are commonly used in cleaning products, washing detergents, and, you guessed it, shampoos. While it might seem strange for household cleaning products and shampoos to share any of the same ingredients, sulphates help create the lathering effect we love.

In soaps, sulphates help leave the skin feeling clean and refreshed. In shampoos, sulphates remove oil, dirt, and product build-up while they foam, for hair that feels light and fresh.

If your shampoo lathers up when you wash your hair, there’s a chance that it contains sulphates. If you use a sulphate-free shampoo which still lathers, the formula is simply made using a different type of lathering agent.

So, if sulphate shampoos create the pile of bubbles that we love and make us feel super-clean when we come out of the bath or shower, why would we give them up?

Why can sulphates be bad?

Sulphates have deep cleaning effects, which might seem like a great thing. After all, we wash our hair to get it clean, so why wouldn’t we want to use ingredients that do a good job?

The use of sulphates in shampoo is controversial because frequent exposure can be too effective at washing hair, also stripping away those all-important natural oils. We need some natural oils on our hair and skin to keep them in a healthy condition, and washing with sulphate shampoos can cause damage by removing too much oil.

Many of us use shampoo every day. It’s thought that applying sulphates to your hair and scalp this regularly can cause skin irritation and even allergies by drying out the areas.

Sulphates can also cause problems if they’re used on the wrong type of hair. If your hair is naturally fine or dry, or colour-treated, you might find that sulphate shampoos are too harsh, stripping away the natural oils you need and leaving your hair feeling unhealthy and a little frizzy.

Who should avoid using sulphate shampoo?

Whether you’re trying to cut out chemicals from your beauty regime, looking to prolong the life of your hair colour, or aiming to combat a more specific problem, switching to sulphate-free shampoo might be a good idea. You should consider making the swap if:

1. You have any skin conditions
2. You have dry or fine hair
3. You have colour-treated hair

1. If you have any skin conditions

You might not respond well to sulphate shampoo if you have sensitive skin or any skin conditions. The ingredients, which lather up and remove dirt, can be too much for delicate skin, so you should look for an alternative if you’re worried about having a reaction.

If you have rosacea, eczema, contact dermatitis, or sensitive skin, you might want to avoid using sulphate shampoo. The ingredients can irritate the skin on your scalp as well as on your face, shoulders, and back – anywhere the shampoo touches.

Some people are allergic to sulphates. If this is you, you might notice the following symptoms after using your sulphate shampoo:

• Redness
• Rash
• Swelling
• Itchiness
• Hives

2. If you have dry or fine hair

As we’ve already mentioned, if you have dry or fine hair, you might find that the lathery effects of sulphate shampoo strip away too much natural oil from your locks. If you feel like your hair needs a little more moisture, consider switching to a sulphate-free shampoo and see if it makes a difference.

Sulphates are also often blamed for causing frizz. When the ingredients hit your hair, they create a negative electrical charge which can cause frizz. You can take a step towards frizz-free hair by choosing a sulphate shampoo with frizz-reducing ingredients or switching from sulphate shampoo altogether.

3. If you have colour-treated hair

If you have colour-treated hair, we know you’ll do everything you can to maintain your chosen tone. Unfortunately, sulphates in your shampoo might be stripping the colour away from your strands early!

Not only can sulphate-free shampoos help keep your colour strong, but they’re often more moisturising, so can help repair any damage that’s been caused by bleaching or dying.

The best sulphate-free shampoos

If you’ve decided that sulphate-free is for you, choose one of these sulphate-free shampoos and see how much of a difference the switch makes.

1. Osmo Colour Save

Osmo Colour Save Shampoo is sulphate and salt-free and has been formulated specifically for colour-treated hair. Maintain your beautiful colour and shine with this gentle moisturising formula, which contains essential grapefruit and mango oils.

2. Joico Colour Endure Shampoo

This gentle shampoo has been formulated specifically for colour-treated hair, to increase the staying power of colour and improve vibrancy. It’s sulphate-free, so helps to protect colour by cleaning hair more gently without chemical cleansers.

3. Royal Moroccan Moisturising Shampoo Sulphate-Free

This sulphate-free shampoo boasts a colour-preserving formula, which cleans hair gently and repairs damage caused by chemicals and environmental impurities. Royal Moroccan Moisturising Shampoo helps banish frizz and protect against humidity, thanks to its argan oil and vitamin E ingredients.

4. Joico Curl Creme Wash Sulphate-Free CoWash

Perfect for curly hair, this sulphate-free shampoo moisturises and nourishes to create stronger, bouncier curls. The product’s blend of natural oils and lack of sulphates mean hair that looks and feels healthier.

If you’re worried about the condition of your hair, or you’re looking to preserve your colour for longer, try switching to a sulphate-free shampoo. With so many great options out there, going sulphate-free doesn’t mean compromising on the effectiveness of your shampoo.

Looking for more beauty tips and tricks? Keep exploring the Fragrance Direct Blog and discover the best skin, hair, and makeup hacks. From our festival survival checklist to our anti-pollution beauty edit, there’s a whole new world of beauty advice waiting for you.