As a society, we are becoming more conscious about what food we eat and how it affects our health. But in contrast, we still slather all sorts of chemicals all over our body in the name of beauty, especially in our hair care. In this post, I’m going to chat about the benefits of sulfate-free shampoo and other hair care ingredients you should know about. Because while our body has a digestive system to help rid it of toxins and chemicals, our skin does not have the same luxury.
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Benefits of Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Everything we put on our skin gets absorbed into our body and bloodstream. But the scalp, where we slather on shampoo and conditioner, is even more sensitive to products.
According to my new favorite book, No More Dirty Looks, “Your scalp is one of the most absorbent parts of your body – more than your face where you slather anti-aging cream. The scalp is a sponge that sops up whatever you put on it. It’s also your most sensitive skin. It extends all the way down to your eyes, so it stands to reason we should be extra careful what goes on or near it.”
Ingredients to Look Out for In Shampoo
If you’ve dabbled in the green beauty world you’ve heard of sodium laurel sulfate, more commonly known as SLS. It’s an agent put into our shampoo to help it lather. (And I know we love our lather!). But it also can be harmful to our skin and potentially our health. Even if you’re not immersed in the green beauty world yet, you may have at least noticed “sulfate-free” shampoos on the market.
I’ll dive more into this ingredient later, but as stated in No More Dirty Looks, “….the main ingredients in our shampoos today are detergents, water, surfactants, and alcohol. Surfactants are wetting agents that help trap oil and the dirt stuck to it, allowing the water to rinse it all off. Unfortunately, in the process, this also strips hair of its natural oils. This makes our hair feel oh-so-clean (which we love), but it also perpetuates a cycle that demands more and more products.”
“The sulfactants used in more shampoos – usually sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) or its sister sodium laureyl sulfate (SLS) – can cause unsightly rashes on many of us. Even worse, however, is when SLES is ethoxylated – a cheaper process meant to softness the harshness of the chemical – it produces a carcinogen called 1, 4-dioxane.”
A possible cancer-causing carcinogen? No, thank you. Now, that is a worst-case scenario. At it’s best, SLES and SLS can be very drying to our hair, which stated above, means we are forced to use more conditioners to get the softness back. I’ll talk more about silicones later but it is a vicious cycle we put our hair through. We need silicones to make our hair look shiny after sulfates, which dry out our hair. And so on and so forth.
If you want even more information about general ingredients to avoid in beauty products my friend Erin put together a pretty comprehensive list.
What happens when I switch to a sulfate-free brand?
Will my hair go through any changes?
I made a similar ACV rinse that brings out natural highlights but for detox, I’d just use regular water and Bragg’s apple cider vinegar.
Will I notice a difference?
Eventually, yes. Your hair will become softer – naturally – without the need for deep conditioners or products to mask the dryness. It will also take longer to get greasy, which means you can go longer between shampoos. Win-win!
Ingredients to Look Out for In Conditioner
From no more dirty looks:
And I don’t want to go down too many rabbit holes, but if shampoo and conditioners can cause that must havoc, imagine what hair products that we don’t rinse away can do. I’m talking hair sprays, gels, heat protectants, creams, straighteners, dyes, relaxers and all the rest of them which often contain even worse and harsher chemicals than shampoos and conditioners.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with what to use and not use, don’t worry. At the bottom, I will include a list from No More Dirty Looks and my own personal favorites.
But when in doubt there are tools out there! Make sure to check your favorite product on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG)website or an awesome new app called Think Dirty, where you can actually scan products before purchasing. Yes, even ones you find at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are not always considered “clean.”
So what should I do to get soft silky hair?
Well, quite frankly take care of it. Avoid sulfates, silicones, and other harmful ingredients. Eat well. Try to limit how often you blow dry your hair or use heating products. Make sure you eat Omega-3’s in fish or pill form. None of these tips are groundbreaking. They just take some discipline.
“Green” Brands to Use Instead:
- Aubrey’s Rose Mosqueta Nourishing Shampoo
- Dr. Hauschka Shampoo with Apricot and Sea Buckthorn
- CTonics Passion Shampoo
- Jon Masters Organics Zinc and Sage Shampoo
- Alaffia Coconut and Shea Butter Daily Shampoo
- John Masters Honey and Hibiscus Hair Reconstructor
- Aubrey’s GPB Glycogen Protein Balancing Conditioner
- John Masters Organics Lavender and Avocado
- Intelligent Nutrients Leave-In Conditioner