View Full Version : Why are sulphates bad?

June 2nd, 2008, 08:30 AM
I have hunted for the info but I have not found it. I remember reading it on here when I first joined the site but I cant remember what I read now- its been well over a year since.

So, why are sulphates- SLS- bad?

June 2nd, 2008, 09:32 AM
Here's a livejournal article on going shampoo free. It has information on SLS and other detergent ingredients in shampoo and what they do to your hair. I know that some LHCers shampoo their hair on a regular basis, however, and that works for them so I guess it's not 'bad' for everyone. I'm one of those who steer clear of shampoo though: curls + shampoo = dry frizzy mess!

June 2nd, 2008, 09:32 AM
oops, forgot the link: http://babyslime.livejournal.com/174054.html

June 2nd, 2008, 09:45 AM
I am sure many will disagree, but sulphates being bad is arguably a matter of opinion. It works for some and not for others.

Sulphates such as what you find in most commercial shampoos are seen as artificial and stripping. Many people have success with using non sulphate products. As it is less stripping [arguably] using non sulphate products can help stretch out washes and enables shampooers to use more natural products.

Personally, I don't think sulphates are bad, inferior, evil, etc. Admittedly, I am 99% sulphate free and that's because I played around with different shampoos and found a product [heart of Iowa bars] that does really work for my hair. To be honest, if it had sulphates in it I'd still use it. Though using those poo bars has helped me successfully stretch out my washings finally.

I do use a sulphate shampoo rarely, it's my version of a clarifier. Probably once every 2 months.

June 2nd, 2008, 09:55 AM
Sulfates are not bad inherently. They are strong detergents. For some people, especially those with dry hair, they are too strong. In shampoos they are used in concentrations that are safe to most.

The scares come from the use of SLS (proper chemical name is SDS, sodium dodecyl sulfate) in labs and for stronger cleaning which uses much higher concentrations. At high concentrations it is VERY toxic. It will break down any and all proteins, including ones in human skin.

There are also people who are sensitive or allergic to them, myself included. They make me itch so much that I scratched my scalp to blood regularly when I used them.

June 2nd, 2008, 09:55 AM
Personally I don't think sulfates are good or bad, just different.

With many non sulfate shampoos they don't lather well and your hair doesn't feel clean. On the flip I've seen some that lather like a dream and then some. Personally I use hair soap, I've used some hair soaps that are yuck (most I've used in fact), but one that lathers well and cleans well is well worth it.

Personally sulfates make my scalp dry resulting in itching and flaking, my husband found the same thing. He's a total hair soap convert now. Sulfates also make my hair dry no matter how much I dilute it.

Other people find they cannot get their hair/scalp clean without sulfates.

It's all just a matter of opinion.

June 2nd, 2008, 10:13 AM
Exactly. Even I have a bottle of baby shampoo in my shower. Admittedly, I use maybe only 5 drops every month or so just on my scalp if I've oiled especially heavily, so the bottle's been there for over 6 months and is still more than half full!
So it all depends on whether each person in particular needs shampoo for their hair type. Some people may benefit from using it with much more frequency than I do with my dry curly hair.

One other thing I'll mention though is that I've heard that a scalp can develop a shampoo dependency: ie you wash your hair every day (usually because it's oily and you want to get the oil out) and your scalp can possibly get irritated and end up producing more oil as a reaction. After this it might take cutting out the shampoo for several days to settle your scalp down. Anybody have any more information on this?

June 2nd, 2008, 10:27 AM
I have heard that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the cause of hair loss. I just read this on the net but if I was losing alot of hair I would steer clear of this ingredient in my shampoo.

June 2nd, 2008, 10:30 AM
I have heard that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the cause of hair loss. I just read this on the net but if I was losing alot of hair I would steer clear of this ingredient in my shampoo.

Considering how common SLS is in shampoos and how many people use it, I SERIOUSLY doubt that.

Pegasus Marsters
June 2nd, 2008, 10:49 AM
Considering how common SLS is in shampoos and how many people use it, I SERIOUSLY doubt that.

I agree with you.

I personally couldn't live without sulphates, my hair would be an ishy greasy mess. For some people they work, for others not so much. Just the same as anything really :)

June 2nd, 2008, 10:49 AM
Im not so sure its not true but then again Im not sure it is either. I think though if you have hair loss it would be something I would want to consider just from reading post on this forum. I have heard alot of people experience less hair loss after going sulfate free.

The thread also was started to get imput from an earlier post on things that others have said about why SLS is bad. It was just one thing I remember that hadnt been mentioned. I actually use SLS products because I have hard water and it seems to rinse cleaner for me.

June 2nd, 2008, 11:01 AM
They aren't bad.

Suphates are a particular class of detergents - cleaning agents. They clean quite effectively, and in conditions (such as hard water) when other cleaning agents can be ineffective.

Because they clean so thoroughly, some people find that frequent use is detrimental to their hair, leaving it over-cleansed and dry. For the same reason, other people find them valuable, particularly for clarifying.

Occasionaly, someone will be sensitive to suphate detergent, and need to avoid them due to skin issues. The same can be said for pretty much any kind of clensing product.

It's a matter of knowing which is which, and when and how using them works best for your hair.

I did an article a while back comparing the different suphate detergents, with the collaberation of my father, who has a PhD in chemestry. I know it is up in articles section of the archive, I'm not sure if I've posted it, yet, to the new articles section.

June 2nd, 2008, 11:03 AM
Here is my take on sulphates. When I started wanting to care better for my hair, I found originally a whole slew of information on them....... and this information slowly but surely gave me panic attacks. Realize, this faded as I waded through the information.

Here are some basic facts, eventually somewhere I will write up all of my findings.

Sulphates are a known carcinogen: True
Natural alternatives can contain carcinogens: True

Sulphates can strip and be severely harsh to hair: True
Natural alternatives can be too weak not not cleanse hair: True

Sulphates can cause allergic reactions to the user: True
Natural alternatives can cause allergic reactions to the user: True.

Sulphates cause hair loss, autoimmune diseases, and other major health problems: Possibly........ if you drink a gallon of it straight, every day, for a month.

Natural Alternatives promote healthy hair and reduce fall out and cause no harmful effects to humans: False/debateable.

Sulphates have a negative enviornmental Impact: True
Natural alternatives are enviornmentally friendly: Possibly, depends whats in it.

Wether or not to use sulphates or find a natural alternative is strictly up to the user. Individual results may vary, and in my extensive researching on the subject of sulphates, other than in a case of an allergic reaction to it by a user, no evidence has clearly linked sulphates to *any* cancers or auto-immune diseases in humans. Nor, has any clear results come in on hair loss and hair damage from sulphates.

Both sides, sulphate and natural, have their plusses and minuses, and both are very bias in their advertising and sale. Mainstream sulphate products don't need to try that hard. In advertising, considering the mainstream trend, a simple commercial is all that is nessesary and promises of clean, supple silk-in-your-hands hair..... it is not that hard to push a 99 cent shampoo to a beliguered wallet strapped public. It is rare, and near impossible to find any "commercial mainstream product" badmouthing or swaying a user directly against a natural alternative.

On the opposite end, Natural alterative companies spend fortunes on getting you to buy that twelve dollar bottle in the health food store. Most of the information of course is on all natural ingredients, and, telling the horror of ........ mainstream products with sulphates.

Simply put the buyer needs to beware, know what you are buying regardless of hype, advertising or a slick campaign touting the most recent results of aggressive testing against chemicals. No matter what the promises, know whats in the bottle! Sulphates may be the least of your concern in a bottle of shampoo, as well as in an alternative, again, being sulphate free could be the least of your concerns.

Both sides want you to buy thier product, its how they stay in business and is the whole point. Neither one wants their customer base dying off. Just remember that. Keep clearly in your head that "company x" is certainly not going to sell a whole lot of shampoo to sick customers or those who go bald.

There are people on this forum who feel strongly, in either direction. That's great actually. Because of this, which ever side of the coin you choose, you can ask and get excellent advice from people with experience with sulphates, and non sulphate alternatives. Use them as sources, they will be happy to help you on either front.

Edited to add: I should mention in this, the one clear winner, is shampoo bars. Handmade and crafted sulphate free shampoo bars as long as they do not contain anything you are allgic to, are probably the most eco-friendly, gentlest and most natural alternative. Some are made with tallow (animal fat) and others made with vegetable oils, both are biodegradeable, and post precious little risk to the user. Sadly they don't work for everyone (me), such as those with very hard water conditions. In a class of their own, and generally word of mouth, whatever internet advertising I have seen on them is correct. Natural shampoo bars (soap) trumps *any* kind of liquid shampoo hands down for saftey.

June 2nd, 2008, 11:11 AM
Thanks for the information :D

June 2nd, 2008, 11:28 AM
Well, for some people they dry out their hair.

Some studies have linked SLS to cancer. Though, IMO, the data is not significant enough for me to stop using it just for that. Besides, like everything causes cancer.

And some, like me, are sensitive to SLS. It causes bumps on my skin, itchy scalp, dandruff, and sometimes rashes.

June 2nd, 2008, 11:44 AM
SLS can cause hair loss IF a person is sensitive or allergic to it and still continues to use it. The inflammation from that can damage the scalp enough that the hair follicles die. Putting any other allergen on the scalp repeatedly can cause hair loss too.

If you get no problems from it, I doubt that it will be hair loss causing.

June 2nd, 2008, 12:22 PM
Personal experience - shampoo and conditioner cause me to shed significantly more than a no shampoo/no conditioner routine.

If you ever go off shampoo and conditioner you too can determine if you have less shedding.:)
Be your own scientist.:)

June 2nd, 2008, 12:33 PM
I agree, its up to the individual user to evaluate, try and figure out what works, and what doesn't. It is so amazing that one person's hair will react differently from what another person's loves.

Its all a matter of what you are sensitive too (and might not even be aware) and what you aren't.

June 2nd, 2008, 01:00 PM
-High pH, which opens hair cuticle.
-Dissolve natural oils and leave hair unprotected
-Actually fray the edge of the hair cuticle, the little thin edges of the "scales" that must lay flat for our hair to feel smooth.

Every time the cuticle is opened, it doesn't close down as well as it did.

I tried clarifying with baking soda and it didn't work well for me. So now I do it with a very diluted clarifying shampoo--only when needed.
Works for me.

June 2nd, 2008, 01:08 PM
I've been using sulphates on and off my entire life but since moving near LA, I've been using diluted tresseme shampoo again. My hair and skin produce plentyyyyyyyyy of their own oil and always have... and my hair is really straight and has a lot of light colored hairs spread throughout, so any excess oil shows up quickly. I have never had any irritation, hair loss/thinning/breakage or any kind of reaction to going back to a sulphate shampoo, other than cleaner hair that I can wait for 2 days to wash, instead of 1 day. So sulphates work for me. I've recently started oiling my hair with coconut and castor oil a few times a week, but I went roughly 22.5 years without oiling and never had an issue. I've never had rougher hair because of it, either. Maybe my hair type is something to take into consideration with this, I don't know honestly.

My hair at the ends, however, has improved without cones, which I stopped using about six months ago. They've always been soft, but now they don't get as shaggy, which means I can trim less.

So it all depends on your skin and hair. I've read a lot into sulphates and in small, reasonable amounts I just don't think they're going to hurt you. They're stronger detergents, sure, but some of us need that, haha.