Sulfates - What Are They and Are They Bad for Curly Hair? JANUARY 24, 2017

Sulfates 101, CurlShoppe Blog

WHAT IS A SULFATE?

Sulfate: A salt that is formed when sulfuric acid reacts with another chemical element. Pretty much salt (sodium) that make things bubble. So why do so many companies use this ingredient in shampoo? Because it creates LATHER, the thing that everyone associates with "clean".

AREN'T SULFATES BAD FOR YOUR HAIR?

Every curly girl typically cringes when they hear "sulfates". Why? Because there's the general understanding that sulfates are just bad for your hair. You ask a curly girl if they use sulfates and they'll say "No. I use sulfate-free products. Sulphates strip your hair".

They're correct - Sulfates do strip your hair, but can't we use sulphates for that exact reason? Moderation baby. Sulfates CAN be good for your hair, as long as you know when and how to use them. 

WHEN TO USE SULFATES

At a previous Canadian Naturalistas Marketplace event we went to, we met up with Hair Stylist, Keina Morgan, from Urban Curls Studio. She let us know that there is a time and place for sulfates, and that's when clarifying your hair. No matter what hair products you use (unless you're literally using only water), you will eventually get product build-up on your scalp and hair strands over time. This build-up will first cause your scalp to get extremely clogged up and when that happens your hair growth begins to get hindered as your hair strands are not able to push through the hair follicle. Just Think: Your hair starts from somewhere and that's your scalp! Healthy scalp = healthy hair.  Secondly, build-up will begin affecting your actual hair strands and your hair will not be able to take the hair products as well as it used to because it's being clogged and blocked from absorption. If you have too many products coating your hair then it won't be able to take anything else regardless of how great that ingredient may be. Note: Build-up on your hair strands also results in your hair being weighed down. Keina recommends using a clarifying shampoo, one that contains sulfates, once a month to remove build-up and we agree. 

BUT WHAT ABOUT CO-WASHING?

Co-washing your hair is great for in between clarifying shampoos to restore moisture to your strands and to avoid over stripping your hair. It is also good to use right after a clarifying shampoo as a second step, before your conditioner. By using a co-wash directly after your clarifying shampoo, you're able to restore moisture back to your scalp without it being too heavy to clog it back up again. Corrected:

Just make sure that when you're following up with the conditioner, you're using it for your strands only.  Conditioner is not meant to be used for the scalp, unless you're using one that actually has cleansing ingredients in it, like the one from our Butter'd Up collection

ARE THERE SULFATES BETTER THAN OTHERS?

Are there good sulfates? I mean, every one of them can't be BAD... right? Remember when we said you need to get rid of build-up? You just need to choose a cleanser that has a great lather and less harsh for your curls. The "bad" sulphate you want to stay away from is Sodium LAURYL Sulfate (SLS), and the better choice to look for in your shampoo is Sodium LAURETH Sulfate (SLeS), a gentler, less irritating version. 

You can also try finding natural ingredients that work in similar ways to sulfates, such as Tea Tree Oil. Tea Tree Oil has antibacterial properties that can help combat any scalp build-up you may have. Tea Tree Oil works deep into the hair follicles, by unclogging them and helping with your normal flow of natural oils. Try our Butter Oil-Blend as a gentle way to stimulate the scalp and relieve dryness and itchiness. Please note: that although tea tree oil is a good alternative to using sulfates it isn't a complete replacement, as it isn't strong enough to completely clean your scalp and hair.

Natty and Row, Founders of CurlShoppe

Shop this post.

 Why shop the Coconut Hydrating Cleanser? This is a clarifying cleanser, yet gentle enough to not strip ALL of the natural oils from your curls. Removing buildup from the scalp and for use once a month. Why shop the Butter Cream Cowash? This is a cleansing conditioner and sulfate-free. Use this for weekly cleansing of the scalp. Can also be used as a secondary shampoo when clarifying.