Are Sulfates In Shampoo Bad For Your Hair?

Mother Dirt

One of the things that are most commonly associated with shampoo is a good lather. We associate the suds on our heads with getting fresh and clean. But did you know that the ingredient responsible for lathering your shampoo is usually made from chemicals that can be harmful to your body? We’re here to talk about sulfates and whether or not they’re bad for your hair. 

What Are Sulfates?

Sulfates are salt that forms when sulfuric acid reacts with a different chemical. It’s a broad term for things like sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. They are most commonly found in personal care products like shampoo and conditioner. Sulfates are responsible for creating a lather in your hair products and are often derived from petroleum. 

One of the reasons sulfates are so controversial is because of their origins. Petroleum is often associated with greenhouse gases and climate change. Sulfates can also irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs. SLES and SLS are sometimes contaminated with dioxane, which causes cancer in lab animals. When products with sulfates get washed down your drain, they can be toxic to aquatic animals. 

In addition to shampoo, sulfates can be found in the following products:

  • Liquid soap
  • Dish detergent
  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Laundry detergent
  • Bath bombs

The number of sulfates found in products can vary from small amounts to nearly 50%. They are also commonly found in fungicides, pesticides and fertilizers. 

Why Are Sulfates Used In Hair Products?

Sulfates in shampoos remove oil and dirt from your hair. If the shampoo you use lathers efficiently when mixed with water, there is a good chance that it may contain some type of sulfate. Sulfates belong to a class of cleansers known as anionic surfactants

Many people think that exposure to sulfates on a daily basis can lead to serious health risks. It can be damaging to certain types of hair and cause skin irritation for those with sensitive scalps. The main issue with sulfates in hair products is that it is too strong for a cleanser. The AAD recommends sulfate-free shampoo for people with skin conditions.

Are Sulfates Dangerous?

Sulfates can be dangerous for certain people who use them. Allergic reactions are possible for people who are particularly sensitive to sulfates in their products. This could result in redness, rashes, swelling, and hives. 

Products with sulfates can also strip color from hair. This reduces the longevity of your dye and forces you to go back to the salon more often. So, in the long run, using sulfates can cost you more money than they’re worth. Sulfates are also known to cause hair frizz because of their negative electrical charge. If you’re prone to frizziness, you may want to look for a sulfate-free shampoo option. 

Probiotic Hair Care

When we talk about natural hair care, one of the best options out there is probiotic-based hair products. The reason someone might use sulfate-based products is to thoroughly cleanse their hair of dirt, oil and build-up. But the best way to truly clean your hair is by keeping the scalp properly balanced. 

This can be accomplished using topical probiotic shampoo and conditioner. Probiotics are good bacteria that keep your scalp’s microbiome balanced and at the correct pH. Without this bacteria, harmful substances could live on your scalp, causing problems for your hair, such as dandruff. 

When you add probiotics to your hair routine, it helps maintain the acid mantle of your hair and the overall pH. You can still get that clean, fresh feeling after washing your hair without any of the harmful sulfates found in many popular products. 

When your scalp’s microbiome isn’t properly balanced, it will usually let you know. Your hair and scalp might be overly dry, overly oily or riddled with irritation. The good bacteria found in probiotics keep the harmful bacteria in check, allowing your hair to be shiny, healthy and vibrant. 

Mother Dirt Is Sulfate-Free

All of the products from  Mother Dirt are free of sulfates and full of probiotics. Our Probiotic Hydrating Hair Wash is suitable for all hair types and is specially formulated with a powerful blend of probiotic extracts to bring balance to your scalp. It has a blend of naturally-derived surfactants to clean dirt and oil without stripping your hair or scalp. It’s also formulated with squalane, rose water and coconut to smooth and condition. This wash is also dermatologist-tested, kind to skin and free of parabens. It’s even safe for color-treated hair. 

To follow up after washing your hair, Mother Dirt’s Probiotic Hydrating Conditioner is the perfect end to your shower routine. It’s made to moisturize hair without weighing it down for smoother and healthier-looking hair. It combines jojoba esters and natural butter to smooth dry, frizzy hair with plant-derived ingredients. It also helps hair to easily detangle after you get out of the shower. 

The rest of our products designed for your skin, such as our Cleanser, Moisturizing Serum and Mist, are also all sulfate-free. Mother Dirt believes in only including the best possible ingredients for your skin and hair. That’s why we believe in ingredient transparency. 

Ingredient List Transparency

Since we only want what’s best for your skin, we list all of our ingredients in our glossary. The list includes all of the ingredients found in our products, along with an explanation of their functions. 

Here you’ll find ingredients such as:

  • Lactobacillus - Helps maintain a healthy microbiome
  • Bacillus ferment - Hydrates and firms skin
  • Salicylic Acid - Treats acne by exfoliating the skin and keeping pores clear
  • Helianthus annus (sunflower) seed oil - A natural oil that softens and conditions skin
  • Rosa Damascena Water - Refreshes skin without stripping

Other Ingredients To Avoid In Shampoo

Besides sulfates, there are a few other ingredients that you should try to avoid when buying shampoo. They include: 

  • Phthalates
  • Synthetic dyes
  • Alcohol
  • Dimethicone
  • Triclosan
  • Parabens

Mother Dirt is made without any of these ingredients to ensure the best possible quality products. We make our shampoo and conditioner with the health of your scalp microbiome in mind, so you won’t have to worry about what you’re putting on your hair. 

How To Pick The Best Shampoo Without Sulfates

The best way to find all-natural brands and products that don’t use buzzwords to distract you from their ingredients is by doing your research. When you find a shampoo bottle, look at its label and examine all of the ingredients listed. Look online to see which ingredients could be potentially harmful and which ones you could benefit from. 

Mother Dirt uses an all-natural version of sulfates, known as sulfonates. These are the most gentle surfactants out there that are delicate on the skin and the eyes. They possess foaming properties just like sulfates but are environmentally friendly and renewable. 

Look for plant-derived products with ingredients like fruit extracts and botanicals. These will be best for your scalp’s pH and microbiome balance. 

Sticking To Clean Products That Are Dirty

While we understand the importance of being clean, society has somewhat overdone that word. Our society has been obsessed with being clean for centuries. Many products have been made to get rid of 99.9% of bacteria to keep you as safe as possible. But the problem with applying this philosophy to skincare is that we miss out on so much good bacteria when we use super clean products.

Mother Dirt makes all-natural products using the good bacteria found in probiotics to help even out the ecosystem living on your scalp. Staying away from sulfates is good, but staying away from all bacteria is never a wise idea. 

The Bottom Line

All in all, sulfates are a popular ingredient in shampoos and other beauty products that should be avoided. They cause many problems for your skin and health, which is why sticking to all-natural beauty brands is the best route. If this is something you’re worried about, try going sulfate-free for a week or so to see if it makes a difference for you and your hair. Sulfates aren’t necessary for clean-looking hair, and there are tons of alternative solutions. 

Mother Dirt makes products that are 100% sulfate-free and contain probiotics for your benefit. Try our Probiotic Hydrating Hair Wash and Conditioner today for healthier, better-looking hair.



Sulfate in Shampoo | Medical News Today 

What is Sulfate? | Teen Vogue 

What You Need To Know About Sulfate-Free Shampoo | Self 

Anionic Surfactants | Science Direct 

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