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Why You Should Try a Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Elizabeth Dehn's picture

Does sulfate-free shampoo actually work? 


I get this question almost weekly. Despite the fact that it’s been around for years and new brands continue to crop up on store shelves and home shopping networks, sulfate-free shampoo remains an enigma to many people. Partly because it sounds so complicated, but mostly because none of us wants to risk a bad hair day—no matter how natural the product seems.

To understand what sulfate-free shampoo can do for your hair, you have to understand sulfates. In simplest terms, sulfates (also known as surfectants) are the foaming agents commonly found in shampoos and soaps. Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate are the two most popular, and the names you probably recognize from the backs of your bottles. Though the suds created by sulfates are oh-so-gratifying and leave us with that squeaky-clean feeling, they also strip hair of essential moisture, which leads to frizz, dryness and color fading. Sulfate-free formulas offer a gentler alternative, maintaining hair’s moisture and leaving it soft, shiny and more manageable—something those of us with chemically processed hair probably haven’t seen in awhile.

Sounds amazing right? It is—the products just take some getting used to. Sulfate-free shampoos tend to look and feel more like conditioners, which would give even a beauty adventuress pause (I know). Switching to sulfate-free also requires patience; it can take a week or two for your hair to adjust from being stripped to being cared for. But once you find a shampoo that works for your hair, your hair will never have looked better, and you’ll be hooked.

One of the pioneering sulfate-free brands, WEN by Chaz Dean, is still one of the best. The “Cleansing Conditioner,” which serves as both shampoo AND conditioner, comes in a variety of formulas for every hair type and texture. WEN’s newest cleansing treatment, SixThirteen, is my favorite of the bunch because it doesn’t weigh down my fine hair yet restores the most damaged tresses. It also smells like a Dreamsicle, so it must be good! 

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