August 2022

Going Sulfate-Free? Is it Worthwhile?

Cellular renewal and rejuvenation occur nonlinearly around the body with some cells, like fat cells, replicating every decade while others, such as hair and toenails, replicating daily.[1] Think of hair as the only component of our bodies that renews itself without scarring and celebrate that fact because, as long as our hair follicles remain healthy, hair quality can improve with the help of better hair care and products. This is where sulfates come into play, though. Do we really need them to clean our hair and are there alternatives that do just as good of a job, if not better?

What if I told you that froth and suds have little to do with how clean a shampoo may get your hair and that reliance on sulfates to create lather has led to an over-use of strong surfactants? Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are both harsh and commonly used within the mainstream shampoo market, but the downside to their bubbly nature is that they can strip the hair of natural sebum and protein, thus making dry, brittle hair even weaker.[2] This is the last thing you might want, especially if you already deal with thinning hair.

Going Sulfate-Free


Beware of greenwashed labels

We often see green and eco trends that flood a market because there is an environmental or health factor that makes them appealing to conscious buyers. Sulfate-free labels are no different here. This is because simple chemistry allows you to rework a formula to turn the sodium laurel sulfate into sodium laurel sulfonate and you can now slap a sulfate-free label onto the package. Greenwashing tactics unfortunately make the job of finding real sulfate-free products a bit harder.

Beware of these harsh sulfate substitutes when searching for alternative products:

  • cocamide diethanolamine (DEA)

  • cocamide monoethanolamine (MEA)

  • polyethylene glycol (PEG)

  • propylene glycol (PG)

  • cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB) [3]


The nourishing substances 

Truly sulfate-free shampoos do exist and they derive from plant-extracts like amino acids and seed oils, so they have softer cleansing capacities. Gulcosides like decyl glucoside and laurel glucoside come from vegetable oils and starch, taurates and fatty acid isetthionates derive from coconut fatty acid and glutamates and amino acid sulfosuccinates are already included in many hypoallergenic formulas and baby products today.[4][5] 

Some additional ingredients that sulfate-free hair care producers also choose to incorporate into their products are included to improve silkiness, shine and boost protein quality of the hair. Here are some common additives seen on the market recently:

  • Almond oil

  • Argon oil

  • Avocado oil

  • Moringa seed oil

  • Jojoba oil

  • Coconut oil

  • Antioxidant extracts

  • Wheat protein

  • Aloe vera


While these more natural foaming shampoos still utilize surfactants to cleans the scalp, what differentiates these surfactants from the classic sulfates are their resistance capacities to the natural sebum buildup on the hair or preserve protein content. In reality, we want to strike a balance between cleanliness and buildup, dryness and sheen, without stripping the hair of its natural building blocks and even the sebum that preserves it.

At our facility, we assess hair quality and discuss strategies to improve thinning hair. Everyone receives a plan uniquely catered to their needs with reasonable prices and quality care. Check us out today for more details.



[1] Brueck, Hilary, and Samantha Lee. “How Long It Takes Your Body to Regrow 19 Types of Cells and Organs, from Your Skin to Your Skeleton.” Business Insider, Insider Inc., 8 May 2018,

[2] Wagner, Rita de Cássia Comis, and Inés Joekes. “Hair Protein Removal by Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate.” Colloids and Surfaces. B, Biointerfaces, vol. 41, no. 1, 2005, pp. 7–14., doi:10.1016/j.colsurfb.2004.10.023.

[3] “Is Your Sulfate-Free Shampoo Really Sulfate Free?: Organic Beauty Scoop.” Innersense Organic Beauty, Innersense Organic Beauty Inc.,

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Why Going Sulfate Free Is the Best Thing for Your Hair.” ST. TROPICA, St. Tropica Inc., 12 Feb. 2017,