Pros & Cons of Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Sulfate-free shampoo is becoming more and more popular.  Wen seemed to be the first major sulfate-free cleansing system, with big drugstore and salon brands following in its footsteps.  I was curious about what the differences really are between shampoos with sulfates and without, so I asked my friend and hair stylist, Rosalie Wood, to weigh in.  Rosalie is one of the top hair stylists in Albuquerque and works at Waves, voted one of the top 20 salons in the nation.
Sulfates (sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate) are detergents used in shampoo to make suds and to cleanse effectively.  There are a lot of mixed opinions on sulfates.  Many say sulfates dry hair out and can cause frizz and breakage.  There are also studies that show sulfates to be toxic and dangerous.  Rosalie shares with us the pros and cons of switching to sulfate-free shampoo:
Pros of Sulfate-Free Shampoo:
  • Gentle on sensitive skin (eczema)
  • Doesn’t fade colored hair
  • Doesn’t strip natural oils from skin and hair
  • Wont dry out hair cuticle
  • Will help prolong the life a keratin treatment or a relaxer
  • May make certain types of hair extensions last longer
Cons of Sulfate-Free Shampoo:
  • Sulfate-free shampoo does not deep clean hair as well as shampoo with sulfates
  • You may need to use more product to get hair clean, which can end up costing more
  • People with oily hair likely won’t get the deep cleansing they need with a sulfate-free product

Rosalie’s Picks for Sulfate-Free Shampoo:

Most shampoos and conditioners that are “color safe” don’t use sulfates.  All Pureology products are sulfate-free. Also, Kérastase Bain Chroma Captive and Chroma Sensitive are sulfate-free (Chroma Sensitive is extremely gentle so you might not feel like its cleaning as well. Recommended more for hair colored dark or red which tends to fade the most).   For drugstore brands, L’Oreal makes Kérastase so I trust their sulfate-free lines(EverCreme, EverPure, EverStrong & EverSleek).
My Thoughts:
My  hair is extremely dry and I used Wen for almost two years.  While I think highly of the line and it did leave my hair ultra soft, I didn’t feel that it got my scalp clean enough.  I recently stopped using Wen and switched to the EverCreme shampoo and conditioner from L’Oreal.  Unlike Wen, L’Oreal’s sulfate-free shampoos have a foaming agent called Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate.  Even thought it sounds like a sulfate, it’s not!  It’s 100% natural and comes from coconut and palm oils.  While it does not foam as much as a sulfate shampoo does, there is a decent lather that I really like.  Blog post coming very soon about this shampoo and conditioner!  I’ve also used Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk shampoo (also sulfate-free) and loved it.  Leaves hair clean, soft and smelling like the tropics!
What are your thoughts on sulfate-free shampoo?  Have you made the switch?

16 thoughts on “Pros & Cons of Sulfate-Free Shampoo

    • Hey Lindsey! Yes, I’ve heard some of that as well. Lots of mixed reviews out there. Sounds safer to make the switch to sulfate-free!

  1. Thanks for posting, Arantha. I use Pureology and love it, however I’ve had my eye out for a less expensive drug store brand to mix into the shampooing rotation. I’m going to try the Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk.

    • Hey Lisa! Thanks for checking out my blog. I hope you are doing great! Yes, Pureology and Kerastase are awesome but really pricey. Organix is a great line. All their shampoos are sulfate-free and smell awesome. The teatree mint one smells so good but the coconut milk is hydrating and that’s what I need! I think you’ll like it! XO

  2. I’m so glad you posted about this! I was getting my hair done yesterday and asked my stylist about this, she said the same thing! I have used quite a few different sulfate free shampoos and I usually dislike all of them. They don’t lather and leave my hair feeling dirty. Most recently I used the Joico sulfate free… horrible!!! I tried the L’oreal the other day, LOVED it because it actually lathers up and smells really nice. My stylist used J. Beverly Hills sulfate free and it lathered really well too! I have the It’s a 10 sulfate free but haven’t used it yet. Hahaha, I’m a shampoo junkie. It seems to be trial and error with the sulfate free.

    • Yes, I really like the L’Oreal and Organix sulfate free lines and they are really inexpensive. I still do like to use a deep cleansing shampoo once a week to get rid of product build up but these shampoos make my hair feel clean.

      • Right now I’m just using the purple shampoo from John Frieda to tone down brassiness and enhance highlights. I use it once a week…while it’s not a deep cleanser its full of sulfates and I feel like it really cleans my scalp and it leaves my hair sparkling blonde. LOL. for actual deep cleansers I really like Garnier Pure Clean and Paul Mitchell’s lemon scented Shampoo Two. I’ve also heard good things about the Neutrogena Anti-Residue shampoo.

  3. Enjoy was the first brand I tried after having been educated by a hairstylist about sulfate-free shampoos & other products. It is a pricey brand, but worth the purchase while it lasts. I have a history of really thick, oily hair and I have only needed dime-sized portions w/ this product. Regularly I would lay shampoos on thick and lavishly, but not necessary w/ Enjoy.
    When I am short on funds I use Aveeno’s sulfate-free shampoo (beige & green bottle). It’s OK, but Enjoy has spoiled me.
    I recently came across Alba Botanica Hawaiian Coconut Milk hair wash which is said to be sulfate-free and is reasonably priced at my favorite grocery store Wegmans (natural/organic section) and a couple dollars more at Target. That will be my next try.

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  5. Thank you for this post. I have highlighted blonde hair and already use sulfate-free shampoos. I am now looking at getting a purple shampoo and was not sure if I should get one that is sulfate-free as well. I think I’ll try both to see which one I like better.

    Oh, and I love L’oreal and Kerastase’s line of sulfate-free shampoos, too. I’ll definitely be trying Organix out next time.

  6. I’m just starting out with sulphate free and so far no good!! I’ve used Joico a couple of times and it’s hideous – I didn’t actually have greasy hair until I started using it! I’m delighted to read all the recommendations – thanks ladies!

      • I’ve been using Joico’s sulfate-free Color Endure shampoo and conditioner for a couple of weeks now and I feel like there’s just a build-up of oil all along my scalp no matter how I part my hair. I dyed it blue and to keep the color longer I went from washing almost daily (my hair gets greasy if I don’t) to washing 2-3 times a week and I feel like even when I shampoo it doesn’t get clean with the Joico stuff. Tryin Herbal Essences sulfate-free Color Me Happy cleansing shampoo next in the hopes that this issue goes away, but I may end up switching back to my old, sulfate-filled shampoo.

  7. All of your cons are really pros though. Well, except using more product. But the point of sulfate free is that they shouldn’t foam, and that they are not supposed to remove the oils from your hair.

  8. I switched from John Frieda after years of use.. I got tired of it trying out my scalp and hair. I went to L’Oreal and now, after using it for about a year, I have more hair coming out during the wash and rinse. I was thinking it’s because I’m a Celiac… but I was a Celiac during the use of JF… did tests with my water by using bottled water while shampooing, went back to JF and the hair doesn’t come out like it does with L’Oreal, even just a plain rinse like I’m shampoo brings out just a couple.. nothing like shampooing with L’Oreal. Does anyone else have this issue using L’Oreal? 🙂

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