Sulphates in Hair Care Products: Are they good or bad?

Our scalp can be just as sensitive as the rest of our skin, if not even more sensitive. There’s a reason we use a different type of product to clean it instead of using the same ones that we do use for the rest of our body. In recent years, many skincare experts have become more critical of the ingredients found in shampoo bottles, and rightly so because there have been substances that are identified to cause more harm than good. In that grey area however are sulphates.

Sulphates are known to dry out your scalp, causing flakes, itching and rednesss. This substance’s primary use is to create the foaming action to help the shampoo’s active ingredients a lot easier. In many shampoos, the most common sulphate derivatives are sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES). These substances get a bad rap in skincare because they can have been known to cause irritation, and the one thing you don’t want in your skincare products are substances that can cause irritation. However, this is only possible in HIGH concentrations of sulphates, especially SLS. SLES on the other hand are a lot more mild and most skin types can tolerate them a lot better.

If you do get an allergic reaction to your shampoo, then maybe the sulphates are to blame and you should see the percentage of SLS or SLES present in the ingredients list, as this might be causing the negative reactions. Just in general, when looking at shampoos and conditioners, you should look at the concentration levels of sulphates, and may need to switch to hair care products to help treat the allergic reaction first.

Below 20% is the sweet spot where the sulphate is effective enough to help with the cleansing process, but not harsh enough to dry out your scalp. You can even choose sulphate-free shampoos if you want, as these have become a lot more popular in recent years. There are plenty of newer shampoos that use alternative substances to try and create the same lathering effects, albeit with different levels of success.