Do you remember when sulfate-free shampoo was introduced in the market? Everyone went crazy, thinking that this can be the ultimate solution to their frizzy and dry hair.
The backlash began against shampoos containing sulfates and how they cause harm to the hair. Undoubtedly, there are advantages of using a sulfate-free shampoo.
But what about the drawbacks that it offers? Well, sulfate-free shampoos cause some damages to your hair. One of the main problems is that sulfate-free shampoos can make your hair super greasy immediately after washing it.
Another problem that most users face is it can be harsher than sulfate shampoos due to their harmful ingredients. And the list goes on.
Before you buy a sulfate-free shampoo with a dream to make your hair longer, healthier, and smoother – we have come up with an article that includes everything that is wrong with sulfate-free shampoos.
So, let’s take a look below to know everything about the drawbacks of sulfate-free shampoos.
Table of Contents
1. Makes The Hair Greasy
You are not the only one who thinks that your new sulfate-free shampoo gives your hair a greasy touch right after washing it. Many users of sulfate-free shampoo experience the same problem over and over again.
But, what is the reason behind it? What makes hair greasy after washing it with sulfate-free shampoo? Well, it depends on what’s on the hair and in that shampoo.
Most sulfate-free shampoos contain ultra-mild cleaning agents such as coco glucoside and decyl glucoside. Although these components are too sensitive to strip away your hair strands or scalp, their sensitivity serves as their flaw, too.
These cleansers are just not powerful enough to eliminate the product buildups from your hair as they are too gentle.
Moreover, most manufacturers add a higher concentration of surfactant to make the shampoo robust. However, it ruins the purpose of using a sulfate-free shampoo as the higher concentration causes hair greasiness.
Your oil glands overreact due to the over-cleansing, emitting too much sebum to moisturize your scalp. Another factor to keep in mind is that many sulfate-free shampoos are made of lots of conditioning ingredients.
The reason is to provide customers an experience that feels like conditioning their hair rather than shampooing. This leads to crazy buildup, becoming the fourth reason for causing greasy hair.
2. Harsher than Your Common Sulfate Shampoos
People assume that getting a sulfate-free shampoo will reduce damage and make hair smoother. However, this is not the case with every shampoo.
Surely, there are sulfate-free shampoos with natural and mild ingredients, but some shampoos also come with harsh ingredients.
For instance, olefin sulfonate is one of the most common ingredients in a sulfate-free shampoo. This cleansing agent replaces the cleaning feature of sulfates played in traditional shampoos, and it does so very well.
In fact, it works better than the Sodium Laureth sulfate (the most common sulfate used in conventional shampoos). Sodium Laureth sulfate has all but replaced sodium lauryl sulfate in sulfate shampoos.
The ‘eth’ in its name represents that it is an ‘ethoxylated,’ which is used to have milder effects than sodium lauryl sulfate that is responsible for the backlash.
There is no doubt that olefin sulfonate is as harsh as sodium lauryl sulfate. Even if you use butter, greasy oils, or stubborn silicones such as Cyclopentasiloxane – the amount of cleansing provided by both olefin sulfonate and sodium lauryl sulfate is insufficient for washing hair.
On the other hand, Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a compound that can remove all the dirt without pulling or tugging your hair and scalp.
As for olefin sulfonate and sodium lauryl sulfate, these agents are so determined to cleanse your hair, they end up making holes in your hair shaft.
Another component, emollient, is also used to reduce the harshness of these cleansing agents. Fortunately, emollient can minimize the worst effects on some hair strands.
On the other hand, some hair types are so fragile that they become brittle and dry due to olefin sulfonate, and there is no going back.
These extra ingredients can also leave an oily or waxy residue on the scalp, which can lead to buildup issues in the future.
Although the fatty alcohols and added oils can make your hair feel less frazzled when you use a shampoo containing olefin sulfonate, it can still cause the same strand-level harm as sodium lauryl sulfate since its molecules are similar in size.
3. The Hidden Ingredients
You do not have to worry if you are planning to go for a sulfate-free shampoo. After all, it’s not all doom and gloom.
If you have sensitive hair and don’t use hair products that need a strong cleanser every time you wash your hair, opting for a milder cleanser can be the best solution for you.
Thanks to the manufacturers who create sulfate-free shampoos which gently cleanse the hair without making it greasy or over-cleansing it.
The best way to find out whether a shampoo is sulfate-free or not is to look for its ingredients and formulation.
At the very least, this means a) checking the ingredients list for main drying ingredients such as ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, salt (sodium chloride), or olefin sulfonate, and b) trying it out and seeing if it affects your hair.
The exact amount of each ingredient is not specified on the ingredients list because they work altogether as a blend.
Therefore, never rely only on the absence of ‘bad ingredients’ on the bottle’s back. Look out for the ingredients that are present in the shampoo. This way, you will know how potent or concentrated that shampoo actually is.
4. Not for all Hair Types
Most sulfate-free shampoos aren’t made for a specific hair type; instead, they’re marketed as a gentler cleaning alternative to sulfate shampoos that can be used on all hair types. However, specialty shampoos for specific needs are available.
For example, certain sulfate-free shampoos are formulated for curly or damaged hair. For hair loss or hair growth, you may also find a sulfate-free shampoo.
Nonetheless, some hair types react better to sulfate-free shampoos than others. Most individuals have oily hair or they use several hair products/styling items on the hair – sulfate-free formulations do not suit the hair of these people.
Since many sulfate-free shampoos are based on gentle washing agents, they may not be sufficient to remove buildup for some people – especially those who use a lot of products or who use styling butter and creams, which may leave difficult residues.
Non-water soluble silicones are also difficult to extract with sulfate-free cleansers.
Furthermore, for people with oily or low absorbency hair, the high levels of conditioning ingredients in certain sulfate-free shampoos, as well as the types of conditioning ingredients consumed, maybe a concern.
Low porosity or oily hair experience more product buildup than those with oil-free hair; hence, these ingredients may leave a lot of residues.
5. Not Pocket-Friendly Either
When comparing sulfate and sulfate-free shampoos from the same brand, the sulfate-free formula is often more expensive.
This is due to the fact that the ingredients are often more expensive, and the R&D needed to create a sulfate-free shampoo that works while maintaining successful cleaning and mildness can be very costly – all of this will be reflected in the price.
Sulfate-free shampoos can also be costly due to their lack of efficacy. This also means that people would use a lot more shampoo to achieve the same results as if they used sulfate shampoo.
But if you’ve found the perfect sulfate-free shampoo that gets your hair to the ideal balance of cleansed and not stripped, it may be worth it.
Only keep in mind that your washday routine should be gentle enough in general; damage from rough handling can be just as damaging as any hard shampoo, sulfate, or sulfate-free.
Having read it all, you must be thinking, ‘is there any good shampoo for my hair?’ Well, there certainly is. In fact, a sulfate-free shampoo can be the ultimate solution to your hair problems.
All you need to do is choose carefully – do some research about a shampoo’s ingredients and see whether it will suit your hair type or not. Hopefully, this will help you pick the suitable sulfate or sulfate-free shampoo for yourself.
And if you are too confused to make a choice, consult a dermatologist. Experts will study your hair type and condition and recommend you a shampoo accordingly.