SULFATES: Why I Cut Them Out of My Skincare and Hair Care and Never Looked Back
What are Sulfates?
Sulfates are a type of surfactant, which is basically a detergent. In other words, they help cleanse the skin of dirt and oil, and they are the reason that many liquid body washes and shampoos create a rich, foamy lather.
They’re also found in many moisturizers and sunscreens, because they help ingredients mix well together, instead of clumping or separating in the bottle.
Some sulfates are synthetic, meaning they are man-made. Some come from petroleum, while others come from natural sources like palm oil or coconut oil. No matter where they come from, they can all do some major harm to your skin, hair and scalp.
How do Sulfates Impact your Skin?
Sulfates, whether they are synthetic or natural, can be very irritating. If used in high enough concentrations, they can damage the outer layers of your skin, resulting in itchy, cracked, dry or inflamed skin. They very rarely create true allergies, but they are major causes of irritation.
In shampoos, sulfates can irritate the scalp and result in frizzy, dull hair. They can even make your hair dye disappear quickly, making your trips to the salon more frequent.
What about your Microbiome?
If you continue to cleanse with sulfate-containing products, this is also likely to damage your skin’s microbiome. The healthy bacteria on your skin need a certain environment, or “terrain” to survive and thrive. When you wash away and damage their terrain, these delicate bacteria die and unhealthy, hearty ones remain and take over – we do not want this to happen!
I tell my patients to avoid sulfates, and look for sulfate-free on the label. Even if the sulfate comes from coconuts, PASS. It’s just as likely to strip your skin of its healthy lipids, leaving you dry, inflamed and red.
Specifically, SLS and SLES are the 2 sulfates I recommend avoiding. There’s another one called ALS (Ammonium Laureth Sulfate) which is considerably more gentle, so your skin might be able to tolerate products using ALS in low concentrations. Patch test first, which is my rule of thumb when trying any new product!
My Bottom Line
I’ve cut sulfates out of my skincare and hair care and honestly, I’ve never looked back. I see such a difference in my skin and my hair – there’s no question in my mind that you don’t need sulfates in your life!