2017-03-01 / OnCall

Sulfate Debate

Shane Newhouser, DO

Q: Lately I’ve seen “sulfate free” on more and more shampoo bottles. What are sulfates and how important is it to avoid them?

A: Sulfates are primarily added to cosmetics and cleaning products as a foaming agent. Sulfates combine with water to emulsify grease so that it can be washed away. The most common sulfate that is found in shampoos and conditioners is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).

Sulfates used in shampoos have been thoroughly tested and have been found to be safe with no carcinogenic properties associated with them. Some people, especially those with sensitive skin, allergies or eczema, may find products with sulfates to be more irritating to their scalp and skin.

However, sulfates can also strip your hair of essential oils and moisture, causing dryness and frizziness. Continuous use of shampoos that contain sulfates can cause long-term damage to your hair, affecting its appearance and overall health of the hair and scalp.

So what can you expect if you switch to a sulfate-free product? Typically, sulfate-free shampoos cost a little more and they don’t foam or lather like a traditional shampoo. While shampooing your hair, it may not feel as if your hair is getting as clean, but sulfate-free shampoos will leave your hair feeling softer and cleaner than it ever has before. And you may notice healthier looking and shinier hair and skin.

Shane Newhouser, DO
Family Medicine
Geisinger Scenery Park

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