When buying personal hygiene products, like shampoo, most people care about whether it gets their hair clean and they may not think about the chemicals it contains or the harm they can do to their bodies. It’s important to consider the ramifications of the chemicals in the products you use, and look for the best sulfate free shampoo.
What are Sulfates?
Sulfates are found in many of the personal care products you use every day, including:
- Body Washes
- Facial Washes
- Shaving Creams
Sulfates are synthetic chemicals that are good at cutting through dirt and grease to cleanse hair and skin. They are water soluble, so when they are mixed with water, it creates the lather most people like to see when they shower, brush their teeth or apply shaving cream to their beards.
These chemicals act as surfactants to reduce the tension between water and the dirt and grease in your hair. It is what allows dirt and greases to be washed away when you wash and rinse your hair.
While sulfates are based on sulfur, they are also a derivative of petrolatum and a substance called lauryl alcohol. Lauryl alcohol is created from the oils of coconuts and other plants. Petrolatum is a petroleum by-product, more commonly known as petroleum jelly.
Sulfates are created when lauryl alcohol reacts with sulfuric acid, which is a highly corrosive mineral acid. When it comes into contact with skin or other tissues like the eyes, it can cause chemical burns. However, part of the problem with sulfates is its use of petrolatum.
Why are Sulfates Bad?
Shampoos containing sulfates can cause damage to your hair and, some of the ingredients that create sulfates, petrolatum specifically, have been linked to cancerous tumors. Since sulfates help emulsify grease, natural oils in the hair and dirt, it can strip the hair of the oils it needs to be healthy.
Although the squeak you hear after it is washed signifies it is clean, it also means your hair has been stripped of its natural oils. When hair losses too much of its natural oil, it can become overly dry, and in some cases, hair loss can occur.
The oil in your hair protects the hair shaft, so without it, hair shafts may split and become brittle. Brittle hair can easily break when brushing, combing, and styling it. So, it’s important to use shampoo that doesn’t strip all the oil from your hair.
Since they contain diluted sulfuric acid, sulfates can cause skin irritations, especially for those who have sensitive skin. Your scalp and the other areas of skin sulfate shampoos touch can become red, dry out, and itch.
There is also a link between sulfates and organ toxicity. While studies show low concentrations of sulfates to be harmless, in experiments with lab rats, concentrations of 15% sulfates were found to cause skin irritation, problems breathing, depression, and diarrhea.
Side Effects of Petrolatum
Since sulfates mainly contain petrolatum, there is some danger of cancer since there is a link between petrolatum and breast cancer tumors. Petrolatum contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAH for short, that can attach to DNA. In studies, it was found women with breast cancer had 2.6 times more PAH in their systems than those without the disease.
Research also found that skin absorbs about 60% of the chemicals in personal care products and that those chemicals move directly into the bloodstream. Petrolatum is in several products that contact the skin, including shampoos, and have been found to suffocate it by decreasing the amount of oxygen the skin absorbs. Skin suffocation causes the death of skin cells, which can lead to premature aging.
Ingredients on Labels
When you’re shopping for shampoos, you can read the label to find out if they contain sulfates. The ingredients to look for include:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – SLS – This compound is made from coconut or palm oil, which is then combined with other ingredients to create SLS. Along with shampoo, a more concentrated form is found in industrial cleaners like carwash soap, engine degreasers, and floor cleaners.
- Sodium Laureth Sulfate – SLES – While it is similar to SLS, it does not go through ethoxylation, which is a chemical process.
- Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate – ALS – This ingredient is what helps give shampoo and body washes their ability to create lots of lather. However, it is also a known eye, skin, and respiratory irritant. It can also lead to severe skin toxicity.
To avoid these ingredients, look for shampoos that are sulfate free. Watch this video to find out about the benefits of using sulfate free shampoos.
The Top 5 Sulfate Free Shampoos
To help you find the best sulfate free shampoo, here are five that you can shop for online or where you buy personal care products.
1. Baebody Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo
If you’re looking for a shampoo that can get your hair clean and help repair it if it is dry, then you may want to consider using Baebody Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo. Along with several natural oils, it also contains keratin, which helps to strengthen hair.
Keratin is a natural protein which gives hair its structure. In fact, the composition of hair is 95% keratin, and this protein also provides the structure to help your skin and nails grow strong and healthy. Using keratin on hair can give it strength and help keep it healthy.
This shampoo contains several different types of natural oil, including:
- Moroccan Argan Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Almond Oil
- Coconut Oil
Oil helps make hair shiny, but it also protects your hair from exposure to the sun. Shampoos containing sulfates can strip hair of its natural oils, but this sulfate free shampoo puts oils back into your hair to make it shiny and protect it.
If you color treat your hair, sulfate free shampoos can maintain the color for longer. The shampoo is also gentle on curly hair, helping it to become manageable.
Along with being able to repair hair with damage due to being color treated or permed, it can keep hair from falling out and help it regrow. Stress and certain medical conditions are hard on hair and can cause it to thin or fall out. However, this shampoo helps to restore health to hair, so it grows thick again.
If you’re concerned about using beauty products tested on animals, you don’t need to worry about Baebody Moroccan Argan Oil because it is never tested on animals. Also, it is GMP, Good Manufacturing Practice, certified, which means its production process is consistent and controlled per certain quality standards.
What We Like
- It’s manufactured in the United States.
- The company offers a 100% money back guarantee.
- It contains several natural oils.
- The shampoo gives hair more volume.
- It leaves hair clean and soft without the use of chemicals.
What We Don’t Like
- Very strong, bad scent.
- It can leave hair feeling oily.
- The shampoo may cause dandruff issues.
2. SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo
SheaMoisure Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo contains many organic, natural ingredients made to nourish hair and help repair it. When you use products on your hair, they can build up and cause damage. However, since this shampoo is a clarifying shampoo, it helps to remove hair product build up, so it doesn’t suffocate the hair.
The natural oils it contains help to moisture hair, leaving it healthier and shiny. Along with cleaning hair, the ingredients in this SheaMoisture product promotes hair growth. It contains apple cider vinegar, which restores the pH balance of the scalp that can aid in growth.
It strengthens hair, preventing breakage and shedding, especially if your hair is chemically processed or has damage. Its formula helps give hair more volume and control. It can be used on fine, thin hair or thick hair every day to help make it healthier.
Many baby shampoos are made to be gentle and double as a body wash, which is how Puracy Natural Baby Shampoo and Body Wash is made. It was developed by doctors to leave baby’s hair and skin soft, healthy and moisturized as some shampoos, especially those containing sulfates can leave skin and hair feeling dry and can be irritating to the sensitive skin of a baby.
What We Like
- It promotes hair growth.
- The shampoo mends hair damage.
- It’s Gentle enough for everyday use.
- Hair is softer.
- The smell is pleasant.
What We Don’t Like
- The product was too watery.
- Hair was left lifeless and dull.
- It didn’t clean hair well.
3. Puracy Natural Baby Shampoo and Body Wash
This product contains pink Himalayan salt, which can help smooth, soften, and clean skin better than most ingredients found in commercial products. It also contains a coconut-based cleanser called coco glycinate, which is one of the gentlest ingredients found in body washes.
Baby’s with all skin types and issues can use this product. It is good for babies with sensitive skin, who have eczema, or who might have cradle cap. Cradle cap is small crusty patches on the scalp due to excess oil the body produces.
This shampoo/body wash is made from only natural ingredients, so it is biodegradable, sustainable, and non-toxic. If you’re living a vegan lifestyle, this product can be used on yourself or your child.
Along with being a sulfate free shampoo, it doesn’t contain:
- Petroleum-based chemicals
It is a cleanser made from all-natural ingredients, so it is hypoallergenic, and it is produced in the United States. It contains vegetable-based moisturizers and is formulated to create plenty of lather featuring small, tiny bubbles.
What We Like
- It is hypoallergenic.
- It has a nice citrus smell that is refreshing.
- The shampoo can help reduce cradle cap.
- Only requires small amounts to wash baby’s hair and skin.
- 100% satisfaction guarantee.
What We Don’t Like
- It isn’t tear-free since it can irritate the eyes.
- The shampoo doesn’t lather well.
- It can irritate some children’s skin.
4. PURA D’OR Advanced Therapy Shampoo
This sulfate free shampoo contains 80% natural ingredients, which are plant-based, to help moisturize and strengthen hair. It can also make hair look fuller, reduce hair thinning, and breakage due to previous damage.
It is made in the USA and is certified by the USDA as a biobased product, with a score of plus 90%. Along with being made from sustainable plant-based ingredients, it is also produced sustainably. The factory where it is made is completely powered by solar energy.
PURA D’OR Advance Therapy Shampoo is made with several oils to help strengthen and moisturize hair. Some of the oils it includes are:
- Argan kernel oil
- Tea tree leaf oil
- Lemon oil
- Rosemary leaf oil
- Black cumin seed oil
- Clary oil
- Pumpkin seed oil
Many of the ingredients in this product are certified organic. However, not all the ingredients are natural. There are some chemical-based ingredients in this shampoo.
Since it doesn’t contain sulfates, it is gentle on hair that has been color treated, and it doesn’t strip hair of its natural oils. Instead, the oils it contains help to lock in moisture and help protect hair from the damaging, drying effects of the sun. It can also protect hair from the effects of hard water, which can leave hair dry and cause it to fall out.
Along with reducing hair thinning, this product also promotes hair growth. By restoring hair and protecting it with the added vitamins in its formula, this shampoo helps hair begin to grow again, so it is longer and fuller.
What We Like
- It promotes hair growth.
- It can reduce hair thinning and loss.
- The shampoo has a nice, subtle smell.
- It’s made from plant-based ingredients.
- Color-treated hair doesn’t fade or become damaged.
What We Don’t Like
- Users report that it left hair uncontrollable every time it was used.
- It doesn’t lather well.
- The shampoo can leave hair feeling dry.
5. The Wonder Seed Hemp Shampoo
If you want an all-natural shampoo, then The Wonder Seed Hemp Shampoo may be what you’re seeking. It only contains all natural ingredients, so it doesn’t contain:
- Artificial color
- Artificial fragrances
The shampoo is very gentle, and it is hypoallergenic, so everyone can use it without needing to worry that it will cause skin irritations.
The ingredients in this formula are plant-based and include things like virgin organic hemp seed oil, organic aloe vera, coconut oil, cocoa butter, jojoba oil, and ginseng extract, among many others. Along with nourishing your hair, this shampoo also nourishes the scalp.
It is good for people with eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, and an itchy, flaky scalp to use because it can help treat those problems. Since it uses many different oils, it helps to seal moisture into your hair, and it can protect it from harsh elements, like the hot sun.
The shampoo also includes green tea extract, which has anti-inflammatory properties. It not only helps reduce hair loss due to damage, but it encourages new hair growth. Many people suffer hair loss due to stress or medical conditions that cause hair to thin and easy to break, but this shampoo is formulated to reduce thinning and help hair regrow.
Since its ingredients are plant-based, the shampoo is environmentally friendly and sustainably created. The company’s products are cruelty-free as they are never tested on animals. If you are a vegan, then you can use this shampoo as it doesn’t contain animal by-products.
What We Like
- Helps clear up itchy, dry scalps
- Restores moisture to hair and leaves it manageable.
- The shampoo has a nice smell.
- It leaves hair soft and shiny.
- It reduces oil build up on hair.
What We Don’t Like
- Users report bad smell.
- It is too expensive.
- Too much shampoo is needed, and it didn’t work as promised.
Our Pick for the Best Shampoo
While all the five shampoos we reviewed are sulfate free, they are a mixture of all natural shampoos and some that contain artificial ingredients. However, based on their ingredients and how well the shampoo works on hair, our top pick for the best sulfate free shampoo is Baebody Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo.
This shampoo restores a healthy shine to hair that has damage from color and harsh chemical treatments, exposure to the harsh sun, and from products which have stripped away natural oils. The various oils it contains help to lock in moisture and protects hair from the sun and exposure to the pollutants in the air.
Since it contains keratin, the natural protein found in hair, it strengthens it and gives it more volume. This shampoo prevents color treated hair from fading, and it can help curly hair become more manageable. Also, it is cruelty-free as no tests are done on animals using products made from this manufacturer.
This shampoo is available in a reasonably priced 16-ounce bottle, and it is made and packaged in the United States. If you are not satisfied with how your hair looks and feels after using it, Baebody offers a 100% money back guarantee.