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Is sulfate free shampoo better for color treated hair?

Kal’s question….As a stylist I have been told to tell my clients to use “sulfate-free” shampoo if they have color-treated(or curly) hair. However, I read in your book that you’ve studied the performance of sulfate-free vs shampoos containing sulfates and didn’t see a difference in hair color fading. Is there anything out there that preserves freshly colored hair?! Is there any benefit of using a sulfate-free shampoo as far as frizz goes?! I stumbled upon this company, purely perfect, and that say sulfates damage the hair?!

The Beauty Brains respond:

We answered Kal’s question in our Forum but I’d like to share the discussion with a broader audience. Let’s breakdown her questions one by one.

Q: I read in your book that you’ve studied the performance of sulfate-free vs shampoos containing sulfates and didn’t see a difference in hair color fading.
A: True. While there is data that shows sulfates can be irritating to skin (because they interact with skin protein and don’t rinse well) there is no data showing they cause color loss. In our lab testing they caused no more color loss than other types of shampoo.

Q: Is there anything out there that preserves freshly colored hair?!
A: We’ve seen data from chemical suppliers showing that a variety of ingredients can reduce color fading. The only one product we have personal experience with is the Tresemme ColorThrive S/C (not Color Revitalize.) It may be discontinued, I’m not sure. If you can’t find the Tresemme product I’d look at the L’Oreal Color Radiance line since their color technology is quite good.

Q: Is there any benefit of using a sulfate-free shampoo as far as frizz goes?
A: Not necessarily. The anti-frizz effect of a shampoo is determined more by the conditioning agents than the surfactant.

Q: I stumbled upon this company, purely perfect, and that say sulfates damage the hair?!
A: Of course they say that – they sell sulfate-free shampoo!

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Lyn Caf February 17, 2014, 4:49 pm

    I’ve heard some people say that sulfates are necessary or better for removing buildup from styling products, especially silicones. Is there any truth to that? If you had to avoid sulfates because they irritate your skin, would you have to avoid silicones as well?

  • Randy Schueller February 17, 2014, 6:34 pm

    It’s generally agreed upon in the hair care formulating community that when it comes to shampoos, sulfates are about the most powerful cleaning ingredient you can use. The common wisdom is that they’re best for removing silicones. HOWEVER I’ve never seen any data proving that point and I haven’t found any silicone supplier who necessarily agrees.

    IF you avoid sulfates because they irritate your skin and IF you find that sulfate free formulas don’t remove buildup to your satisfaction, then yeah I guess you’re kind of stuck.

  • Jane McFarlane April 4, 2014, 9:22 am

    I started using sulfate-free shampoos and definitely noticed that my color faded less. It is a red shade so tends to fade easily. My long-time colorist even asked if I had changed my shampoo because she noticed how much better my color was lasting. I had not mentioned the change in shampoos to her.

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