Sulfates in shampoos: What are they?

Ambarian asks…What exactly are Sodium Laureth Sulphate , Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Ammonium Lareth Sulphate and Myreth Sulphate . What is their main purposes in a shampoo? Is it true if you buy a shampoo that contains ALS it is not as harsh on you hair . Is it true that these will strip hair of natural oil and moisture hence if you have dry / curly hair it is best not to use shampoo containing these?

The Left Brain responds…We’ve talked about Sulfates in your shampoo before and we encourage you to read this first.

In the industry, these compounds are known by acronyms such as SLS, SLES, ALS, etc. While we cosmetic chemists like to say really long words to describe chemicals, they can hamper conversations. These sulfates are all primary detergents that make shampoos, body washes and other cleansers clean and foam. Without these ingredients cleansing products wouldn’t work nearly as well as they do.

Practically speaking, ALS is just as harsh on your hair as SLS. ALS is the main detergent of brans like Pantene, Herbalessences, Dove and Suave. SLS is used in Paul Mitchell, VO5 and lots of other brands. Of the ones you listed Myreth sulphate would be least harsh (although it is still more harsh than the things you’d find in a baby shampoo).

These ingredients will not strip your hair of oil any worse than other surfactant bases. All shampoos strip your hair of natural oil. That’s how they clean. In this regard, avoiding these ingredients will not be helpful to you. Some people find these surfactants a bit more irritating than others so you might take this into consideration when buying a product with them in it.

If you have dry/curly hair than you can use any shampoo but make sure you use a conditioner afterwards. This will help replenish the oils that are lost.

If you are concerned about stripping natural oils, the only thing you can do is stop washing your hair. But remember the natural oils help capture dirt, dust and pollution that you walk through every day. For clean hair you really don’t want natural oils.

Beauty Brains bottom line

Sulfates are used in many personal care products and are some of the most effective ingredients you can use for cleaning. They often get bad press and the Natural crowd hates them, but they are perfectly fine ingredients. They’re what all of the Beauty Brains use.