Is sulfate free baby shampoo good for adult hair?

Shiraune Says: In viewing your site I have become an instant fan. I appreciate the unbiased information you provide here. My question is: are baby shampoos sufficient enough to clean adult hair? I know they are SLS free and have been looking for this type of shampoo to minimize the drying effect from SLS poos.

The Left Brain Responds:

Thanks for the kind words about the blog. We always try to provide helpful, unbiased information when answering your questions. And your question in particular is a good one because there is a lot of misinformation out there about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and shampoo.

Is SLS bad?

First of all, don’t believe all the urban legends about SLS causing cancer or being bad for you because it’s used in garage cleaners. We’ve blogged about SLS before and pointed out that these myths have been debunked. Most people can use Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate shampoos without any problem whatsoever.

BUT, some people do find that SLS can dry out their scalp. Those people should consider SLS’s milder cousin SLES (short for Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate) or they should consider using sulfate-free shampoos.

Are baby shampoos good cleansers?

Baby shampoos are good examples of sulfate-free formulas. Instead of SLS they contain materials known as amphoteric surfactants that are less drying to skin and milder to the eye. (Hence the “no more tears” claim of many baby shampoos.

The downside to these types of formulations is that they don’t clean as well as the stronger detergent systems. While SLS is a VERY good cleansing agent that can remove sweat, dirt, styling product residue and scalp oils, baby shampoo formulas are not so effective.

Why not baby yourself?

Is this a problem? It depends. If you’re using a ton of styling product you might have to shampoo your hair multiple times with baby shampoo to get it as clean as an SLS-based product. That’s not such a bad trade off if your scalp is really dried out. I recommend trying baby shampoo for a week or two to see if you like the effect. If not, you can always switch back.

And if you’ve got money to burn, you can also check out the adult version of baby shampoos: EN Joy Hydrating Shampoo, Back To Basics Color Protecting Shampoo, or even Paves.

Want to learn more? You can read another post of our posts on Sulfates, but you’ll have to sit through the Right Brain’s silly ranting about the Foam Gnome and the Detergent Dwarf.