I'll be totally honest: I've always been really disinterested in hair products. As someone who can buy 45 different versions of the same lipstick color (and argue with my husband to the death that they are actually very different colors, thank you very much), hair products are just beauty products that I feel I don't have space in my brain for.
I've been pretty lucky to be blessed with hair that just kind of works. I have straight, really manageable hair. I could honestly wash it with dish soap and it would behave the exact same way. (And yes, I may have done this once or twice in college.) I don't heat treat my hair and I only dye my hair its natural shade to cover grays, so I don't experience a ton of damage to it.
My hair, by nature, is very fine (though I have a lot of it, so my hair is also quite thick in terms of amount) and I've always been able to get away with washing it every 2-3 days before it looks bad. Unlike my face, I seemed to have a natural amount of oil on my scalp and it never bothered me. But about 4 months ago, I started really struggling with a dry scalp.
I tried every tea tree oil shampoo I could find, convinced I wanted to go natural. When those did nothing, I switched to Head & Shoulders, angry that I had to go with an option that wasn't cruelty-free. And while Head & Shoulders made it marginally better, I still would get a dry, flaky, itchy scalp within a day of washing. I went to the dermatologist and was told I didn't have dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis; my scalp was just dry, so when my hair got even a little oily, the skin would lift. The dermatologist told me to just wash my hair every day.
Which I did and it didn't really help. And my hair started getting quite limp from all the washing.
While listening to a podcast recently, a guest mentioned that people with dry, flaky scalps should try going sulfate-free. I had tried a few sulfate-free shampoos and I wasn't totally impressed with them--but I was willing to give it a shot. Anything that allowed me to go more than 24 hours between washes without a flaky, itchy scalp!
I started doing a lot of research on sulfate-free shampoos and came to conclusion that trying it would be absolutely worth it. I knew it might require me to stick with it for a while--not something I'm great at--but I really wanted to give it a try.
All my research gave me the idea that I needed to share what I've learned about sulfate-free shampoos.
1. Sulfates are what make shampoo sudsy--and they do not cause cancer.
For the last few years, I've been seeing this scary meme floating around Facebook (especially in my mom groups) that sulfates in shampoo cause cancer. That's categorically false.
Sulfates are simply an ingredient in shampoo that makes it sudsy; they also are a type of surfacant, which means they attract oil and water to themselves. This allows oil and debris to be removed from your scalp--but it can also strip natural oils from your hair too, making it dry and brittle. If you struggle with a dry scalp or dry hair, you may be particularly sensitive to sulfates--and so switching to sulfate-free shampoo would be a good things to try.
2. Sulfate-free shampoo makes hair color last longer.
If you dye your hair, and notice that your color is fading quite quickly, switching to sulfate-free shampoo can make a major difference. I primarily used eSalon's shampoo for a long time--but as I started struggling with my dry scalp, I had to switch to harsher shampoos that I felt stripped my color. Since I've switched to the Kristen Ess sulfate-free shampoo, I've definitely noticed that my color is not fading nearly as fast.
3. Going sulfate-free is most beneficial for certain hair types.
There are some who will benefit from going sulfate-free and some who won't. If you have relatively easy hair, and a scalp that never gets itchy or too oily, then sulfates are the easiest way to clean your hair. Going sulfate-free means you spend a little bit more time manually cleaning your scalp.
Those with dry and/or frizzy hair can benefit from sulfate-free shampoos, especially those that use coconut extracts instead of sulfates. As well, anyone who struggles with eczema or other skin conditions might benefit from going sulfate-free too, as it can help alleviate dry skin and itchiness.
I'm two weeks into using Kristen Ess's The One Signature Shampoo; I'll update this blog post when I know exactly how it has helped my scalp. I've definitely seen a reduction in flakiness and I've been much less itchy since I started using it, but I want to give myself a little bit more time!
Do you use sulfate-free shampoo? What's your favorite kind? Have you seen it help your scalp or hair?