sulfate-free shampoo

3 Tips for Using Sulfate-Free Shampoo

3 Tips for Using Sulfate-Free Shampoo | Writing Between Pauses

Sulfate-free shampoo is all the rage in beauty communities. Jonathan Van Ness, from Queer Eye, advocates using sulfate free shampoos, as sulfates are believed to coat and potentially damage our hair. I’ve written about going sulfate-free before, and a few things you need to know about going sulfate-free.

My perspective on sulfate-free shampoos is that there are going to be some people, and some hair types, that benefit from sulfates and some that don’t. For example. I think my hair actually thrives with shampoo with sulfates; I have pretty manageable, easy hair and I don’t use product very often, so I didn’t have to worry about build up. However, my scalp really hates sulfates because it’s incredibly sensitive, which is why I went sulfate-free about 6 months ago.

However, I don’t think going sulfate-free is right for everybody. If your shampoo works for you, then keep using it, honey!

But if you’re curious about trying sulfate-free shampoos, there is a bit of a learning curve to starting using them. The big difference between shampoos with sulfates and those without is that sulfate-free shampoos don’t foam. It’s more like using a thin conditioner. That first wash can be a little bit confusing if you’re not aware that your new shampoo won’t get sudsy. And for some people, that sudsy, squeaky clean feeling is really important to them! So, here are a few if my tips and advice for using sulfate-free shampoos.

1. You Need A Lot of Water (& Less Product)

We all have our own process for washing our hair. I know for me, I’ve been washing my hair a specific way for years and I rarely deviate from my routine. It’s something I don’t ever really even think about. I know how to rinse shampoo out of my hair, I know how to wash my hair, these are things I know. But once I started using sulfate-free shampoo, it felt like everything changed.

Here’s the thing about sulfate-free shampoo: like I said, it’s like using a thinner conditioner. It doesn’t foam up like soap does. So the process of washing my hair fundamentally changed and I had to change along with it!

One thing I learned, through a lot of trial and error, was that I needed a lot more water in my hair before I started washing it with sulfate-free shampoo. I also learned that I needed to spend a lot more time rinsing my hair, making sure I got all the shampoo out. If I don’t do these two very important steps, I end up having leftover product in my hair—which isn’t a great feeling.

As well, you need significantly less sulfate-free shampoo starting out than a standard shampoo. Just a single pump or dollop to start out, then working through your hair with plenty of water.

2. Growing Pains

The first few washes with sulfate-free shampoo often are what make people think sulfate-free shampoo isn’t for them. I know for a while I definitely thought I’d made a mistake; my hair no longer felt smoothy or silky, or even clean. It felt… weird. Dry, a little frizzy, and generally not as nice looking as I expect my hair to look. However, if you power through and keep on keeping on, eventually your hair will recover from the shock of not having sulfates anymore.

The thing about sulfates, for some hair types, is that they can coat the strands of your hair; when you stop using them, your hair has to shed all that built up product and residue. Some people can switch effortlessly, depending on their hair type, and others have a few days or weeks of growing pains.

So, with sulfate-free shampoos, remember: you’re going to have a period of adjustment.

3. Condition, Condition, Condition

Going sulfate-free means that your hair is more likely to get dry, especially if you use heat styling products or live in a climate that is hot and dry. Conditioning is a huge step. Using a matching conditioner to your shampoo will be important, plus adding a weekly hair mask to help keep your strands looking fresh. I like using the Shea Moisture Manuka Honey mask once a week after shampooing.

Next week, I’ll be sharing a review of Formulate, a sulfate-free customized shampoo system that I have been loving lately. I’ve shared some details in my Instagram stories and you can watch the highlight here. Until my blog post next week, you can sign up for my giveaway with Formulate here.

Beauty Review: OGX Miracle Oil Line

Beauty Review: OGX Miracle Oil Line | Writing Between Pauses

Another day, another shampoo review.

A few months ago, I reviewed the OGX Coconut Oil Shampoo, which I quite liked. It did a lot to help my scalp, which was in pretty poor shape. As I wrote in my post about hair masks, I recently discovered that my scalp problems are mostly hormonal and my goal has become to soothe my scalp as much as I possibly can.

One thing I started noticing in the last 6 months had nothing to do with my scalp: split ends. I hadn’t had a hair cut in 3 years (it’s been 3 years ago this week actually!), when I was pregnant. It was just one of those things that got away from me. But since I don’t use heat styling, I don’t really get split ends as bad as I should. However, I was having a lot of breakage and split ends by the end of July. It just kept getting worse and while I knew the solution was to get a hair cut, I still kept putting it off. (But that’s really another story entirely, isn’t it?)

My hair started getting very dry during the summer. Not just my scalp, which was still flaring up occasionally, but my hair started to feel rather straw like. The problem really got bad when I was sent some shampoo to try and it absolutely destroyed my hair to the point where I had to email the company and cancel the sponsored post. It was bad, bad, bad! Just the absolute worst shampoo I’ve ever used on my hair. It made my hair dry and brittle, the ends seemed to start splitting at an alarming rate, and I was looking really ragged!

So at Target, I decided to treat myself to two pieces of the OGX Coconut Miracle Oil line because my hair needed it. I got the Coconut Miracle Oil shampoo and the Coconut Miracle Penetrating Oil. Here’s what the shampoo promises:

Create an island girl escape in your shower with this ultra-moisturizing formula for thick to coarse hair. Help repair, soften and revive damaged strands and discover silky, soft island-inspired hair.

And here’s what the Penetrating Oil promises:

This Penetrating Oil is the key to your island escape, to help revive your senses and your strands. This rich oil helps to calm frizz and tame flyaways, leaving hair silky soft and shiny.

Basically, both these products are intended to moisturize and help repair hair. Technically, they are both for hair types that are not mine (thick, wavy hair seems to be what they are advertised for), but since my hair was in such need of heavy repair… I knew I had to try something.

The shampoo especially is lovely. After one use, my hair was much less dry and brittle (from that awful shampoo!) and within a week or two, it was looking back to normal again.

The oil has become something I use daily: I apply it in the morning to help take impressions out of my hair (as my hair is so fine it often stays in a ponytail wave for a long time) and to help calm down visible breakage. It is also great for getting rid of static and frizziness when I do blow dry my hair. I have also noticed the oil helps my scalp when it is flaring up, feeling sore and flaky; I try not to apply it directly, but by moisturizing my hair, it does lend moisture to my scalp.

I have found both did a lot to help repair my hair from the damage I put it through, both from not getting a hair cut for my son’s entire life and from using a shampoo that really did a number on me. They are also both really affordable products, so if you’re hair needs a little TLC, they are absolutely a great option.

This line also include a dry shampoo, which I am very, very interested in trying. I rarely use dry shampoo, as I have found that it either leaves white marks in my dark hair or makes my scalp burn a bit (thanks sensitive scalp). However, I am really curious as this line is so moisturizing and lovely, I’m sure the dry shampoo is great too.

3 Things You Need to Know about Sulfate-Free Shampoo

3 Things You Need to Know about Sulfate-Free Shampoo | Writing Between Pauses

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?