Wonder why your hair always looks like a dull, big fuzzball or a ratty old bird’s nest, while your cousin, who has a similar hair texture, boasts locks that are always flawlessly bouncy, glossy and smooth? Could it be your shampoo? It doesn’t matter if your hair is natural or chemically-processed, washing with sulfate-free products is a must. Sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent ingredient that is in most traditional sudsing shampoos, is a cleansing agent that is often too harsh for most textured tresses and processed hair. Sulfates strip hair of natural oils and deplete the hair and scalp of essential moisture.
“When a product has a sulfate in it, it’s terrible because it’s defeating the purpose of everything you’re trying to achieve, which is supple, healthy, frizz-free hair. Sulfates do the exact opposite of that,” explains Marc Anthony, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Marc Anthony True Professional. “They distort the cuticle, create frizz, make the hair more dry and brittle causing split ends and flyaways. And because the cuticle is distorted, it removes all the shine, which makes your hair really dull.”
Sulfate-free cleansers, on the other hand, are gentle, ultra moisturizing, non-sudsing or low-lathering hair washes that help to normalize oil production in the scalp and reduce irritation. “You’re getting all the benefits of cleansing with maximum moisturization. Now you’re making the cuticle of the hair lie flat so there’s no frizz, lots of shine and the hair is supple — it’s now less prone to split ends, breakage or tangles,” says Anthony. Utilizing sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners is a great way to restore softness, gloss and bounce to your hair and help retain hair color. Those with fine hair should cleanse their heads every other day, while those with thicker strands only need to wash their manes once or twice a week.
With sulfate-free cleansers, you may have to forgo a rich, satisfying lather, but instead you’ll reap the benefits of glossier, softer curls. Here are our picks for sulfate-free hair products that will have your locks looking their absolute best.