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What Does Sulfate-free Shampoo Mean?

There are many types of shampoos available, and deciding which one is right for you may be challenging. If you have sensitive skin or scalp, choosing a shampoo may pose an even bigger challenge. Avoiding common chemical irritants, like sulfate, in your hair care may be especially important if you have sensitive skin.

What is sulfate?

Sulfates are a type of surfactant, which can be used in personal care or household products, primarily as a cleansing or foaming agent. Common sulfates found in shampoo are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

Surfactants are added to products to make them easier to mix with water.  This helps to work up a lather or foam and to dissolve oils into water to wash them away.

A sulfate-free shampoo uses different types of surfactants.  It still cleans the hair and scalp effectively, but it may take longer to lather or foam.  

Are sulfates bad for hair and scalp?

Sulfates are found in many ingredients besides surfactants and are not typically problematic. When used correctly and in appropriate quantities, surfactants containing sulfates are also generally suitable for use on hair and scalp. However, certain sulfate-based surfactants may be too effective at cleaning, stripping away natural oils and moisture, which can lead to dry hair and scalp. Dryness can contribute to irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin and scalp. 

What are the benefits of sulfate-free shampoo?

Sulfate-free shampoos may be a preferable option for those with sensitive scalps, as they may be gentler and less drying, which lowers the potential for irritation compared to shampoos with sulfates. Vanicream™ Shampoo and Vanicream™ Dandruff Shampoo are sulfate-free.

If you have sensitive skin or scalp, it is always best to consult with a board-certified dermatologist.


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