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What Does Sulfate-free Shampoo Mean?

There are many options for shampoos available and deciding which one is right for you may be challenging. If you have sensitive skin or scalp, deciding on a shampoo may pose as 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 chemical structure often incorporated into surfactants, which can be used in household products, primarily as a cleansing or foaming agent. Surfactants make the product, such as a shampoo, easier to mix with water to work up into a lather or foam and to dissolve oils into water to wash them away.

Are sulfates bad for hair and scalp?

Sulfate is commonly found in many ingredients besides surfactants and is generally not problematic for the skin and scalp. When used correctly and in normal quantities, surfactants containing sulfates are also generally suitable to use. However, certain sulfate-based surfactants may be too effective at cleaning. These sulfates help remove oil and dirt from the hair and scalp, but if they strip away too much, they can leave your hair and scalp dry, unhealthy and irritated. This can lead to redness of the scalp and brittle hair.

What are the benefits of sulfate-free shampoo?

A sulfate-free shampoo may feel a little different. It can take longer to create a lather or foam; however, this is not necessarily an indicator of its cleansing power. A shampoo without sulfates or a shampoo without sodium lauryl sulfate, which is a type of sulfate, typically cleans the hair and scalp as effectively as a shampoo that does contain sulfates.

People with sensitive skin or scalps may benefit from using a gentle sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, such as Vanicream™ Shampoo and Vanicream™ Conditioner, or a sulfate-free dandruff shampoo, like Vanicream™ Dandruff Shampoo. Sulfate-free products tend to be less irritating for sensitive skin. In fact, all of our cleansers, hair care and moisturizers are free of common chemical irritants such as fragrance, parabens and sulfates.

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


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