What Is Sulfate-Free Shampoo?

SulfatesModern day sulfates such as sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) and sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) were first introduced to the consumer in the form of shampoos in the early 1900’s. While they are known irritants, they were replacing much hasher shampoos of the day. Prior to utilizing SLS or SLES, shampoos were made primarily of shaved soap, being a combination of lye, tallow and/or sodium hydroxide, as well as water and herbs. While the soap formula cleaned, it left a dull residue on the hair.

Shampoos that contain SLS or SLES not only provide a rich, luxurious lather, but they also leave the hair feeling clean and smooth. The cleansing properties associated with these two chemicals has been incorporated not only in shampoos, but also soaps, detergents, and even toothpaste. Due to the irritation sulfates can cause, instances of sulfate-based dermatitis and dry scalp have been on the rise in recent years. This has forced hair care manufacturers to seek out other, less stringent cleaners or surfactants.

Sulfate-free shampoos have become an excellent alternative to the more aggressive, sulfate-based shampoos. These milder shampoos most commonly incorporate Sodium Lauroamphoacetate, Sodium Coco Lisethioate and/or Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate in the formulations. While these replacements may be tongue twisters, they are all derived from coconut oils and do an excellent job of cleansing the hair. Because sulfate-free products are milder than their sulfate-based predecessors, they are inherently gentler to the skin, color and chemically treated hair. In fact, the only downside of these products is the fact that they don’t foam as much as SLS or SLES and for some people that takes some getting use to.

So remember, sulfate-based and sulfate-free shampoos serve identical functions. When building your private-label hair care line, some of your clientele may prefer the rich lather of a sulfate-based shampoo without noticing any irritation. Others may need a gentler, color and chemically treated safe shampoo. Just remember to let them know it will foam less than what they are use to. So be sure to give them a choice.