By Mana, Gisou Beauty Advisor
I spent years thinking I was doing all the right things - I bought the “expensive” drug store shampoo (because expensive means it’s good, right?), I didn’t overwash my hair, I avoided heat styling, never color-treated my hair, you name it.
Despite all this, every week without fail, my scalp would feel itchy, dry and flaky a couple of days after washing, and my hair just looked…dull. I figured this must just be my hair type, and there wasn’t much that could be done about it. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Have you ever had that thing happen, where you learn a new word and then suddenly you hear it everywhere. Well, that was me and sulfates. When I joined Gisou and began my ingredient and product training, the phrase “sulfate-free” came up like a mantra.
Of course, I’d heard about sulfate-free products, but it had never really occurred to me that this could be the root of many of my hair and scalp issues. I started inspecting the long, confusing list of ingredients on the back of my haircare products, and boom, there they were loud and clear.
What are sulfates?
Essentially, sulfates are detergents, or cleaning agents used to break down dirt and oils. They are also surfactants, used to create that thick, foamy effect most of us love in our shampoos and body washes. The most common sulfates found in store-bought shampoos include sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and ammonium laureth sulfate.
Are sulfates bad for hair?
Technically, no. Sulfates are not necessarily harmful, however, they can be too good at their job, stripping the hair, scalp and skin of natural oils, and leaving it feeling dry and brittle. Because of this, certain people can benefit from avoiding sulfates in their self-care products.
You will benefit from using sulfate-free hair care products if…
You have sensitive skin or a sensitive scalp
If you have eczema or psoriasis, sulfates can make your skin dry, itchy and red. So we would 10/10 recommend a sulfate-free shampoo for you.
You have dry skin or hair
This goes without saying - if you already struggle with dryness, why use something that’s going to dry you out even more? I definitely fall into this category. As someone with dry skin and hair, sulfates were definitely drying my scalp out even more, resulting in that uncomfortable itchiness days after washing.
Your hair is fine
Our guys and gals with finer hair types will know that you have to be extra gentle with your hair to avoid breakage. Shampoos with sulfates can be far too harsh for more fragile hair types, leaving them more prone to dryness and damage.
Your hair is frizzy
Those who struggle with frizz will know, we will do anything to win this ongoing battle with the elements. You’re probably wishing someone told you this sooner, but sulfates lift the hair’s cuticle, making your hair more likely to frizz. If frizz is one of your main struggles, cut the sulfates!
Your hair has been dyed or chemically-treated
Your hair needs a little extra love after putting it through these processes, and a good sulfate-free shampoo is the best basis for a haircare routine that will nourish the hair and protect your color. Not to mention the fact that sulfate-free shampoo can also keep brassiness at bay.
When are sulfates ok?
We don’t want to make sulfates out to be all bad. Sometimes they can be beneficial. For example, if you have heavy product build-up or if you have a very oily hair type, a shampoo with sulfates might be your thing. Those who love a super foamy shampoo are also drawn to products containing sulfates, as you won’t get the same sudsy action from sulfate-free products.
Our Honey Infused Hair Wash
Here at Gisou, we prioritize making our formulations as natural as possible and having a sulfate- and paraben-free formulation was a part of this. As I started using the Gisou Honey Infused Hair Wash, I had to go through a transition period after years of using products with sulfates, but in the end, it was totally worth it!
Switching to sulfate-free shampoo
Changing from a shampoo with sulfates can be a tough transition — your hair may appear oilier at first and not feel as clean. After years of using products with sulfates, your hair may have started to overproduce oil to compensate for being stripped clean.
Your hair will take time to adjust to the new formulation as it rebalances its oil production. Don’t worry - this will settle down. The key is patience, it can take up to 6 weeks for the hair to totally adjust.
How to use sulfate-free shampoo:
- Make sure your hair is soaked before applying the shampoo: this is important as it will help you easily distribute the product throughout your hair.
- Less is more: apply 2 to 3 pumps of the Honey Infused Hair Wash into the palms of your hands, mixing with a small amount of water. Rub the palms together to create a gentle lather. Keep in mind that this product won’t create huge clouds of foam — this doesn’t mean you need more!
- Focus on your scalp: once you’ve lathered the product, focus it on your scalp. Take this time to really massage the product with your fingertips and let it do its work.
- Rinse and repeat: if you have oilier hair, you might want to do a rinse and repeat to really lift the oil and product out of your hair.
- Rinse, rinse, rinse: this is super important, as leaving any of the product on the hair may leave it feeling heavy and weighed down.
- Condition: once you’ve rinsed, seal the cuticle and lock in moisture with the Honey Infused Conditioner, the perfect partner to the Honey Infused Hair Wash. Focus the conditioner on the mid-lengths to the ends of your hair, leaving it to soak for 3 to 5 minutes before rinsing.
The benefits of sulfate-free shampoo:
Transitioning to our (sulfate and paraben-free) Honey Infused Hair Wash has a number of amazing benefits for your hair. To name a few:
- Your hair’s natural oil balance will begin to restore itself: your hair won’t be left stripped and dry, allowing your natural oils to protect your hair and scalp.
- Your hair will be left feeling soft and hydrated: our key ingredient, the Mirsalehi Honey, acts as a natural humectant, drawing moisture into the hair as you gently cleanse it.
- Your hair will be less prone to tangling and breakage: dry hair is prone to both tangling and breakage, removing sulfates from your hair care routine will help prevent those unwanted tangles!
- Your color will last longer: sulfates not only strip your hair of its natural oils but your gorgeous color treatment too! If you want to make your color last - sulfate-free is the way to go! If you’ve done a lightning service, sulfate-free hair care products keep out brassy tones.
- Less scalp irritation: take my word for it, sulfate-free makes all the difference!
- Your hair can finally start to grow: while hair care products free from sulfates don’t necessarily speed up growth, they can prevent breakage, and this will help you achieve the long locks of your dreams.
- Less frizz: need I say more?
- Better for the environment: sulfate and paraben-free = less synthetic chemicals polluting the environment.
While sulfates such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) might not be as bad as some make them out to be, you might benefit from avoiding them. If you have dry hair or a dry scalp, if your skin or scalp is sensitive, if your hair is fine or frizzy or if you have chemically treated or colored hair, you might want to look for sulfate-free alternatives. All Gisou products are sulfate-free, so they’re a great place to start!