Many women want to escape the drying effects of shampoo, which is one of the reasons why co-washing has become so popular over the years. Sebum (which is the natural oil that our scalp produces) has difficulty traveling down the bends and coils on curly and kinky textures, which is why we naturals have to moisturize our hair throughout the week to reduce dryness and breakage. Co-washing has become an alternative because the right conditioner can gently cleanse your hair without stripping it of its natural oils*. However, a shampoo is needed every once in a while to thoroughly cleanse your hair of product residue. Many store bought shampoos are extremely drying because they contain surfactants (cleansers) called sulfates.
THE LOWDOWN ON SULFATES
Sulfates are used because they are cheap, effective cleansers. So effective that they strip the hair of every bit of residue, even its natural oils. This is why sulfates are so common in liquid dish soap! For curly girls, this typically results in dry, tangled, squeaky-clean hair that can become a hassle to manipulate, especially if you haven’t detangled your hair prior to shampooing. When I used sulfate shampoos, I’d notice that my hair felt stripped and became very hard to manipulate after rinsing . I’d have to use heaps of conditioner and oil before I could even attempt to separate my hair for detangling.
Those with naturally straight hair may find that their scalp becomes oilier when using sulfates. This is because the removal of the natural oils causes the sebum glands to become overactive and work to replace all of the sebum that was just washed away. This causes greasier, weighed down hair that you’d have to shampoo more often, which is perfect for those shampoo manufacturers since you’d have to use more of their product to remove the excess oil that the shampoo caused. The trickery!
These troubling sulfates come in many different titles, such as:
Ammonium Lauryl, Laureth Sulfate, Triethanolammonium (TEA) Lauryl, Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
In addition to creating oily or dry, tangled hair, these sulfates have the potential to act as irritant to those with sensitive skin. Prolonged use can exacerbate scalp problems and cause painful, lingering eye irritation. You may also notice that the overall health of your hair declines with regular use of sulfates. If your hair always feels rough and brittle, your shampoo could be the culprit.
SO WHAT IS SAFE TO USE?
Sulfates aren’t your only option if you want clean hair. Cocamidopropyl Betaine (aka Coco Betaine) is a very mild cleanser derived from coconuts. It effectively removes product buildup without stripping the hair. It is also one of the few sulfate-free cleansers that actually removes silicone buildup. If you use synthetic products but want to avoid sulfates, a shampoo with this ingredient would be your best bet.
Decyl Glucoside is another ingredient to consider when looking for a sulfate free shampoo. It is so mild that it is frequently used in baby shampoo. This gentle cleanser is derived from coconuts, and/or corn.
A few other gentle cleansers are:
THE IMPORTANCE OF SHAMPOO
If you are an avid co-washer, please remember that it is important to thoroughly cleanse your hair with a shampoo every once in a while to ensure that you don’t have months of product build up marinating in your strands. I use Terrene Fusions’ Olive & Aloe Clarifying Shampoo at least once a month to rid my hair of any product residue. It contains Coco Betaine and Decyl Glucoside, making it a very gentle, yet effective alternative to the sulfate-ridden store bought shampoos. In addition to cleansing, this shampoo also:
IS CLARIFYING NECESSARY?
Not sure if you need to clarify your hair? Check out the infographic below. If you are interested, the shampoo is available in multiple scents and sizes in my shop. Feel free to share this post or leave a comment if you found it helpful.
*For a more detailed post about the pros and cons of co-washing, please visit last week's post titled "Cowashing Revealed".
How often do you clarify your hair?
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