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The truth about sulfates

The ingredients sulfates, silicones and parabens are often added to hair products. According to the Curly Girl Method, you should avoid these ingredients, as they are drying and harmful to your hair and scalp. You prefer to replace them with milder ingredients and products such as conditioner, hair masks and gel. But why are sulfates so bad, how do you recognize them in hair products, and which products are better to use? In this article you can read everything about sulfates.

Also read:

  • The truth about parabens
  • The truth about silicone

In this article:

In this article:


Sulphates are ingredients that are often added to hair products, shampoo in particular. They ensure that your shampoo, after contact with water, starts to foam nicely. This foaming effect not only gives a great feeling in the shower, it is also beneficial. Namely, it helps remove dirt, oil and dead skin from your scalp and hair. But that cleansing effect is actually too intense for your scalp and hair.

You can usually recognize sulfates on hair product labels by words ending in “-ate”:

  • SLS = Sodium Lauryl Sulfate / SDS = Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • SLES = Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate / Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • ALS = Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • ALES = Ammonium Laureth Sulfate


Sulphates do their job as a cleaner a little too well. So good, they strip your hair of not only dirt, oil and dead skin, but also the natural oils on your scalp. And these oils provide hydration to the hair. As a result, you can suffer from the following things:

  • An irritated and dry scalp
  • Hair that grows oily quickly
  • Dry hair
  • Fluffy hair
  • A pale hair color

Sulphates therefore dry out your scalp and hair. And because curls are naturally drier than straight hair, it is better to avoid sulfates as a curly ball altogether. Products that contain sulfates, SLS and SLES are the real culprits, can further cause your hair to become frizzy and sometimes even brittle. It is therefore quite logical that the No Poo Method and the Curly Girl Method remove sulfates from your hair routine.

Then why do you still use a shampoo without silicone but with sulfates for the Final Wash of the CGM? That sounds a bit strange indeed, because sulfates are stubborn cleansers that cause your scalp and hair to dry out. But it is precisely because sulfates do their job so well that they remove your silicone build up, which is why they are very suitable if you are just starting with the Curly Girl Method. After that, you can start using your new Curly Girl-proof products with a clean slate.

Also read: How to start with the Curly Girl Method: step-by-step plan



Another reason to avoid them is that palm oil is used in the production of sulphates. And palm oil has a devastating impact on the environment. To produce palm oil, rainforests are destroyed to create space for palm tree plantations. This destroys habitats of people and animals.

A third reason to avoid sulfates is your own health. Researchers suspect that dioxane, a byproduct of sulphate, is carcinogenic. According to the College of Toxiology, SLS stays in your body for about five days after you wash your hair with it. Other studies have shown that it is easily absorbed through the skin and enters the bloodstream, after which it can accumulate in the heart, liver, lungs and brain.

You may wonder why sulfates are used in many hair products. That’s because these cleaning agents are cheap and produce a lot of foam.


The No Poo Method and the Curly Girl Method recommend that you no longer use shampoo at all, at most for a clarify. Instead, you can wash your hair with conditioner, also known as co-washing. This is much gentler on your hair and scalp. You will see, after a while you will notice more volume and shine, less frizz, beautiful healthy and nourished curls! Make sure you use a conditioner without sulfates, silicones and parabens.

You now know what sulfates are and how to spot them on the shelves. Some people don’t feel clean if their shampoo doesn’t lather well. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options that really clean your hair. We will help you on your way with a list of brands that sell sulfate-free shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, hair gels, hairspray, hair masks, and products like that. Fortunately, you do not always have to go to an expensive hairdresser, because most of these products are available at Kruidvat, Etos, Action and De Tuinen (Holland & Barrett).

  • Naive, for example the Softening Conditioner
  • Less is more
  • Dr. Organic Vitamin E Shampoo
  • Dr. Bronner
  • Pure Nuff stuff
  • Petal Fresh
  • SheaMoisture, for example the Curl & Shine Shampoo
  • Cantu
  • Yes to …
  • L’Oréal also has a number of sulphate-free products, such as Everpure Moisturizing Shampoo

Also read: This is how you determine which CG hair products suit your curls

So, do you suffer from dry and frizzy hair? Then we recommend that you avoid sulphates from now on. If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask them in the comments below! We are happy to help you.

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