Over the last year or so I’ve heard so much talk about sulfates. Sulfates this! Sulfates that! Don’t use products that contain sulfates! This sparked my interest because for one, it was the first I’d ever heard about sulfates and I’m thinking if they were so harmful I should know about them and two, how was I supposed to know what had sulfates in them and what didn’t?
If you’re like I was, this post is for you.
Sulfates are mineral salts that contain sulfur. People are exposed to sulfates in a number of ways with the most common way being through our personal care products like shampoo, toothpaste, shaving foam, body washes and facial cleansers. The usually function as surfactants, which are water and oil soluble components that when combined with water, produce foam.
There are literally hundreds of varieties of sulfates but the most common are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). About 90 percent of shampoos and body washes contain these substances.
But why are they harmful?
SLS and SLES containing substances produce a very heavy foam, which isn’t very good for your hair or skin. The lather strips away moisture and protective barriers that that keep our hair and skin healthy. It roughs up your hair’s cuticle, making it appear dull and dry. It also has been noted to cause frizz in your hair. When using a toothpaste that contains SLS and/or SLES, the effects are similar. It irritates the tissues and eats away at protective skin cells.
Luckily, there are new products on the market that are “sulfate-free” that we can use to avoid these harmful agents but always be sure to check the labels!