Why should you use a sulphate free shampoo?

A few weeks ago I wandered the aisles of The Body Shop and was daydreaming about all the stuff I wanted to own in my bathroom. Then my eyes fell on this shampoo: 'The rainforest volume' with the claims'no silicones, no sulphates, no colourants and no parabens'. Since I'm really interested in cosmetic ingredients I was curious about the no sulphates part. I heared so many people talking about sulphate free shampoos and since my hair is as flat and as thin it can be, - it claimed to be volumising, yes please - I made the purchase. I bought the little bottle (60ml, 3 euro) because my bank account wouldn't let me buy the big one (250 ml, 7 euro). I only used this for the last few weeks to see if there was any difference (I cheated once and a while but I will get back to that later).

If you want to, you can go and grab your favourite shampoo and check for the ingredients. If your shampoo comes from the drugstore, most likely it will contain sulphates. When I was in the drugstore, I checked ALL of the shampoos and none of them were SLS/SLES free, bummer!

If you type 'sulphate free shampoo' in your searchbar, you will have thousands of hits on why u should(n't) use sulphate free shampoo and the potential risks - or no risk - of sulphates in shampoo. I read a lot of blogs but also a lot of scientific articles to give you guys a good idea about what's the real deal here.

Bare with me and read this little box of text below. I'm not trying to be a science geek here, but these things will make you understand what I'm about to tell you.

SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulphate) are detergents, so they have a hydrophilic and a hydrophobic side so they can clean up all the greasiness in your hair. They are used in a lot of your household and cosmetic products. SLS in a high dosage is being used in a lot of studies to cause irritation on the skin. In shampoos it has a smaller dosage, but it can be quite high though. SLES is a milder detergent (it is basically an ethoxylation of SLS) because it has increased molecular size (fewer molecules for a same effect). SLE might be milder but it can sometimes contain very low levels of 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product produced during the ethoxylation process. It is categorized as 2B according to the IARC (international agency for research on cancer) which means possibly carcinogenic to humans. Scientist are still trying to figure out if this is a real threat because the main reason of it being categorized as a level 2B is because of the findings in rats. Most of th rats that inhaled/drank water that was contaminated with 1-4 dioxane developed some sort of cancer. They however are not sure about the extrapolation towards humans and the long term effects of the low levels of this potential by-product.

The reason why manufacturers are using SLS and SLES is because of the foaming it gives and the clean sensation people have while using it. I have to admit that therefore it it is a big adjustment to use a sulphate free shampoo, but it has some benefits too!

Since it doesn't contain any hard detergents, it is less irritant for your scalp. Do you have a lot of flakes and itchy skin? I suggest you give this a chance!

The picture on the left is me after rubbing my hands 10 times. I know, big difference with your regular shampoo ;). The right picture is after some more rubbing.

How to use it? The lady in The Body Shop (she was so nice) in Ghent said it's best to first rub your hands together in order to make a lather of soap. I personally liked it more when I directly used it on my hair and then rubbed it in. I guess the foaming goes away after rubbing it too much so when I do it first between my hands and then on my head, there's nothing to work with. After applying it to your head, you just have to rub for a few minutes (I mean, I guess you know how to wash your hair :D). Do not expect a lot of foaming, just massage your hair everywhere. Your hair will be clean, it is just like you're rubbing in water, but I promise you, it's not ;). Oh, did I mention it smells heavenly?

I sometimes used a different shampoo when I was already in the shower and forgot to bring my precious bottle of shampoo with me. I then used what was in the shower. I noticed I have a sensitive scalp because after using the regular shampoo, I was quite itchy.

Volumising? I wouln't buy it because of this claim. Because there are no silicons in it, it doesn't coat your hair with it and it doesn't pull your hair down. I haven't seen much of a difference actually, woops! 

The downsides: it is more expensive than your regular shampoo. But because I have less itching and I'm rather safe than sorry (you know, the 2B issue) I will be repurchasing, I will try some other brands too in the near future.

I really hope you found this blog useful.
For more information about The Body Shop and a complete ingredient list of this shampoo, click here

Talk to you soon,




Some sources if you want to read more:

A blog
Collins beauty pages

National center for biotechology information

A pdf on health risks and SLS/SLES
Europa health committee

Agency for toxic substances and disease registry