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The Grooming Manual

What Are Sulfates? Should You Avoid Them?

Sulfates in shampoo

Sulfates are harsh detergents. They’re made from mineral salts that contain sulfur - thus the name. They revolutionized the hair care industry in the early to mid 20th century. Since then, they’ve become an extremely common product in soaps and shampoos in particular - specifically sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate.

You probably don’t think much about each and every ingredient in your shampoo. But if you love a rich, thick lather you’re mostly likely using a product with sulfates.

Though sulfates have become ubiquitous in grooming products, there’s recently been some bad press about them. Should you use a shampoo for men with sulfates? Or is a sulfate-free shampoo for men your best bet? Why or why not?

What Sulfates Do

Sulfates are surfactants. They attract water and oil. So when you wash your hair with a shampoo that contains sulfates, it traps both water and oil, then washes them out of your hair and down the drain. Sulfates also reduce the surface tension of water so it can spread easily.

Sulfates and Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin that gets easily irritated, sulfates may be a concern for you. That’s because they can irritate the skin and eyes in many people. The longer the product is on your skin, the worse the effect will be.

When it comes to shampoo, sulfates tend to overdo it on your hair. Sure, they get rid of dirt and oil. But they wind up stripping all oils from your hair - even the natural ones that help give you a healthy shine and a thicker look. That leaves your hair looking rough, dry, and dull. They may also irritate your scalp if you have sensitive skin.

Sulfates can also be a problem for men who easily get blemishes and acne breakouts frequently. Some sulfates are more likely to cause blemishes and breakouts because of how they foam up and clog pores.

Sulfates and Cancer

The American Cancer Society has made an effort to debunk the idea that sulfates cause cancer as far back as the 1990’s. It is not listed as a carcinogen and is considered safe for use in products for brief use on the skin.

There is still some concern about the chemical 1,4 dioxane which is classified as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” by the Environmental Protection Agency. This chemical is not required by law to be listed on ingredient labels. It can contaminate sodium laureth sulfate during the ethoxylation process of manufacturing.

Why Choose a Sulfate Free Shampoo?

If you have sensitive skin, are concerned about potential health risks, or just want a gentle, natural solution to hair care, try a sulfate free shampoo for men. You’ll get the best results from a thickening, strengthening shampoo that uses natural ingredients.

sulfate free shampoo for men

You won’t get the same big, foamy suds with a sulfate free shampoo as you would with a traditional product. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t working. Gentle cleansers work just as well, albeit without the large amount of foam. Look for nourishing ingredients like amino acids and vitamin E. To prevent dandruff, get a shampoo for men with tea tree oil too.

Take Better Care of Your Hair and Skin

Sulfates are also common in many skincare products. If you want to eliminate them from your skincare regimen, look for sulfate free skincare products for men and sulfate free shampoo for men. This is especially important for guys with sensitive skin or dry skin.

Researching products and caring for your health can be time consuming and at times frustrating. But don’t give up. Learning about what you’re using on your hair and skin is important. Make smart choices now about your grooming products to keep looking and feeling great for as long as possible.

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