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 • Hair  • Haircare Guides  • Are Sulphates Really That Bad for Your Hair? We Ask the Experts

Are Sulphates Really That Bad for Your Hair? We Ask the Experts

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Main image – Ohlamourstudio/Stocksy

It’s pretty common to hear online that anyone wanting healthy locks should avoid using products containing sulphates.

Whether it’s your favourite TikToker showing off a head of shining hair after ditching the ingredient or a brand highlighting their latest sulphate-free shampoo, it seems that everyone is ditching this foaming powerhouse.  But does anyone actually know why, or whether we really need to?

In the name of transparency, we thought we’d look into exactly what sulphates do for you, with help from hair experts Paul Labrecque and Katy Grimshaw. Because there’s nothing like being equipped with all the information so that you can make your own informed decision.


What are sulphates (and how do you recognise them on an ingredients list)?

They’re the ingredients that make your hair products lather up more easily. “Sulphates are just salts and are used in formulations as a bulking agent,” explains Grimshaw

“Most products that have sulphates will include them to make the product to foam up. This can be really satisfying to use but not so beneficial for your hair.”

Grimshaw says that sulphates have a few different names. “Usually anything with the word sulfate or sulphate,” she explains.

 So, watch out for the following terms on the label:

  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulphate


Image – Laurasansegundo/Stocksy


How bad are they for your hair?

For a start, sulphates can negatively impact the scalp. This is where your hair grows from so the condition of your scalp determines the health of your hair in the long run. 

“Sulphates can be quite irritating for the scalp,” Grimshaw explains. “As they’re just a version of salt, they can ultimately make your scalp quite dry and itchy.”

And the itchier the scalp, the more danger posed to the volume of your hair. “In extreme cases, sulphates can cause hair loss, so best to avoid,” she adds. But is this the case for everyone? “All hair types should avoid sulphates,” Labrecque warns. 


The alternatives to sulphates

Despite sulphates being included in hair products for practical reasons – after all, extra foam and lather means better ease of use – there’s got to be a healthier way. “There are so many great sulphate-free options now I don’t think there’s any reason to use them anymore,” says Grimshaw.

Labrecque says to check the label. “It is always best when water is listed as the first ingredients of your shampoo, then ideally followed by cocamidopropyl.”


The takeaway

Thanks to the damage sulphates can cause to your hair and scalp, according to the experts, and it’s a good idea to banish the products that contain them from your hair regime. Because who wants an itchy scalp and potential hair loss at the end of it?

Take a screenshot of the alternative names for sulphates so that you can remind yourself which ingredients to avoid when shopping for your hair care. Then take Labrecque’s advice and check the label for healthier alternatives, like cocamidopropyl. 


Meet the experts

Paul Labrecque is creative director, master stylist and colorist with Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa.


Katy Grimshaw is founder of Spectrum One Hair Extensions & Spectrum One Salon.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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