How Exactly Are Sulfates Bad for Your Hair?

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With every salon appointment, chances are, the subject of removing sulfate-infused shampoos out of your shower usually arises before the round brush makes contact with your freshly-cut layers. 

We’ve all heard that sulfates are bad for your hair, but the question still remains: what do they actually do? In short, sulfates (sometimes listed as SLS, or sodium lauryl sulfate on the ingredient list) are detergents responsible for the super-sudsy lather you get out of most shampoos. 

They’re completely safe to use—unless your hair has been treated with color or keratin. Because they are a detergent designed to cleanse the hair, the ingredient could cause your color to fade prematurely, and shampooing with a sulfate-infused formula only three times is enough to undo the keratin treatment.

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If you have dry or damaged hair as it is, you may want to exclude sulfates from your routine, since they can strip your strands of their much-needed natural oils.

“Sulfates can be taxing on compromised scalps, and weakened, fragile hair,” explains hairstylist Tony Chavez. “They tend to dry out the skin, as well as the hair follicle.” 

Dry hair doesn’t need to lather up as frequently, so consider incorporating a cleansing conditioner into your lineup, then use a gentle, and obviously sulfate-free, shampoo once a week to nurse your strands to a more hydrated state.