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Sulfate Shampoo & What You Need To Know For Your Natural Hair

Sulfate shampoo is a component of a natural's journey. Whether you hate or love them, we break down what they are and if they should be in your routine.

My research is saying a resounding….it depends on who you ask.  Now the majority of the Natural haired world find them to be the devil on our Natural or curly hair but two website I trust, The Natural Haven and The Beauty Brains have a different spin on the sulfate shampoo debate so here goes!

What is a sulfate shampoo

First thing first, what is a sulfate shampoo? A sulfate shampoo is just a regular shampoo.  Shampoos are designed to clean the hair by ridding it of all oil, dirt and build-up. In order to do this, many commercial shampoos contain detergents and cleaning agents, such as sodium laureth sulfate. These agents are very harsh and drying, especially to kinky, curly textured hair and as a result, many naturals have ditched them.

These sulfates are all primary detergents that make shampoos, body washes and other cleansers clean and foam. Without these ingredients cleansing products wouldn’t work nearly as well as they do. The Beauty Brains

The number one purpose of using a shampoo is to clean the hair.  That means stripping the oils that can trap dirt and pollutants.  They also remove the build up of products we apply to the hair in between washings.  Now, I am one that has to see a lather of shampoo in my hair.  I only use it once, none of that repeat garbage because one use of the shampoo is enough for me.  I’m not putting a ton of gunk in my hair to require shampooing twice.


Now I understand that some find these sulfates irritating to their hair and/or skin and by all means they need to stay away from them.  There are some who find them too drying and there are ways around that as well.  You can dilute the shampoo to weaken it’s potency or you can do like me and apply an oil to your hair prior to shampooing to keep the shampoo from stripping all the oils out.

I also use a really good sulfate-free shampoo that gets my hair squeaky clean, Kinky Curly Come Clean Shampoo.  I get the lather I have the need to see and it works quite well.  When I’m using some not so Natural products it works really well but when I’m using the rest of the Kinky Curly Line I don’t need a lot of it.  Hence, doing a pre-oil poo.


A lot of Naturals are embracing the Curly Girl Method which means not using a sulfate shampoo but I’ve seen some variations of this method like some are not using shampoos all together.  The followers of this method find conditioners clean the hair well enough for the non use of a shampoo.  Many are raving about this method which stems from Lorraine Massey’s book.

But just like The Natural Haven suggests:
I think that people need to make their own decisions and learn to read ingredient labels. In my personal case, I know that from testing, my scalp and skin prefers SLES as a surfactant for normal washing and really dislikes a different sulfate surfactant – ALS. I have tried two sulfate free shampoos and I found them expensive and wasteful because I required a lot of the product to get my scalp clean. Other people like sulfate free shampoos, some people totally avoid shampoo, some people avoid SLES, ALES etc because of cancer concerns………make your own decision to suit what your scalp and mind prefer.

You have to do what works for you and that may require trying a sulfate shampoo, a non-sulfate or even just not using shampoo at all and just doing the co-washing. What works for some or even many may not work for you and Sulfates have a purpose that many find suitable.  I didn’t go looking for a sulfate-free shampoo when I found KC Come Clean and even though it’s sulfate-free I STILL apply oil to my hair prior to shampooing.  THAT works for Sabrina.  It may not work for others but the bottom-line is get to know your hair and what it likes.  Sulfate or not.

Sulfate shampoo is a component of a natural's journey. Whether you hate or love them, we break down what they are and if they should be in your routine.


The use of a clarifying shampoo is necessary when dealing with excessive build-up, chlorine, hard water or overload of silicones. While I do not care for shampoo, I know they serve a necessary purpose in Natural hair health and use them when necessary as I did in my End of Summer Wash Natural Hair Routine.  I actually wash my hair with shampoos more than with a cowash and have been doing that the for last few years. With me doing Aqua Zumba twice a week it was necessary and have found my hair is doing just fine with it.

Ultimately, it is up to you to determine if a sulfate shampoo or sulfate free shampoo will work for you or just use either when necessary. It’s your hair, and your hair journey so use products according to your hair’s needs.

Stay educated about sulfate shampoo and other products Naturals,


Leave a Reply


  1. March 27, 2012 / 12:31 pm

    Definitely nice to have someone reinforce that what works for one person will not work for all.

    • March 27, 2012 / 5:55 pm

      Thank you. I do get tired of seeing some try to bully Naturals into doing one way and only that way.

  2. March 27, 2012 / 6:43 pm

    Here here! I totally agree that it is all about what works for you. My husband was showing some co-workers my blog and he told them that I was natural. One of them said, no she isn't, she uses shampoo. Ugh!

    • March 27, 2012 / 6:47 pm

      What?!?! So we should be running around out in nature only living off the land and washing and wetting our hair with rainwater????? I swear….who comes up with this shit?

      Who decides what makes you 'Natural'? I get the no chemicals part but other than that it really depends on the person.

  3. March 27, 2012 / 8:48 pm

    I am experimenting with 4bnfree's shampoo using Dr. Bonner's castile soap. I have found a cheaper version of Dr. Bonner's, it's called Dr. Woods, for half of the price and they have they same ingredients. If you want to try her recipe you can find her on YT.

    • March 27, 2012 / 9:06 pm

      I've never tried Dr. Bonner's. Let me know what you think.

  4. March 28, 2012 / 4:45 am

    Kinky Curly is a good one and I am one of those that can use a little bit of shampoo with sulfate in it about once a week, because my scalp produces a lot of oil, however my daughters hair can't handle the sulfate shampoo's.

    • March 28, 2012 / 6:08 pm

      Thank you for the comment. Naturals or newly Naturals are bombarded with do's and don'ts but the bottom-line is they have to use what will work for them. The only way to find that out is trial and error.

  5. April 18, 2013 / 9:05 pm

    For real tho. I've been wondering if it is the sulfate itself, or whether its the PERCENTAGE of sulfate in the shampoo that's causing the problem some naturals have.

    Not to mention there's another ingredient called Cocamidopropyl Betaine which may be the real culprit since it does nothing for the hair. Its just meant to add super bubbles.

    Its too long to post here, but I wrote about this issue here:

    Though I haven't used a sulfate shampoo in a very long time, my hair still gets dry. That's just the way it is, I guess. But the best non sulfate shampoo I've used so far is Palmer's Coconut Oil Conditioning Shampoo (Sulfate-free).

    • May 6, 2013 / 9:24 pm

      THanks for the knowledge. I'm dealing with some dryness right now and about to do a protein treatment using coconut milk and yogurt.

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