Not Sold on Sulfate-Free Shampoos? You’re Not Alone.

BY: Amanda Parker |Feb 24, 2017

If you’re anything like a Groupon beauty editor, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people getting worked up over sulfate-free shampoos. Some claim that sulfates—the detergents or cleansing agents that create the lather in shampoo—are bad for hair. They say that this lather cleans hair a little too well, removing not only styling products and sebum, but also the natural oils that keep strands healthy and hair color from fading.

However, I’m not convinced that shampoos without sulfates are any better than those with them. I know that dermatologists have questioned whether the cleansers used in these shampoos are any gentler than the sulfates they replace. And when I polled my fellow beauty editors, I learned that despite the fact that all but one buy sulfate-free shampoos, only one is convinced that the lack of sulfates is giving her healthy hair.

Our current shampoos

Four out of the five beauty editors I polled said they either regularly use or dabble in sulfate-free shampoos. They prefer shampoos made by OGX, especially its Argan Oil of Morocco line, followed by shampoo from Nexxus. I personally use Renpure and SheaMoisture.

As for shampoos that contain sulfates, our beauty mavens lather up with Pantene Pro V Color Preserve Volume, Garnier Fructis Full & Plush, and Garnier’s Whole Blends.

And here’s the interesting thing: despite most of us regularly or semi-regularly using shampoos without sulfates, we’re still not sure it matters because we haven’t really noticed a difference with our hair.

So why do we keep buying sulfate-free shampoos?

We feel guilty. 

As beauty editors, we constantly hear that sulfates are terrible for your hair. So every time we work a shampoo full of sulfates into our scalps, we feel the type of shame normally only associated with throwing our delicates directly into the washing machine.

According to our editor Amelia, “Basically, if I'm stuck between two products, I'll go for the sulfate-free option just because the fearmonger in my mind wins out.” Colleen echos that sentiment, saying, “I feel guilty when I don't buy sulfate-free shampoo because I know sulfates are not supposed to be great for color-treated hair.”

At least one of us has personally seen good results.

Curly-haired beauty editor Anam is a firm believer in the power of going sulfate-free. “I wasn't really sold on it until I noticed [a] difference with my hair. It seemed to be less frizzy and a lot more manageable every time I'd use a sulfate-free shampoo. That's when I had to drill it in my head that bubbles = bad.”

It’s not a pricey habit.

Although there’s some truth to the perception that sulfate-free shampoos are more expensive than the alternative, their cost isn’t prohibitively high. Our beauty editors who buy sulfate-free shampoos cough up a little extra cash on average, paying $0.67 per ounce for their shampoo, versus the $0.38 our other beauty editors pay for theirs. (The most we pay for a sulfate-free shampoo is around $13.99 for a 13.5 fl. oz. bottle.) So switching to a shampoo without sulfates can give you peace of mind (even if it’s not deserved) without breaking the bank.

That being said, the cheapest shampoo that any of us editors uses is a sulfate-free option, Renpure Biotin & Collagen Thickening Shampoo, proving that you can keep it cheap and go sulfate-free.

What else do we look for in a shampoo?

Most editors said they pick shampoos that address their hair concerns. For instance, Colleen looks for formulas specifically made for fine, color-treated hair, such as Pantene Pro V Color Preserve Volume (which contains sulfates). Jolene searches for hydrating shampoos to fight dry, frizzy strands and is currently using OGX Renewing Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo (which is sulfate-free, though not why Jolene bought it). Clearly, the intended effects of the formula are just as important, if not more important, than a sulfate-free label.

The takeaway

You do you, girl. If you feel guilty about using sulfates, try a shampoo without any. It won’t cost you much more, and you may notice less frizz if you have curly hair. You also may notice nothing. But no matter what you get, if you want healthy hair, try to at least pick a shampoo based on your hair type.

Already found the perfect shampoo? Make sure you’re not washing your hair wrong.