The sulfate-free toiletry trend is picking up, but it’s still pretty hard to find these products in mainstream stores. Here’s an overview, product list, before and after, and various reviews.
I refuse to get all chemist here, so basically a sulfate is soap. It’s the chemical in shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap bars, and face wash that give you that squeaky clean feel. But…you wanna know why you feel squeaky clean? Because sulfate strips your skin and hair of its natural oils–you know, the ones you’re supposed to have. This leaves you with super dry skin and hair. For hair, this means no shine, dead ends, and frizz. And if you have curls, it’s worse. For skin, this means dry, uneven skin. If you have conditions like eczema, they get worse. AND…when you strip your body of its natural oils, it actually overproduces oil to replace what was lost. This means your hair/skin stays dry and “clean” for a minute, then it becomes oily as mess. Note: When you switch to sulfate-free, you may feel like your hair is still dirty because it didn’t get soapy, and it may even be more oily than normal until your hair balances out again. People, it’s pretty clear. America’s obsession with bubbles and sudsy soap (from sulfates) is horrible for us!
Before & After
Routine 1: Garnier Nuctris Triple Nutrition Shampoo and Conditioner + Garnier Nuctris Sleek and Shine Leave-In Conditioner
Routine 2: Shea Moisture Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner (for Curly Thick Hair) + Garnier Leave-In
*TIP: I don’t use this conditioner on my roots–but maybe once a week. It’s so moisturizing that it makes them oily if I apply it to the roots too often.*
The difference there is clear, and that’s after ONE use of the sulfate-free. I used to use sulfate-free (one of the products below) when we lived in Hawaii, then I switched back after I felt like it wasn’t doing much for my hair. So, I’ve been using sulfate-ified products for over a year–until today when I washed with Shea Moisture. If this is after one use, I can imagine my hair will look even healthier, less frizzy, and curlier after many uses. My hair looks more “flat” and less thick in the after photo, but it’s in a good way. It’s controlled versus all over the place.
Sulfate-Free Products & Reviews The following products are easy to find at large stores like Target and Walmart and popular drug stores. Some of them I’ve used and reviewed below. These are the basics. You can search organic stores and salons for much more! Prices are Target prices.
1. Shea Moisture Shampoos and Conditioners ($9.79 and $11.99)
(I used their Curl and Shine ones, but they also have ones for Moisture, Repair, etc.)
Review: This is the exact product I used in the photos above. It’s actually a top product for African American women who rock their natural curls, but it’s meant for all hair types. The curl kind smells amazing. It’s coconut and hibiscus bliss, a la my beloved Hawaii. The best part is that the fragrance is all natural–no artificial perfumes. In fact, many of the ingredients are certified organic, and there are zero artificial chemicals in it. The shampoo does suds up like a regular shampoo, but not as much. Unlike some sulfate-free hair products, this stuff still leaves my hair feeling silky soft after rinsing the conditioner.
2. Aveeno Shampoos and Conditioners ($5.99)
(I used the Pure Renewal line pictured below)
Review: This was my first ever try at sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. I used up the bottles, but didn’t go back after that. It smells weird. This stuff didn’t suds at all, like most sulfate-free shampoos. However, it left my hair feeling dirty. It also left my hair feeling much like straw, and when I was living in Hawaii and doused in saltwater every day, I did not need help with that! Another issue I have with this stuff: It may be sulfate-free, but it has every other chemical under the sun in it. I can read maybe one of the thirty ingredients on the list. There’s no point in going sulfate-free if you’re going to use a million other chemicals.
3. Organix Shampoos and Conditioners ($7.99)
(I used the Tea Tree Mint kind pictured below)
Review: I used this stuff before I even used Aveeno, but it was before I knew anything about sulfates. This stuff gets basically the same review as Aveeno. No suds. Maybe not quite as dirty feeling as Aveeno. Still that same awful straw-hair feeling. This stuff smells lovely though. I think that’s the only reason I used it! By the way, this stuff might be called Organix, but it is not organic. In addition, the line that claims to be sulfate-free has many hair products that have sulfates in it, including the sea salt spray I have. Much like the Aveeno stuff, they also contain a billion other chemicals–even if no sulfates.
4. L’Oreal Paris Ever___ Shampoos and Conditioners ($5.89)
Review: I used this once, and it is the second best sulfate-free brand next to SheaMoisture. It still feels nourishing and silky, unlike the two before it. Again, not organic or all-natural like SheaMoisture, but if you’re looking to go sulfate-free and don’t want to splurge, this is a great option!
5. Carol’s Daughter Sacred Tiare Shampoo and Conditioner ($12.99)
Never used this. Has lots of yummy fruit and herbal oils and extracts, but also lots of chemical names I can’t pronounce. Much of the line is for African-American hair, but they market their products to all hair types.
6. Burt’s Bees Shampoos and Conditioners ($7.99)
Haven’t used this one either, but nothing Burt’s Bees makes has ever disappointed me!