Rachel Scott
Updated on June 20, 2021

By now, we all know how about the chemicals companies put into our beauty products. But did you know that there are plenty of synthetic chemicals in our shampoos and conditioners, too? While they seem to get the job done, some of us may be looking to reduce our exposure due to personal interest, skin conditions or to improve overall hair health. A popular way to change things up during your shampooing routine is with a sulfate free shampoo. Products without this chemical may be why your hair feels constantly dry and your dye job fades unusually fast.

What Are Sulfates?

If you check the ingredients list on your average shampoo, you will probably come across sulfates in their technical term, sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laurel sulfate (also know as SLS). This ingredient is a salt and acts as a surfactant. This substance reduces the surface tension of water, helping shampoo loosen grease and sebum from the hair and scalp.

That might sound helpful but this ingredient is also found commonly in household detergents and cleaning products. Beauty companies use this ingredient along with many other toxic and synthetic ingredients because they are cheap and seem to ‘get the job done’.

However, when it comes to our hair and using regular shampoo, sulfates strip off the outermost effective layer of hair and can strip the color of a dye job much faster. It may be a great idea to treat your hair more gently and invest in a sulfate free shampoo and conditioner. But, just as with anything, there are pros and cons to using sulfate free shampoos and each one must be weighed carefully to find out if this option is for you.


  • Because shampoo without sulfate doesn’t strip the hair of its natural oils, it doesn’t irritate the scalp and rarely causes allergies. Some people may experience eczema or even acne on their hairline from shampoo with sulfate because of rebound oil production thanks to the stripping of the hair and scalp’s natural oils.
  •  Sulfates can also leave an unwanted film behind, so sulfate free shampoo is a cleaner, more natural alternative.
  •  Many sulfate free shampoos contain more natural oils, so they can smooth down any unwanted frizz that can come with abrasive, oil-stripping sulfates. This is especially great for taming the unwanted effects of summertime humidity or the dry hair we experience in winter thanks to indoor heating.
  •  Sulfate free shampoos are excellent for color treated hair because they don’t strip the outermost layer of hair. If you switch to this hair care, you can rest assured your dye job will last much longer.
  •  The same can be said for a keratin treatment. Sulfate-free and clarifying shampoos always make for a gentler option that won’t undo our precious and costly hair routines.


As great as sulfate-free shampoos are, they do come with a few downsides:

  • Most of these types of shampoos do not lather well, so it can be difficult to know if you’ve cleaned your hair well enough.
  •  They also require more than one wash if you have long or thick hair, so you end up using more shampoo to get the job done. That can be a negative if you’re on a beauty budget.
  •  There is also a slight adjustment period to sulfate-free shampoo, so your hair may loose some of its volume that ingredients in other shampoos falsely supply.
  •  Not to mention, most sulfate-free shampoos don’t help to alleviate dandruff, though there are a few products designed for this on the market.

Negatives aside, in the long run, shampoos free of sulfate are an investment in the overall quality of your hair, sans unnecessary chemicals. So if you’ve decided this type of hair care is right for you, then it’s worth making the adjustment in your routine.

There are many of hair care choices,  but we believe we have gathered a list of the best sulfate free shampoos that exist. You can leave the guesswork out of it. Keep reading for our ultimate sulfate free shampoo list.

1. Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo

Aveeno is a tried and true brand that is most convenient if you’re looking to go sulfate-free because you can purchase their products at any drugstore or on Amazon. This option is affordable, safe for color-treated hair and will lift any impurities that gather on your locks without any stripping. The added seaweed extract is a natural plus.

Aveeno Pure Renewal Shampoo

Photo: @aveenous

2. L’Oreal Ever Strong Sulfate-Free Fortify System

This L’Oreal Ever Strong Sulfate-Free Fortify System is also an easy find and affordable for an 8.5 ounce bottle. The volume your hair would normally lose from sulfate-free shampoo is gained thanks to their patented amino acid complex that helps weak hair appear to be thicker.

Loreal Ever Strong Sulfate Free Fortify System

Photo: L’Oreal

3. Pureology Hydrate Sheer

Pureology may be on the more expensive side for sulfate-free options, but this line is known for it’s superior quality. Every shampoo they make is sulfate-free. The hydrate line is meant for color-treated hair and contains sunscreens for an added bonus! Certified organic rose, sandalwood and green tea botanicals in this product will work wonders on hair that craves a more natural treatment.

4. John Masters Organics Shampoo

Finally, John Masters sulfate-free option is not only organic and doesn’t contain harsh chemicals, but its pH balance is a great choice for dry hair. It’s ideal for color-treated hair and contains 17 natural plant extracts and essential oils that give hair the nourishment it needs, and doesn’t strip it down.

If you’re looking for a sulfate free dandruff shampoo, Maple Holistic Sage Shampoo  is a highly rated choice that contains jojoba, argan and tea tree oil that are natural and beneficial on hair that needs a little extra TLC.

Even though it comes with a few downsides, the benefits of treating your hair more gently is probably worth it. Give sulfate-free shampoo a try the next time you make your hair care purchases.

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