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We Try It! Sulfate-Free Shampoo

I’ve been meaning to try sulfate-free shampoo for a while. My dry, poofy, curly hair has always been difficult to manage, and I’ve had the growing sense that part of the problem may be that I’m forcing it into a harsh wash cycle that it’s not suited for. All over the Internet, curly-haired women have been singing the praises of going sulfate-free or, even more impressively, shampoo-free, for years. Since I haven’t had the patience or willingness to go completely shampoo-free, I figured at least dropping the sulfates would be a good first step.

The purported benefits of these shampoos are that they lack some of the harshest chemicals found in hair products. The sulfates, the story goes, strip your hair of not only the “bad” grease, oil, and dirt, but also the good oils that are there to protect your hair and keep it moist. Not only does this dry out your hair, but quickly triggers instant oiliness as your glands/skin/whatever overcompensate.

This is actually just once component of a whole line of thinking that we’re over-washed as a society. And, while I’m no scientist (Dorilys?), this makes sense to me on a basic level. I’ve become cynical enough that I now believe that nothing exists (or, at least, persists) unless someone is making money off of it. So I’m not naïve enough to assume that all this shampooing must be good for us. It would certainly make sense that the manufacturers of a product would want to perpetuate its own existence. What’s conditioner for, anyway, but to supposedly replace the moisture that shampoo strips away? Anyway! On to the review!

The brand I chose, since it was sold at my local drugstore and I’m a cheap jerk, was L’Oreal Everstrong/Eversleek Sulfate-Free Shampoo/Conditioner. (I know you’re supposed to pick the same shampoo and conditioner, but I couldn’t choose between “Everstrong” and “Eversleek.” I mean, could you?)

I decided to wait a couple weeks before writing about the results, even though I was pretty much immediately happy with the product. Not only did I want to give my hair a chance to adjust to its new situation, but the first week I used this shampoo was a horribly rainy week here in NY. I had a near-record six bad hair days in a row.

What I noticed at first was that it just seemed to mellow out my hair a bit. Even in the shower I could tell that my hair didn’t have that weird dry feeling (that I think advertisers call “squeaky clean.” Ugh.) after I shampooed. The conditioner, too, was light, not overly thick or greasy. While my hair didn’t look good that day (thanks, spring!), it felt a little different. The roots weren’t greasy and the rest of my hair wasn’t too dry. It’s like everything just met in the middle in a nice equilibrium.

What’s interesting, too, is that the second day was different as well. I generally try to skip a day or two of shampooing per week to give my hair a rest. Those “second days” are kind of a mixed bag; sometimes my hair looks great, and sometimes it’s a combination greasy/frizzy mess. Now that I’ve had a few second days, I can say that they are working out much better. Again, my hair is just a little more calm now; like it had been going from greasy to dry on a parabolic cycle that’s just been flattened out a bit.

So, this looks like a win-win for me. The sulfate-free shampoo seems to be helping my hair relax a little bit, and on top of that it’s empowered me to try skipping the suds altogether more often. If you’ve been wanting to try this method, I’d certainly recommend it, although I’m not sure how it would work out with different hair types. And, if you’re in the mood to splurge, feel free to try some of the nicer brands out there.

Photo: Getty

14 replies on “We Try It! Sulfate-Free Shampoo”

I have very thin, very straight hair, and I’ve been using Lush shampoo bars. I used to use SLS free shampoo, but even the “natural” shampoos have weird ingredients and I decided that saving plastic was more important. Apparently Burt’s Bees makes a shampoo bar that’s low packaging and made with crunchy hippie ingredients, so I’m trying that after I’m out of my current shampoo. I’m big on using the most basic products possible (Dr. Bronner is my BFFL, in case anyone was wondering), but shampoo has been pretty difficult to replace. I went no-poo for a while, but my water is really hard and I had to drag filtered water to wash my hair with every other day. It got way too high-maintenance.

I have fine/wavy/half-curl and sometimes frizzy hair (yeah, I know!), and I used to shampoo and condition every day because of greasiness and flatness. I could barely go a full day without my hair giving up.

I figured I was washing it too much, and I wanted to try a sulfate-free shampoo, so I tried out a Burt’s Bees shampoo. It was a great failure. The shampoo was just gross and did not remove dirt or grease at all.

Then, thanks to Well.ca, I tried Green Beaver Company, a Canadian company that makes great natural products with Canadian ingredients. I use their Apple Mint shampoo and conditioner three to four times a week (every other day) and the second day is even better than the old “end of the day” look. My hair feels healthier and my weird waves are tidier. I also discovered that if I use a biosilk type oil to add moisture to my hair, I have less frizz and it looks nicer :) I went from overwashing because of greasiness to adding oil to my hair!

I wish someone would have just told me how to take care of my hair when I was 18. Then I wouldn’t have to try all these expensive and gross products to try and make my hair look like something it couldn’t.

I have very straight, very heavy hair. In the past I would have classified it as “Grease Ball”. I also – used to – have very oily, greasy skin. I would jokingly say I could resolve the fuel crisis single handedly if scientists could harness the power of my sebaceous glands. From the neck up I was so oily I had the WORST itchy skin. I’d scratch myself raw and bloody.

About a month ago, after much consideration I started using the Oil Cleansing Method. (I’m getting to the shampoo part, I swear!) One of the best parts of OCM is that it normalizes your skins oil production. Sweet! From day one I was hooked. My face no longer itched. I no longer looked like an oil slick. Turns out, all the oil control soaps and cleanser I used strip my skin’s protective oil barrier, making me produce even more oil to compensate. Sulfates are one of the biggest culprits for this stripping and irritating.

I started to wonder if I could normalize the oil production on my scalp as well. Wouldn’t that be great, hair that’s not greasy and nasty?? I read up on going “No Poo”. I am actually on day 2 of “No Poo” right now. I’ve read it can take from days to weeks for my scalp to normalize its oil production, but if thats what I have to go through to finally have an itch free, heathly scalp and hair that doesn’t look like its been drenched with Crisco, I’m all for it!

I have thick wavy hair and I have been using the Ever products by L’Oreal for a while now. I have been pretty happy with the results especially for the price. My main reason for trying them is that they are vegan and available at the drugstore. Does anyone know of any vegan drugstore face wash? I have been using the Neutrogena fresh foaming with great results but am guessing it is anything but vegan…

Whole Foods has a SLS-free shampoo for like $3-4 and I love it. It’s actually been really gentle in terms of fading the dye in my hair (still pretty dark!) and after about a year my hair looks so much better than with anything I used before, plus I’ve noticed I wash it a lot less. They smell pretty good too, I’ve tried mint and grapefruit so far, and it doesn’t make it smell super strongly after you rinse/dry/etc.

It sounds like our curly hair is different, as mine could never be greasy even if I never washed it again. But I find that washing too often, regardless of the shampoo, is a big problem. I wash my hair about twice per week, and condition daily, and I’m happy with it. I actually use regular old Suave conditioner as my leave-in product, and it looks better than my hair ever did with the millions of fancy products I’ve tried. My sister bought a sulfate-free shampoo recently, and I was going to try it but it smelled awful (seriously, like eau de dirty hippy), so I couldn’t make myself put it on my head. but maybe I’ll look up the one you mention in the article.

I have really fine hair, but I’ve been considering trying this because I think my shampoo dries out my scalp and makes it itchy, though I don’t get dandruff (at least, not that I’ve noticed, despite looking). That combined with the fact that I blow dry most days is surely not doing the skin under my hair any favors.

I’m not sure how it would work on superfine straight hair, but that is what experiments are for, I suppose.

Anne, I have super fine, stick straight hair and switched to using sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners about 2 years ago. I use the ALBA line, which I can get at Target.

I’ve been very pleased with the results. My hair seemed healthier and happier since I made the switch, and has a lot more body.

I started using Live Clean shampoo a few months ago to see if it would help my oily hair. It’s sulfate free and biodegradable and vegan and all that fun stuff. My bangs can now go all day without transforming into greasy strings laying on my forehead like dark brown noodles. And it smells like apples.

I know it’s made in Canada (which is where I live), but maybe it can be found elsewhere?

I also have curly/frizzy hair, and I’ve been fighting this battle for a while.

You picked a really good one out of the bag. I went through several different sulfate-free and/or “organic” shampoos trying to find one that felt ok. Some of them smelled heavily of hemp or something that just followed me around all day and gave me a terrible headache. Some left my hair feeling almost stiff and very dry – it was supposed to be MORE helpful, not less! I finally came across the L’Oreal Everstrong (Reconstruct formula) a while back, and it’s been great. I shampoo maybe twice a week and condition every day, and my hair has been pretty good for it.

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