Sulfates are bad. Sulfates are good. Sulfates are the devil. Sulfates are fine…….. You may have heard any of these things when it comes to sulfates in wavy hair. So let’s break down when to use sulfates, and when not to. The answer might surprise you! I’ll also get into specific reasons why you might want to use sulfates.
How Often I Use Sulfates
To put this into context, I’m going to explain when I use a sulfate shampoo. Either 1: my hair is so so so full of buildup it feels like there is gel at the roots (well beyond any normal clarifying), or 2: at my hair stylist (more on that in a bit!)… For me, this ends up being a handful of times a year. Each year has been different, but I’ve used sulfates between 2-8 times per year since 2016.
Sulfates for clarifying
You DO NOT have to use sulfates to clarify your hair.You can use sulfates to clarify, but proceed with caution as this can really strip the hair. I have a whole blog post about clarifying (check it out here!), and this is a misconception I see ALL over the wavy hair community. There are many other “surfactants” (cleansing ingredients) that can help clarify.
Sulfates....in general avoid them, but using them every once and awhile is fine.....
Reasons to use Sulfates / When to Use Sulfates
- As a “final wash” if you use a lot of heavy, silicone filled products such as creams, serums, or heat protectants. Note: if you DON’T use those, just use a low poo like this one and start your natural wavy hair journey with that.
- At your hair stylist if it isn’t more often than every 8 weeks. If it is more often, you may want to alternate getting your hair washed, or bring in your own. I only get my hair cut a few times a year at the most so I don’t worry about it anymore. The shampoo your stylist uses isn’t a reason to break up with them if the cuts are great.
- After swimming if you got lots of chlorine exposure. Read about how to prep your waves for swimming here to avoid that though!
- If you REALLY need to wash your hair and you don’t have access to a sulfate free shampoo, dry shampoo, or a hat…and that this doesn’t happen often. Once every few months is fine. Every other week, is not.
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What sulfate shampoo should you use?
Take a look at any sulfate shampoo you already have (I’m a big fan of not wasting product, it’s bad for the environment). IF there are no silicones too, you can use that one. I do not recommend using a shampoo that contains both sulfates and silicones. Pass any with both along to a friend or relative (or donate!) to someone who doesn’t mind these ingredients.
If you want to go and purchase a sulfate shampoo, I recommend the Aveda Cherry Almond shampoo. It contains sweet almond oil and several hydrating ingredients. The second ingredient is Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, so don’t be tempted to make this your normal shampoo. I’ve just found it to leave my hair feeling fresh and soft. I also see an Aveda hair stylist, so that’s where I discovered this shampoo and where I mostly use it.
Final Thoughts on Sulfates
Sulfates generally should be avoided, but if you run into a situation where you can’t avoid them, its not going to destroy your hair so long as it isn’t often. I remember at the beginning of this journey being scared to go to a hair stylist, or DO much of anything. Your hair is a part of YOU and your LIFE, don’t let it run your life. One sulfate wash wont undo all of your other hard work. It’s the habits that you build and continue that will help your hair.As always, if you have any requests, please leave them below or comment them on the All Wavy Hair Facebook Page. Have a great day, wavy friends! -Rachel