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The world of hair care products is a wild one! And when you’re trying to decide which shampoo to use, things can get a little hairy (pun intended). If sulfate-free shampoo is on your radar, you’re headed in the right direction!

To help make things crystal clear, we’ll go over what these infamous sulfates are and why they’re used in shampoo. Then we’ll talk about why sulfate-free shampoo is the best choice for your hair and let you know how to find it.

First off, what are sulfates?

What Are Sulfates?

Without getting too much into the chemistry of it, the quick explanation is that sulfates are salts.

But when people talk about shampoo and use the term “sulfates,” they’re typically referring to two specific compounds called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

These synthetic ingredients are made from petroleum but can also be made from coconut oil or palm oil.

Sulfates are surfactants and create the bubbly suds that make you feel so clean. When you shampoo your hair, your goal is to do away with oil, dirt, grime, and any product buildup. Sulfates help do just that.

So, if they help you get so sudsy and squeaky-clean, what’s the big deal about them? Let us explain why we’d rather steer clear of sulfates and opt for sulfate-free shampoo.

Why Sulfate-Free Shampoo Is The Way To Go

 Woman just out of a shower wringing her hair out

Sulfates may help you stay clean, but there are a few significant drawbacks making lots of people go sulfate-free.

First of all, sulfates are just plain drying. Their job is to get rid of dirt, oil, and the like, but in the process, they also strip away natural oils that your scalp and hair need to stay healthy. Sulfates and their overzealous cleansing can leave you with dryness, itching, and brittle hair.

Not to mention that if you color your hair, sulfates can do a number on your dye job and shorten the life of your color.

Similarly, sulfates can be irritating to sensitive skin. Remember that your scalp is skin, too, even if it’s hidden under a head of hair! The shampoo you use affects both your hair and your scalp, and it typically runs all over your body when you rinse.

Another cause for concern is how sulfates are made. When the sulfate SLES is being manufactured, a substance called 1,4 dioxane can find its way into the SLES compound.

The big problem there is that 1,4 dioxane is a carcinogen, meaning that it can cause cancer. Bad news.

The other reason sulfate-free shampoo is the way to go? Sulfates simply aren’t necessary, so we think it’s best to err on the safe side and steer clear of them entirely.

That said, let’s get straight to how to find sulfate-free suds (it’s not hard!) and a few specific shampoos that we think you’ll love.

How To Find Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Sulfate-free shampoo is easy to spot.

First of all, the front of the shampoo bottle might indicate that the product is “sulfate-free.” Or you can do the detective work yourself and check the ingredient list for sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

That’s all there is to it. To make it even easier for you, we’d like to share a few natural, sulfate-free shampoos that we love and think you will, too.

Sulfate-Free Detangling Shampoo

 Woman in bathroom with sulfate free shampoo

One of our favorite, most delightful-smelling sulfate-free shampoos is Babo Botanicals Smoothing Detangling Shampoo & Wash. This detangling shampoo is designed for anyone with hair licks, knots, tangles, and frizz.

With evening primrose oil, cocoa butter, and shea butter, it smoothes and softens your hair and skin, and it’s sure to be a hit! It also contains our exclusive Organic Nutri-Soothe™ Complex that’s rich in vitamins and antioxidants.

Count on this shampoo to be full of natural, plant-based ingredients and free of the questionable stuff like parabens, synthetic fragrances, dyes, and (of course) sulfates.

Oh, and the berry scent can’t be beaten with its lovely, fresh notes.

Sulfate-Free Swim And Sport Shampoo

 Young girl at a water park with sulfate free shampoo

Purifying and cleansing your hair and skin after a day at the pool or beach can also be done sulfate-free. Remember sulfates really aren’t necessary to stay clean!

Babo Botanicals Swim & Sport Citrus Mint Shampoo & Wash will replenish, hydrate, and purify your hair, scalp, and skin with a plant-based formula.

It’s specifically developed with purifying and plant-based phytic acid (extracted from passion fruit seeds) which helps remove chlorine, minerals, and salts. Plus, it contains rice protein and panthenol to help strengthen and revive your hair as well as organic aloe vera and green tea.

While this shampoo is perfect for shampooing after swimming, outside playtime, hiking, running, or any other outdoor activity you love, it’s also gentle enough for everyday use.

This shampoo is not only sulfate-free but also vegan, cruelty-free, and dermatologist-tested.

Sulfate-Free Calming Shampoo

 Babo Botanicals Calming Shampoo, Bubble Bath & Wash

For a shampoo that’s safe for your skin and soothing to your body, try Babo Botanicals Calming Shampoo, Bubble Bath & Wash. The scent of pure, dreamy French Lavender helps you relax, while organic meadowsweet oil, argan oil, and coconut oil moisturize delicate skin.

And, as you may have noticed, this isn’t only a shampoo! It’s a 3-in-1 formula, so you can also enjoy a perfectly relaxing sulfate-free bubble bath that’s gentle on your skin.

Calming Shampoo, Bubble Bath & Wash is a great addition to your child’s bedtime or bath routine, but a calming bubble bath is also a perfect way for you to wind down at the end of a long day.

Sulfate-Free Baby Shampoo

 Parent using sulfate free shampoo on baby

Sulfate-free shampoo shouldn’t be for adults only! It’s also ideal for the little ones in your family. We recommend Babo Botanicals Moisturizing Baby Shampoo & Wash or, for extra delicate and sensitive skin, Sensitive Baby Shampoo & Wash.

Our Moisturizing Baby Shampoo & Wash is our number one best-selling product! This shampoo-wash combo nourishes your baby’s skin and is formulated with oatmilk to comfort irritated skin and calendula oil to help soothe dry scalps and cradle cap.

Plus, it’s sulfate-free, pure, mild, and gentle on that sweet baby skin.

Meanwhile, Sensitive Baby Shampoo & Wash is our EWG Verified baby shampoo specifically designed for babies and children with extra sensitive, dry, and eczema-prone skin.

The plant-based formula helps reduce discomfort such as irritation, pulling, and itching so your baby’s skin can regain softness and comfort. This shampoo is fragrance-free and made with natural oat protein, shea butter, cocoa butter, and other gentle ingredients.

What Else To Look For In Shampoo

Looking for sulfate-free is a great place to start when choosing a shampoo. But, before we wrap up, we’d like to mention a couple of other things to keep in mind when you’re hunting for a clean, chemical-free shampoo.

Free Of Synthetic Fragrances

More than likely, part of what you love about your shampoo is how great it makes your hair smell!

We’re not saying you should give that up. But it is a good idea to stay away from synthetic fragrances (which can irritate your skin) and go with a natural fragrance instead.

Note: Synthetic fragrances are often listed as “fragrance” or “parfum” on the ingredients list.

Free Of Parabens

Parabens function as a preservative. Keeping products fresh sounds all well and good until we mention that parabens can cause allergic reactions and skin rashes.

Parabens are also an endocrine disruptor, meaning they mimic your body’s natural hormones and throw a wrench in things.

In summary, you’re better off without them. To avoid these chemicals, you can spot them on the ingredient list if you see “paraben” at the end of a word (examples: methylparaben, butylparaben, etc.).

Natural Ingredients

It’s not just about what isn’t in your shampoo — it’s about the good stuff that’s in your products, too!

We’re talking about natural origin ingredients— things like coconut oil, aloe vera, calendula flower extract, argan oil, and the like.

Click here to read more about chemical-free shampoo and what to look for.

Suds Up Sulfate-Free

 Woman with hands in curly hair

Shampoo is for keeping you clean, but it shouldn’t dry or damage your skin and hair while it does its job! Since sulfates can be drying, irritating, and carcinogenic, suds up sulfate-free.

The good news is that sulfate-free shampoo isn’t hard to come by! Go with Babo Botanicals Smoothing Detangling Shampoo & Wash or Calming Shampoo, Bubble Bath & Wash for yourself and Moisturizing Baby Shampoo & Wash or Sensitive Baby Shampoo & Wash for your littles.

Pretty soon, your family will be living the sulfate-free life, and your scalp and hair will be better for it!