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THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT SULPHATES

- Categories : hair-care

We sometimes see the phrase “Sulphate-free” on the packaging of cosmetic products. But what exactly are sulphates? And more importantly, what’s wrong with them?

Sulphates are aggressive detergents made from mineral salts that contain sulphur. The most common ones are Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). They were first used in hair care products during the 1930s and from that moment on they revolutionised the health and beauty industry. Before they were introduced, people trusted in simple (but not always effective) soaps and other methods for washing their skin and hair.

By comparison, sulphates were powerful, cheap and easy to come by. Best of all, they were responsible for the foam that we associate with cleanliness and hygiene. However, now that they are some of the most commonly used chemical agents in our homes, we are starting to understand that sulphates have a strong impact on our health and beauty.

 

How do sulphates work?

Sulphates are surfactants, molecules that can attract both oil and water: one end of the molecule clings the oil phase, while the other clings to water. What does this mean? They are capable of removing grease and dirt from our skin and hair and dissolving it in a solution so that it can be rinsed off with water.

These surfactants are powerful, cheap and are present in many products, not only to create foam in shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers and toothpastes, but also in household cleaning products, laundry detergents and dishwashing detergents. So what’s the problem? As well as dirt, sulphates also remove all the protective oils from our scalp and hair. They are too aggressive.

Sulphates and your hair and scalp

Our skin and hair are part of our natural ecosystem known as the biome. Sulphates disrupt its delicate balance in the following ways:

  • They eliminate the natural antimicrobial peptides, proteins and water-proofing oils that our biomes create. Without these health-preserving substances, our hair and scalp are devoid of vital moisture, exposed to harmful microbes, allergens and environmental pollution and vulnerable to damage, infection and disease.
  • They lift the hair cuticle. The outer layer of the hair shaft is formed by a series of resistant, overlapping hair cells called the cuticle. Due to the reduced surface tension, sulphates penetrate the cuticle, lifting and buckling it. This exposes the hair cortex to moisture or to dry air that can dry it out. The compromised cuticle weakens the whole hair shaft, making it more prone to damage, breakage and split ends.
  • They make your hair take longer to dry. When the cuticle is lifted, more moisture is absorbed in the cortex, which then takes twice as long to dry. If you also use a hair dryer, you will suffer twice the heat exposure, doing yet more damage to your scalp.
  • They leave an anionic charge. Sulphates have a negative electric charge, which remains in your hair and scalp when you rinse the shampoo out. This leaves a residue, causing static and flyaway hair. To neutralise this film, the hair must be coated with a silicone-based synthetic condition (another chemical), which masks the damage with artificial shine.
  • They irritate the scalp. Sulphates remove the natural lipids from the scalp, thereby breaking its natural barrier against water. Chemicals from products can penetrate the outer layers of the skin, causing irritation and inflammation. The underlying layers of skin are exposed to pathogens (disease-causing bacteria) that wouldn’t otherwise be able to permeate the scalp.
  • They cause follicle stress. Each hair follicle is covered by a “lipid plug". Sulphates remove this protective layer, exposing the good microbiota inside it to the atmosphere. Since they are anaerobic, these good bacteria die and bad bacteria have direct access to a now defenceless follicle.

 

One alternative to sulphates is Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate. It is derived from sarcosine, a naturally occurring amino acid that is found in the human body and almost all types of biological matter in both animals and plants. The comprehensive safety assessment published by the International Journal of Toxicology stated that sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is not toxic or harmful and does not have any mutagenic, irritating or sensitising effects.

REDENHAIR REGENERATIVE SHAMPOO contains sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, as it is not aggressive to the scalp but is very effective. What is more, it is included in the Handbook of Green Chemicals and is also approved by Whole Foods Premium Body Care, two seals of approval that validate our confidence in the safety and sustainability of this ingredient.

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