What Are Sulfates?
Sulfates are surfactants, which means they attract both oil and water. This allows dirt and grime to be washed from the skin and hair easily. They’re also responsible for turning liquids into the foamy lather we’re used to when we wash our hair and body or brush our teeth.

Sulfates are essentially detergents. When used in soaps, they leave skin feeling clean and refreshed. In shampoos, sulfates create a frothy lather that removes dirt, oil and styling product buildup from the hair and scalp. The result is hair that feels fresh and lightweight.

Two of the most common sulfates you’ll find in cosmetics are sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). These have been used safely in cosmetics formulations since the 1930s and are accepted as safe ingredients for cosmetic use in the United States and other countries.

If you’re using a product that lathers, it contains a detergent. If a product is labelled sulfate-free, the detergent used in the formula is simply a different type of lathering agent. 

Sulfates have a bad reputation because they can be TOO effective at washing away oil, which can leave hair or skin feeling dry. For those with sensitive skin or scalp, sulfates can cause irritation like redness or itching.

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