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Sulfates in shampoos are in the surfactants category when it comes to ingredients. Surfactants are the ‘workhorse’ of a shampoo. They are designed to specifically cleanse the hair and scalp via degreasing. Surfactants are particles where one end ‘likes’ oil and one end ‘likes’ water. The end that ‘likes’ oil attached to the oil on the hair like a magnet. This leaves the end that ‘likes’ water exposed. As luck would have it, you use shampoo in the shower where there’s a steady stream of water. The exposed end of the surfactant that’s looking for water finds it readily and attaches like a magnet to the water. This pulls the oil off the hair and rinses it away with the water.
Sulfates are something everyone loves to hate. They got mislabeled as ‘bad’ for our health. The real issue when it comes to shampoos is that they are aggressive at removing oil and diet. Sulfates are strong and cheap so they are an easy thing to add to products for their ability to clean. It’s true that they are likely too strong for daily shampoo use because they can leave the hair feeling excessively stripped of natural oils.
However, if you deal with really oily hair - maybe even feel like your hair is still oily even after washing- the sulfate effect may be welcome! It may help to get a little more surfactant effect to reduce the oil and residue buildup on hair.