Gentle alternatives to sulfate shampoo by Sophia Murphy

Gentle alternatives to sulfate shampoo by Sophia Murphy

Gentle alternatives to sulfate shampoo

It’s wash day again, and you reach for the same old shampoo. But is that shampoo the right choice for your natural hair? If it has sulfates in it, the answer is no. Shampoos containing sulfates are part of our collective history. More often than not you’ve been washing your hair with this type of shampoo for as long as you remember. But your run-of-the-mill shampoo is often loaded with ingredients like sulfates and other chemicals that can result in breakage, overly dry, stripped, and tangled hair.  Now that you’re natural, you may find your whole outlook has changed as to what products you put on and in your body.

What’s wrong with sulfate shampoos?

Sulfates are harsh detergents responsible for the lather in shampoos. Their sole purpose is to strip hair of build up from oils, products, and dirt. While effective at their job, their inclusion in shampoos can be harmful to our natural curls that require more moisture and oil to maintain elasticity and prevent breakage. The two most popular sulfates are sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), but there are others including ammonium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, and sodium myreth sulfate. Use of products with these ingredients can result in the following:

  • Irritation to the scalp, skin, and eyes
  • Hair stripped of natural oils and proteins
  • Dry, frizzy, and tangled hair
  • Increased breakage and damage
  • Faded hair colour
  • Inflamed skin/scalp


It’s best to avoid shampoos that contain these ingredients if you want to maintain the health of your natural hair. Thankfully, there are shampoo alternatives that use natural ingredients and leave your hair soft and clean, but not stripped. Try one of the options below, to get the most out of your curls and kinks.


Conditioner washing better known as cowashing has been around for quite some time. It’s the answer to frequent shampoo washing that can leave your hair feeling dry and damaged. Cowashing is simply washing your hair with conditioner. Conditioners, contain gentle cleansers that aren’t damaging like those in shampoos. Cowashing also utilizes your natural oils in the process to cleanse and condition.

Benefits of cowashing

  • Cleanses without stripping
  • Provides softness and manageability
  • Promotes moisture and makes hair smoother
  • Enhances texture
  • Reduces frizz
  • Aids in detangling

You can opt to use a daily conditioner that you probably already have on hand or you can check out the new cleansing conditioners that are specifically designed for this purpose. One to try is Jessicurl Hair Cleansing Cream. When it comes to cowashing, there are a few do’s and dont’s that you should be aware of:

  • Do use a shampoo (sulfate-free) occasionally to clarify your hair.
  • Do use a generous amount of conditioner on your hair when cowashing (as you are both cleansing and conditioning).
  • Do take the time to massage the conditioner into the scalp and throughout the length of your hair.
  • Don’t use conditioners with non-soluble silicones as they cannot be removed by cowashing.
  • Don’t cowash if you have a scalp condition.


Sulfate-free shampoos       

There are many sulfate-free shampoos available that will gently cleanse your hair. Because sulfate-free shampoos don’t use the harsh detergents mentioned above, they won’t create that same sudsy lather that you’re used to but they are definitely doing the job of cleansing your hair.

Benefits of sulfate-free shampoo

  • Retains hair’s natural oils
  • Gently cleanses hair and removes buildup
  • Prolongs hair colour (won’t strip colour from strands)
  • Reduces the chance of inflammation and irritation
  • Promotes moisture retention

Roots to Curls has a vast array of sulfate-free shampoos. Try tgin Moisture Rich Sulfate Free Shampoo or Obia Naturals Neem and Tea Tree Shampoo Bar. Visit our cleansing section at and find one that’s right for you.

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