Sulfate-Free Products: Where did the bubbles go?

Amanda Coulter, Marketing & Communications Manager ABITEC

Since sulfates are the best at getting your hair clean by removing things like dirt, oil, and sweat, it makes it very difficult for manufacturers who want to provide a product that works, while eliminating the core functional ingredient, sulfates.

Did you know that chances are your shampoo at home contains some type of sulfate?  OK, so who cares?  I must admit, I did not, UNTIL… I realized what sulfates could be doing to my skin and hair.  Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about how dangerous sulfates are.  As a matter a fact, sulfates are nontoxic to people and the environment.  They are also considered excellent cleansers and foaming agents which is why they are typically found in personal cleansing products.  Those luxurious bubbles that lather your hair up and make it feel fresh and clean, that’s likely a sulfate of some type, the most common being Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).  And yes, it IS getting your hair clean!  But what else is it doing?

The Sulfate Concern

If you think about different cleaning agents you have in your house many of them contain pretty potent, aggressive ingredients because they are meant to get things clean, by fighting off dirt and removing stains.  Sulfates are considered powerful, inexpensive, and essentially aggressive detergents which why they are found in a LOT of cleaning products such as shampoos, body washes, face cleansers, household cleaners, laundry detergents and dish soaps.  So what is the problem with them?

Think about stripping paint off a car, now think about putting that in your hair.  Ok, so it’s not exactly like that but you get my point.  Essentially sulfates strip out the protective oils from your scalp and hair, leaving you all dried out.  This can cause scalp irritation, dry hair follicles, and for those of you regularly coloring your hair out there like me, you may be heading to the salon more often than you need to! Ok, so let’s get rid of them then, good-bye sulfates.  Ah if only it were that easy! 

The Sulfate-Free Challenge

There are now hundreds of products claiming to be “sulfate-free” on the market.  As a matter a fact, you may have even purchased a “sulfate-free” product without realizing it.  But was it really “sulfate-free”?  Since sulfates are the best at getting your hair clean by removing things like dirt, oil, and sweat, it makes it very difficult for manufacturers to provide a product that works, while eliminating the core functional ingredient, sulfates.  So what do they do? 

Some of them turn to what you might call “sul-fakes”, those not considered to be “true sulfates” such as Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, and Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (I know, hard to say right?).  Just because “sulfate” isn’t in the name though doesn’t mean they aren’t in the same family.  So don’t be fooled. 

Secondly, for those manufacturers who do decide to completely remove sulfates, typically performance and the consumer experience is compromised.  Think about it, most consumers don’t know what ingredients in their shampoo are actually “getting it clean”. I’m betting most of them don’t even look at the ingredient label.  However, many of them do equate things like “bubbles” to cleanliness, right?  Perception is everything.  Who wants to use a shampoo that doesn’t foam up and create bubbles?  Sulfates are very good foaming agents and that’s why you get those awesome bubbles that make your hair feel oh so clean!  Take away the sulfates, take away the bubbles, take away the clean?  No, not necessarily..

Putting the Bubbles Back In

Have no fear…ABITEC is here!  You can still get clean, safe bubbles without the harsh sulfates.  At ABITEC we manufacture many ingredients from naturally-derived sources that provide manufacturers safe, environmentally-friendly alternatives to a lot of today’s harsh and sometimes toxic chemicals.  I know for me, like many consumers out there, as the ingredient list gets longer and more difficult to pronounce, I get a little more wary about what I’m putting on my skin or in my body!  But I must say, I still want the bubbles! 

Luckily ABITEC has recently launched a great alternative to sulfates, CAPMUL® S12L, which not only brings back those bubbles, it’s sulfate-free, EO-free, and easier for formulators to work with!  Finally manufacturers can formulate sulfate-free products without compromising function or consumer interest!  Everyone wins! 

Learn more about ABITEC’s Sulfate-Free options today!


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