August 25th, 2011
Beauty, Hair
Beauty Bomb: Sulfate and Paraben Free Hair Products: Yay or Nay?
By The Fashion Bomb Staff

Fashion Bomb reader Morgan writes in asking, “I’ve heard that sulfate and paraben free shampoos and conditioners are better to use but a lot of the blogs and youtube videos say the hair feels dry after using them. Are they supposed to be good for relaxed/transitioning hair? Do you know of any good brands?

Hey Morgan!

Quick overview: sulfates (or sodium laurel) is an ingredient added to household items like shampoos and dish washing liquid that attracts dirt and oils and then breaks them down. It’s also what gives many cleansing products that sudsy effect. Parabens are chemicals found in many cosmetics that are used to preserve the products and prolong their shelf life.

For years sulfates and parabens were found in many personal care products. With the proliferation of women going natural, there has been an increase in consumer awareness and demand for more natural products. Some women with dry hair (whether relaxed, natural, or transitioning) find that sulfate-free shampoos or co-washing (cleansing the hair with conditioner as opposed to shampoo) are much less drying on the hair than cleansers that contain sulfates. Since I’ve been sans-relaxer, I’ve used both “regular” moisturizing shampoos and sulfate-free ones and to be honest don’t notice much of a difference on my hair when using one or the other. But that’s my experience.

In fact experience—personal experience—is the key word when dealing with haircare. There’s no monolithic hair experience. You’ll have to try products to see how your hair reacts to them and like the “Different Strokes” theme song said, what might be right for you may not be right for some. Hmmmmmm (sorry, I had an 80s flashback)

What works best for dry hair bottom line is moisture. While it won’t hurt to use a sulfate-free product (they can help retain some of the hair’s natural oils), many women with healthy hair have used products containing sulfates for years and have managed.

Are you ladies sulfate and paraben free? Share your experiences in the comments :)

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35 Responses to “Beauty Bomb: Sulfate and Paraben Free Hair Products: Yay or Nay?”

  1. ChezCerise says:

    I actually started using sulfate free products by accident and I noticed a huge difference when I switched back.

    Regular shampoos (no matter what brand) always made my hair feel VERY dry, almost like hay.

  2. Being a newly natural it definitely depends on own individual hair because I have heard many people practicing the “no poo” method and getting very awesome results. I try many different things to see what works for me especially as a new natural still transitioning. Because women of color falls within many categories I say shop around and “play with it” . See how your hair feels once it is dry. . Oh yeah, remember to deep treat your natural tresses.


  3. Adrana says:

    I have been a lover of Pantene’s Relaxed and Natural shampoo and conditioner for years which contain sulfate, but have recently transitioned to sulfate and sodium free shampoos by Organix. Since I’ve been on my “relaxed” hair journey, I’ve seen major growth, less breakage and less dryness since using the sulfate and sodium free products.

  4. jasmine says:

    yay! thnx for these selections of products being that i am a naturalista i need all the help i can get

  5. jasmine says:

    darn i thought i was 1st oh well! XD thanx for the testimonials

  6. Blu says:

    I have relaxed hair and I use sulfate & parabean free products. Since the switch I have noticed that S&P free shampoo gives my hair a dry and rough feel, much more than it ever did with S&P containing shampoos. But after conditioning and styling with S&P products my hair looks and feels great.

    And of course it depends on which products you use. I’m a fan of Giovanni and Shea Moisture conditioners and Juice Organics products also.

  7. Crystal says:

    i can say that i use a mix of both and while the sulfate does strip your hair, it gets it clean which i like. but i don’t really depend on my shampoo for moisture, that’s what my conditioners are for.

  8. @velvetpout says:

    I like my sulfate shampoo, I understand that it stripes the oils and moisture from your hair but isn’t that the purpose of using a good DC afterwards? I use a sulfate shampoo twice a week and my hair seems to be fine I would hate to switch it up and suffer a set back (I’m relaxed with BSL hair)

  9. Shaun says:

    I only use a sulfate shampoo when I feel I need to clarify which is only once a month. If you are using sulfate free shampoos, you need to make sure the products are mostly organic or natural b/c otherwise you really won’t be getting rid of the buildup on your hair…..if that makes sense.

    Shea Moisture has a really good line of products & Giovanni.

  10. Carmen says:

    My products are sulfate free because I really do feel like sulfates strip our hair of much needed moisture. I think we also have a problem with the way we use shampoo. I always explain to my customers that your hair doesn’t really need shampoo, shampoo is mainly for your scalp. I divide my hair into 4 sections (and braid each section because my natural hair tangles easily) and then apply the shampoo directly to the exposed scalp and then use the pads (not you fingernails which actually snag and pull already gentle hair) of my finger to massage the shampoo thoroughly on my scalp and only the very roots of my hair and as you rinse the shampoo will move down the shaft anyway. But I never apply shampoo directly to the hair shaft.

    It really makes sense when you think about it. Your scalp is what sweats and really gets dirty.

  11. C says:

    I use Lush products which are sulfate free and the solid shampoos/conditioner are paraben free. I highly recommend.

  12. D says:

    I use neither, they both dried my hair out horribly and it took too much conditioner to replenish the moisture. I now use Terresentials Organic Hair wash aka betnonite clay and apple cider vinegar to clean my hair and scalp. I basically follow Naptural85′s regimen(youtube) and my hair loves it. I say find what works for you, it’s all trial and error. I have also used very diluted castile soap(it wasnt bad) and a beer soap bar which I loved! (sulfate free)

  13. dyshaun says:

    Yeah, I’m sulfate, para free. I think the difference is shown over time (I didnt notice until about 9 months later, enough time to compare my groth rate)…and if you have ever thought hmm my hair wont grow past xyz length, you should probably try sulfate-para free as well.

  14. cca. says:

    I had the same issue with my hair being dry after washing. Since i started using Carol’s Daughter products my hair is always moisturized and soft.

  15. @L- I love Lush products despite their price. I visited Lush for the first time about a year ago and purchased their skincare and beauty products. I love that everything is natural and organic as well as hand-made. Thumbs Up! Kudos for L.U.S.H….

  16. Jane Carter’s Moisture Nourishing Shampoo is great! It really adds moisture and makes your hair soft without striping your hair like alot of sulfate shampoos.

  17. Pretty Brown says:

    I am transitioning. I personally lean more towards Sulfate free products that way my hair is not stripped of moisture (unless I want to clarify my hair then I use something that will strip it from residue etc). Everyone’s hair is different of course so you have to listen to your hair and do what works for you.

  18. TicaPica says:

    i was my locks once every two to three weeks (usually three). this works out as once a month. i work out, go to work, go out blah blah and will only interfere with this routine if (a) i go to a swimming pool or (b) my hair accidentally got something in it that needs to come out (e.g. ketchup, some scary chemical). in between washes, i spray it with pure rosewater every other day, then twice a week, rub in some coconut oil or shea butter or whatever. my hair is now like, wow.

  19. Crystal says:

    @Carmen…i wish i had a hair stylist like you. you wash the scalp and condition the hair. so many professionals don’t know that. when my hair stylist suds my hair and then proceeds to rub it between her hands…i swear i cringe.

  20. Amy says:

    be careful with some of the products – Loreal is “sulfate free”, but they still have sulfates, they are just broken down a bit from the usual sulfates allowing them to label their products sulfate-free.

  21. Keitha says:

    I started using sulfate free shampoos because my hair became extremely dry. I started out trying Wen, which I did not like but I am not sure if its sulfate free or not. I then made my own at home hair cleanser by mixing baking soda, water, and peppermint oil. I liked this mixture and it really cleaned my hair but it was a lot work lol.

    I am now using Dr. Bronners peppermint soap and Lush’s Curly Wurly shampoo. These are two of the best shampoos I have ever used. They both contain coconut oil which creates the sudsing effect and is also really moisturizing.

  22. Nickieluv says:

    Information on Parabens:

    Dangers of Parabens
    Parabens are of particular concern for a number of reasons. They have been shown to cause allergic reactions and are one of the leading causes of contact dermatitis.
    In addition, they mimic estrogen in the body which disrupts the delicate hormonal balance that our bodies need for good health. This is especially of concern for adolescents and pregnant women. There is some concern that parabens affect the development of the fetus and also affect a male fetus’ future fertility.
    Parabens have also been linked to organ system toxicity, cancer, and neurological and developmental disorders.
    If that isn’t bad enough, research has found parabens present as contaminants in tap water, food, and even built up in our bodies!
    Some of the most toxic parabens such as methylparaben are banned or restricted for use in the European Union.

    Why the Growing Interest in Paraben Free Products?

    More and more people are looking for paraben free products to avoid the potential danger of parabens. If you have sensitive skin or multiple allergies, I recommend you avoid all parabens.

    Parabens are especially harmful in any cosmetic or facial cream that you put directly on your face, body or hair, and that stays there all day. That product is going to be absorbed into your body, and the harmful substances migrate from the skin directly to the bloodstream.

    Learn more:

  23. binks says:

    I love shea moistures and want to try Lush products. Personally I use sulfate andparaben free shampoo because I can tell the difference on my hair right quick, my hair is a bit softer but it depends on your hair and what it needs

  24. Sticky-n-Sweet says:

    I use Wen by Chaz Dean. Some women (mostly Caucasian) said it made their hair greasy, but for Asian and Black women (we have hair that gets the driest), its the! No sulfates/parabens, and no suds!

  25. DivaFabulosa says:

    I’ve been natural for a couple of years and personally like Shea Moisture products as well as Kinky Curly. I use sulfate shampoo every now and then to get rid of build up, but make sure I follow up with a deep conditioner so I don’t dry my hair out. I want to try Carol’s Daughter products, I’ve heard good things about it.

  26. Jordan says:

    I really agree that personal experience is what matters most. I have a very mild relaxer in my hair. I’ve tried to go natural but my hair style is ever changing and a mild relaxer or texturizer works best for me to be able to change the style frequently. I’ve gotten to the point that I only relax it once every three or four months because a lot of the time its braided up underneath a weave. However, when my hair is out, I NEVER use a shampoo (unless I’m at the salon and my stylists is relaxing it). I condition it every week instead. Co-washing works best because i don’t use a lot of product and shampooing the hair would make it FAR to dry. I urge everyone to find what works best for YOU.

  27. [...] The Fashion Bomb Sulfate and Paraben Free Products: Yay or Nay? 4 Hairstyles to Try Before Summer Ends Weekend Beauty Hot! or Hmm…: Rihanna, Zoe Saldana, [...]

  28. ShrenAKO says:

    I only use all natural hair products, and I’m natural and my hair had GROWN!!! And you can really see the difference. Uncle Funky’s Daughter is a great brand, and Curls aswell.

  29. [...] in most stores, but is one of the best steps to a healthier lifestyle.        In today's world, it's impossible to avoid all the toxins we are constantly bombarded by, but switch…ical to avoid one of the more common toxins.  People who start using more natural hair products are [...]

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  31. Brittney says:

    SimplyMita has great tips about natural and organic hair products. Its a really good company and I know that there products launch 11-11-11 on and select stores throughout VA. BTW there products are suitable for vegans & vegs. and are free of all artificial ingredients.

  32. Elle says:

    Look carefully at LUSH products. They contain many chemicals, including sulfates and parabens. Their website lists each product’s ingredients. Don’t be fooled by the salepeople saying: “We use as natural ingredients as possible.” That is not true.

  33. Heather says:

    I was literally about to point out what Elle already has…that many Lush shampoos, conditioners and other products contain sulphates and parabens. I was really disappointed when I discovered this as I’d been happily using Lush products for a long time. Now I am using Naked shampoo and conditioner.

  34. Nidhi says:


    Great piece of information about this product. If you are saying sulfate free and paraben free then i guess this will also be good for colored hair also.

  35. Nikita Verma says:

    Very informative article and points you have mentioned hair.
    I know that sulfate and parabeen free shampoos are good for colored hair as well as normal hair.

    Thanks for sharing.


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