As we enter a more ingredient conscious era, the hair and beauty industries are under more scrutiny than ever before, with one of the biggest questions on everyone’s lips is ‘Are sulfates good or bad for my hair?’, and in particular, are they safe for hair extensions?
In order to determine whether or not sulfates are safe for use with hair extensions, it first important to understand what sulfates are and how they work in haircare products.
Sulfates are an ingredient used in the vast majority of shampoo formulas, and are all primary surfactants; a surfactant is a combination of molecules that can attract both oil and water. They work well in shampoo formulas as one end of the molecule clings to the oil and dirt on your scalp, while the other clings to the water, allowing any nasties to be washed away from your hair and down the plughole. Surfactants also reduce the surface tension of the water, making water ‘wetter’ allowing it to spread over larger surface areas making it easier to remove dirt and oil from your hair. Without sulfates, cleansing products wouldn’t be able to work as efficiently. In terms of hair extension hair care, using a product that produces the correct amount of foam is incredibly important, as it allows the product to be distributed evenly and easily through the hair and bonds, something which is very important in controlling the level for disruption and friction hair extensions are exposed to during the washing process.
In 1934, Procter & Gamble introduced the first sulfate based shampoo into modern hair care systems, with everyone else soon following due to the vast improvement this ingredient had on the overall satisfaction and effectiveness of shampoo formulas. In fact, sulfates are still the number one ingredient used in hair care to date- as far as performance goes, sulfates simply cannot be beaten. They have been tried and tested for many years and are approved as safe by the CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review) as a rinse off product, which is why they have remained a staple ingredient for the last 82 years.
Why Do Sulfates Have A Bad Reputation?
So with sulfates having such a long and established place in the haircare industry, having been tried and tested by experts and consumers alike for over 80 years, where does the current bad reputation come from?
It is a common misconception amongst those discussing the suitability of sulfates in haircare that it is this ingredient alone that causes hair to become dry, however there is very little evidence to support this. Hair becomes dry for many reasons, most commonly when it is cared for incorrectly, be that due to excessive colouring, heat exposure, incorrect product use etc. In order for hair to remain healthy, it must be in the best possible condition, with the cuticle in tact, the appropriate amount of water retention and porosity, and exposure to natural hair oils. For tips on keeping your hair extensions as healthy as possible, check out our article.
There is no denying that a sulfate shampoo will wash away a certain percentage of your natural hair oils which are important to keep the hair soft and healthy, however what is often overlooked is that so do sulfate free shampoos, as these have alternative cleansers that perform the same task. If a shampoo did not wash away our hair oils, our hair would not feel “clean” in the way in which we like it. The only way to retain your natural hair oils is to stop using shampoos altogether.
Whilst natural oils are responsible for helping to keep hair hydrated, they are also guilty of collecting dirt- so we don’t want to cling onto them excessively, which in turn can cause the hair follicles to clog. Once the dirt and grime has been rinsed away; it’s important to remember our bodies are constantly working and reproducing oils, so whatever is lost replaces itself, and the body has a brilliant way of recognising this problem and correcting itself.
Choosing A Shampoo And Conditioner For Your Hair Extensions
It is extremely important to make the right decision about your shampoo and conditioner when wearing hair extensions. Many people opt for a sulfate free shampoo solely based on the word/phrase ‘free from’, without truly understanding how this affects the care of your hair extensions. SimplyHair aftercare products have been tried and tested with use of hair extensions and our formula gives your scalp the correct cleanse it needs, while our conditioner nourishes the hair, restoring any moisture lost in the cleansing process.
To ensure your hair extensions can be washed correctly and distributed evenly, our shampoo contains sulfates, as do many hair extension products. They are by far the most suitable for the the level of care your hair extensions require, and it is a common misconception that a sulfate free shampoo is the holygrail in hair extension care.
Additional Treatments To Improve The Quality Of Your Hair Extensions
For those with concerns about keeping their hair healthy, rather than focusing on whether a product is sulfate free or not which has little to no impact on your hairs overall health in the long term, attention should be placed on ensuring your hair extensions have a continuous source of nourishment outside of your usual hair care routine. Whether you use a sulfate free shampoo or not, the process will remove a certain percentage of your natural hair oils regardless, and therefore by introducing an efficient hair oil treatment to your weekly regime you will ensure any lost oils are replaced, making your new hair easier to maintain.
At SimplyHair, we have recently taken on a new product: HairExtensionBff Pre-Shampoo Treatment. This all-natural product is designed specifically for use with hair extensions, to act as a substitute for the natural oils that your extensions miss out on. Natural ingredients are of key importance, they allow the product to penetrate moisture into the hair rather than simply coating it.
Long Term Care For Your Hair Extensions
What’s best for your scalp and your long term hair growth is a good cleansing shampoo, with an effective conditioner to care of the ends of your hair, and an oil treatment to nourish hair that misses out on natural oils. So forget the obsession with sulfate free products, and instead focus on striking a balance between using an efficient cleaning product like a sulfate shampoo, followed by a quality conditioner and a regular oil treatment.