What are sulphates and why do they have a bad press?


Are sulphates really as bad as they're made out to be?

Toppik's range of shampoos and conditioners don't contain Sulphates, but what are they and why do we avoid using them?

Sulphates are a collective name for additives commonly found in various hygiene or cleaning products and responsible for emulsifying grease and creating a foam when combined with water.

On product labels, you're most likely to see known as 'sodium laureth sulphate', myreth sulphate, 'ammonium lauryl sulphate' or 'sodium lauryl sulphate'.


Effective, but potentially irritating

Sulphates do a very good job for the purposes they're used. They're also cheap and readily available, it's no wonder they're so widely used. However, they can aggravate eczema or allergies and also irritate sensitive skin. Essentially, they're a little too good at what they do and can, therefore, be a bit harsh on our skin.


Are Sulphates bad for hair?

The grease emulsifying effect of these compounds makes no distinction between the grease and products you want to remove from your hair and the natural oil sebum which is essential for keeping your hair healthy. They're all stripped away indiscriminately.

Hair without that protective coating of natural oil is more susceptible to frizz and damage. Add to this, that sulphates lower the surface tension of water, allowing it to penetrate through smaller openings than plain water would. So even the slightest gaps in the cuticles of your hair will allow moisture to enter into the cortex of each strand.

Waterlogged hair is much more susceptible to damage and breakage, particularly if the hair is already vulnerable due to harsh colour treatments or the use of hot tools.

Sulphates seem to cause dyed hair to lose it's colour prematurely too, leading to repeat treatments having to be applied to maintain the desired hue. Various dying processes, of course, have risks of their own.


Do Sulphates Cause Cancer?

Although we listed above four sulphates commonly found in hygiene products, these are not the only member of this family which have the same effect. Thirty to forty years ago, 'ethanolamine lauryl sulphate' was also in widespread use. This particular sulphate has been linked to cancer and as such been banned for decades. So while we disapprove of sulphates for other reasons, the rumours that these compounds in cosmetics might cause cancer are very much out of date and the varieties allowed in modern products have no proven link to cancer.


What's the alternative?

At Toppik, we're very proud of our shampoo and conditioner ranges which are free from harmful sulphates as well as containing many ingredients beneficial to the health and appearance of your hair. We use natural products which cleanse your hair without damaging it while at the same time nourishing each strand and follicle to allow you to enjoy healthy hair for longer.

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