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My Life Without Lather

I love bubbles, suds, and lather as much as the next girl. But lately, I’ve been hearing a steady refrain of “sulfate-free, sulfate-free, sulfate-free” from the beauty industry. I decided to dig a bit into this mystery ingredient. A brief primer: sulfates are lathering detergents found in many shampoos, soaps, and mouthwashes, and the force behind all those lovable bubbles and suds. The two most common forms of sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), but essentially all sulfates work to strip skin and hair of oils and dirt. Over the last few years, these chemical compounds have been criticized for being harmful, and both drugstore and prestige brands have responded by introducing sulfate-free products. After taking a stroll down the suds-free path, I’m happy to report that life is good on the sulfate-free side. Here are three reasons to consider ditching the sulfates.

No more irritation

Sulfates are a known irritant, making them risky for anyone with sensitive or dry skin. In addition, due to their cleansing zeal, sulfates tend to strip skin of its natural moisture barrier, leading to excess dryness. Try a natural face wash instead; we like Juice Beauty’s Blemish Clearing Cleanser, which is completely organic and contains skin-healing nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants, and boscia’s Purifying Cleansing Gel, which relies on botanical amino acids. The same goes for your body: if you suffer from eczema or chronically parched skin, try a sulfate-free bar soap like Atelier Cologne Soap.

Shiny hair and vibrant highlights

If your hair is on the drier side, or if you’re prone to dandruff, your shampoo may be the culprit. Sulfate-free formulas tend to be gentler and milder by keeping moisture levels balanced. They’re also beneficial for oily hair, since drying sulfates can actually trigger additional oil production. We’re fans of both Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Shampoo and Number 4’s L'eau de Mer Hydrating Shampoo. Perhaps the most compelling reason to switch? Sulfate-free products keep color-treated hair bright and true-to-hue longer. Try a protective formula like Amika’s Color pHerfection Shampoo.

Healthy mouth

When used in toothpaste, sulfates can eat away at the outer layers of protective skin cells in your mouth. While most major brands of toothpaste contain sulfates, these detergents have been proven to trigger canker sores. If you get periodic outbreaks, consider switching to a sulfate-free formula like Supersmile’s Professional Whitening Toothpaste.

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