One easy step to healthier hair

If you just do this one thing, it will make a world of difference in the health of your hair!

If you get your hair done at a salon, you've probably (I hope!) heard your stylist tell you over and over again to use sulfate-free shampoos. They're better for your hair, they'll protect your color, etc. etc. But if you tend do your hair yourself (color out of a box, infrequent trips to get your hair cut), it's possible you don't even know what sulfate-free shampoos are, let alone why you should use them.

I've been in both positions, so I can relate! I was coloring my hair out of a box for years, and if/when I got a hair cut, I'd just find the nearest Hair Cuttery. I had no idea what sulfate-free shampoos were until I started working at the salon where I am now! So if you haven't heard it before, hear (read?) it from me: you should totally use sulfate-free shampoos for healthier hair.

What are sulfates?

Sulfates are the ingredient in your shampoo that make it lather, so most people associate that lather with cleanliness. You'll see it listed on the back of the bottle as sodium laurel sulfate, or some other iteration that ends in sulfate, and it's likely to be the second ingredient on the list. Sulfates are commonly used in house cleaning products because they cut grease and are very drying.

Sulfates are a cheap chemical for manufacturers to use, which is why you'll find that most shampoos in the drugstore are not sulfate-free, and many sulfate shampoos are a little pricier.

What will sulfates do to your hair?

To start, sulfates will dry out your hair much more than is necessary. Not only do they cut the excess oil in your hair, but they strip the healthy, natural oils out of your hair, too. These oils are responsible for keeping your hair smooth and shiny, and you're removing them! If you have curly or wavy hair, this also could result in a lot of frizz. Bet you didn't think your shampoo is causing the frizz that you battle every day!

This drying result can also affect your scalp, too. It can either cause your scalp to be overly dry & itchy (so uncomfortable), or it can cause your scalp to produce more oil because the shampoo keeps removing all of the natural oils that you scalp needs to remain healthy, resulting in an oily scalp and overly dry hair.

Do you color your hair? Sulfates strip that out, too. Whether you get your hair colored at the salon or out of a box, you'll notice quick fading & discoloring if you use a shampoo with sulfates. You'll have to color your hair more often, costing you more money and time... and most of us don't have enough of either. :)

To recap: sulfates are super harsh and they remove things from your hair & scalp that you don't really want removed.

Related: Eight simple hair tips everyone should know

What should you use?

Well first of all... start looking for shampoos marked "sulfate free". I have never seen a sulfate-free shampoo that doesn't boast it somewhere on the bottle - even if it's on the back - but if you're not sure, just check the ingredient list! If you don't see something that ends in "sulfate" on the list, you're good to go. Important: just because a shampoo claims it's "color-safe" or for colored hair does NOT mean it is sulfate free.

Don't assume that all salon lines are sulfate-free, because they're not! Just because it's pricey doesn't mean it's good for your hair, so make sure to check. And lucky for you thrifty gals, more and more inexpensive, drugstore brands are making sulfate-free lines.

1. Schwarzkopf Bonacure Color Save Shampoo, $18

2. Ojon Damage Reverse Thickening Shampoo, $24

3. L'Oreal EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care System, $6.99

4. Bumble and bumble Color Minded Shampoo, $29

5. Aveeno Pure Renewal Sulfate-Free Shampoo, $6.49

Don't forget: sulfates are responsible for the lather in regular shampoo, so a sulfate-free shampoo is not going to lather the same way. This doesn't mean your hair isn't getting clean, and it doesn't mean you need more shampoo than normal! After you've scrubbed and gotten as much lather as possible, try wetting it again and scrubbing some more. If you still feel like you need more lather, rinse and shampoo again rather than adding more shampoo.

You're going to feel like your hair isn't getting clean because we've been conditioned to equate lather with cleanliness, but I promise, sulfate-free will still do the trick without the lather! See below for some great sulfate-free choices, and enjoy your healthier hair!

What's your favorite shampoo that you've ever used? Is it good for your hair, or is it a guilty pleasure?

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