Why Are Sulfates Bad for African-American Hair?

Sulfates are bad news for African-American hair.

Photo: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

News flash, sisters -- your hair needs moisture. While you can revel in your curls, you cannot revel in dry hair. Your hair may look strong and fierce, but the truth is that African-American hair is fragile. Your hair needs oil, and your hair and scalp have a hard time maintaining the right amount of it. Hair care products don't always understand your need; they can be full of chemicals that strip your hair of natural oils and make it weak and vulnerable. The biggest culprits are sulfates.

The Truth About Sulfates

Sulfates are used in detergents, cleansers and shampoo to make them foam. They are an intense cleanser and they strip hair of natural oils. The chemical name is sodium lauryl sulfate. Sulfates are also an irritant and can cause reaction in sensitive skin.

The Truth About Sulfates and Your Hair

Marie France, owner of Madusalon in San Francisco, tells her clients to avoid sulfates at all costs. Madusalon specializes in African-Americans' natural hair, with its coarse texture and curly form. "As curly hair comes out of the follicle, it removes the natural oil in the process. ... Many shampoos contain sulfates that strip the natural oils from the scalp and hair," France explains. Sulfates can also increase dryness and frizz in hair. This makes your hair more susceptible to breakage and damage.

Step Away From the Sulfates

France recommends using sulfate-free products to get hair clean. France says that because natural oils are so important to maintaining a healthy scalp and hair, you shouldn't use shampoo at all. France advocates the use of cleansers instead of shampoo. France says: "To paraphrase Lorraine Massey, author of the 'Curly Girl Handbook,' shampoo is the sham of poo. The thing I mostly recommend for natural hair is to condition, condition, condition. You can never condition your hair too much because curly hair really needs it."

The No-Lather Solution

France suggests that her clients use DevaCurl No Poo Hair Cleanser. This is not a shampoo, it is a cleanser. It has natural botanicals that gently remove dirt and product buildup from hair. It also contains conditioners that leave hair soft and manageable. Soothing plant extracts help calm hair and reduce frizz. Peppermint and Turkish rose stimulate the scalp and help leave it clean and refreshed.

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