An Open Letter Apology to Sulfates


Dear Sulfates,

Over the years, you’ve been given a bad rep. What started out as us just wanting to do right by our natural hair, has morphed into this anti-sulfate campaign thats got the facts all twisted and distorted – while lining the coffers of some folks looking to make a buck off the movement.

Let’s be honest though – you’re not completely blameless in all of this, sulfates. Back in the mid to late 2000s, you were a tough pill to swallow. You were in all kinds of products not formulated for our hair, and we didn’t have a lot of options. You backed us into a corner, and triggered that fight-or-flight response.

We assailed you with full steam – accusing you of causing cancer, damaging and drying out our hair and scalps, and even causing unsightly frizz and breakage. Not only did we attack you sulfates, but we abandoned you completely in favor of co-washes, clay masks, and apple cider vinegar. Heck, we even inspired everyone and their mama to create shampoos and cleansers specifically avoiding you like fruitcake at Christmas.

But the truth is, sulfates – we were wrong. Well, kinda wrong. You don’t cause cancer – we conflated your issues with those of parabens. You very well may damage our hair, but so does water. And sunlight. And combing. Protein loss is protein loss, and you’re not squarely to blame here. And sure our curls may feel a little dry after using you – but that’s really just the hallmark of your effectiveness in removing dirt, oil, debris, and product buildup. In all honesty, we shouldn’t have expected for our hair to feel the same way it would after co-washing when using you. That was foolish of us, and unfair to you.

I for one, would like to apologize for my role in tarnishing your name. It’s not my fault for not fully recognizing that things, much like people, have the ability to change and grow. You’ve found yourself a new life in more cutting-edge formulas that mitigate some of the things we didn’t like about you back in the day – like that dry, crispy feeling and frizz, for starters. You’ve even got the nerve to be in some shampoos that have slip. Slip!

Sooo yeah… my bad, dawg. We cool now?

Love, Peace, and Clarifying Every 4-6 Weeks,

Guys, sulfates aren’t the enemy. In fact, they can be a friend and your bridge over troubled water when it comes to a healthy scalp and hair. I used to make a regular habit of shampooing with sulfates – especially when reverting back from straight hair. But somewhere along the way, I stopped and got swept up into the sulfate-free hype. Now, I’m not saying that sulfate-free shampoos are bad and I’m going to stop using them. What I’m saying is that there’s a valuable place in a healthy hair and scalp regimen for both. If you’ve been dealing with itchy scalp or dry hair, this may seem counter intuitive – but grab a SLS-containing shampoo.

You might just be surprised.

By the way, the sulfate-containing shampoo that I’m absolutely addicted to right now is 180PRO Intense Reconstruct Shampoo. It’s creamy, lathers beautifully, has great slip, and didn’t leave my hair tangled or feeling like a bale of hay. Plus, my curls and scalp felt super clean without being excessively stripped.

Read more from Christina Patrice on her blog, The Mane Objective.