Parabens and Sulphates

Oct 24, 2019Blog

I have been a Hair Stylist now for nearly 16 years, and a Scalp Specialist for over 3 years, and this morning, whilst researching baby shampoo, I realised I had lost sight of why I went into scalp specialisation and why I use naturally derived scalp treatments and products, shampoos and conditioners within my hair and beauty salon. I get asked a lot about sulphate free, paraben free and what it all means and how the hair product industry uses buzz words to sell their products. So let’s break this down and explain what these words actually mean for you and your hair.

We have seen a massive push in sulphate free shampoo over the past decade, but are they really bad for us?

Sulphates are used within our hair products to remove the dirt and oil from the hair, acting like a little magnet, separating it from the hair and water so it can be rinsed away. It’s actually what makes our shampoos foam up and gives us that clean fresh feeling we have become accustomed to.

Are they bad for us?

With anything, a prolonged use or exposure to stronger formulations can have an adverse effects.

There are different types and strengths of sulphates used with our shampoos. The ones to
avoid are:

  • Ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Ammonium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl sulphate

… as these are found to be much harsher on our hair and scalp than the gentler sulphates:

  • TEA lauryl sulphate
  • TEA laureth sulphate
  • Sodium laureth sulphate

A lot more manufacturers are now looking at natural alternatives and using things like sugarand coconut sulphates instead.

Sulphates are harsher on the skin and scalp and can cause irritations and sensitivities, so it is advised to thoroughly rinse your hair after use. It has also been discussed that sulphates are
carcinogenic and can cause hair loss, but there is no evidence to prove this.

Is it safe to use sulphate shampoo?

If you like your shampoo to lather up, rather than look for the kinder gentler sulphate ingredients or naturally derived sulphates, then ensure you thoroughly rinse your hair to
avoid irritations. If you don’t mind the lather, and where possible go sulphate free, be aware of the other hidden chemicals they use in its place within your shampoo. The less chemicals we use on our skin the better.


Parabens have been used in the cosmetic industry for many decades, as a preservative to prolong the shelf life of the product through the prevention of the growth of bacteria and mould. However, it doesn’t actually do anything for your hair.

Are they bad for us?

Multiple studies have found that parabens mimic the natural oestrogen within our bodies. Increases of oestrogen can trigger the growth of tumour and breast cell division therefore linking it to breast cancer. Traces of parabens have also been found to penetrate the skin and remain in the breast tissue.

Are paraben free products better for us?

On the whole yes, however do be aware of chemical alternatives. Look out for products that have been quality assured and regulated properly. Do your research. Products which are 100% organic/natural do not have a shelf life or have to be stored in a fridge and used within a couple of days; So check what preservative they are using to give it a shelf life.

What to look out for on a label?

  • Butylparabens
  • Propylparabens
  • Methylparabens

Do be aware thought that there can be alternative names used.

For further reading visit:

  • Benzophenones

Whilst researching parabens and sulphates I came across this sneaking little chemical which we should also be aware of when purchasing hair products.

Benzophenones are typically used in hair products that have a UV protectant in them – protecting the hair from UV light and prolonging your hair colour.

What to look for on the label?

  • Benzophenones (any derivative)
  • Example (Bp-2)
  • Oxybenzone
  • Sulisobenzone
  • Sulisobenzone sodium


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