The Truth Behind Sulfates and Parabens

Sulfates and parabens have gradually entered the average vocabulary over the last decade as more and more people turn their focus toward what they’re really putting in their hair. You might be surprised to learn what popular hair care brands include in their ingredients and should always check the ingredients in your hair care products before choosing which products are best for you.


While sulfates help cleanse hair of dirt and oils, they also strip the moisture and natural oils from your hair follicles, leaving your hair feeling dry and unhealthy. Other common side effects include a dry, itchy scalp. The lack of natural oils and moisture will cause additional hair frizz, leading to the need to use additional styling products, which could weigh down your hair.

Sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and ammonium laureth sulfate are the most common sulfates found in shampoos. Sulfates are included as a foaming agent, making it easier to spread shampoo over your scalp. Despite some claims, sulfates are not linked to cancer-causing agents.

You should avoid using sulfates if you have fine, weakened, or color-treated hair, sensitive skin, and/or have a history of rosacea or eczema. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) sulfates can cause redness, inflammation, hives, and skin irritation on the scalp, face, shoulders, and back.


Parabens have been used as artificial preservatives in hair care and beauty products since the 1920s. Recent studies have shown that parabens can interfere with the normal function of hormones, cause skin irritation, and negatively impact fertility and reproductive organs. The CDC tested multiple Americans and found propylparaben in over 92% and butylparaben in roughly 50% of those tested. Researchers in England biopsied malignant breast tumors and discovered a significant level of synthetic parabens, which they believe were absorbed through the skin from antiperspirant.

While parabens do keep mold and other bacteria from growing inside your cosmetics, more and more consumers are turning toward alternatives to protect their health. On the bright side, parabens are water-soluble, meaning they rinse easily from your hair in the shower, and paraben levels in the body can drastically drop after just three days without use.

Most Common Parabens:

  • Methylparaben
  • Ethylparaben
  • Propylparaben
  • Isopropylparaben
  • Butylparaben
  • Isobutylparaben

What This Means for You and Your Hair

If you’ve been putting all the bad ingredients in your hair, there’s still a solution for you: the deep condition. In addition to switching to healthier hair care products that don’t contain sulfates or parabens, deep conditioning will help repair the damage that’s already been done. It may also be a good idea to look into hair care supplements or vitamins such as biotin or hair, skin, and nails to nourish your hair from the inside out.