Here’s the lowdown: These detergents lather well (which surveys show people like). The most common types are sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and ammonium laureth sulfate. Note laureth versus lauryl. The –eth suffix means oxygen has been added, making it milder and more water-soluble. Laureth sulfates may not cleanse as well but won’t strip as much oil—some people find lauryl sulfates too drying. (It’s a myth, though, that they strip color. Even water alone speeds fading.)
Learn how to make a great hair moisturizer at home:
Sulfates also bind to skin, so they are harder to rinse and may leave a residue that can cause irritation for those with sensitive scalps. (If this is you, try a laureth sulfate or sulfate-free formula—like this Rahua Voluminous Shampoo from the Women’s Health Boutique.)
Related: 8 Shampoos That Will Leave Your Hair Smelling Heavenly All. Day. Long.
Bottom line: Sulfates aren’t an issue for most, and if you use styling products or have oily strands, you might prefer their clarifying effect.
For more beauty tips, check out the April 2017 issue of Women’s Health on newsstands now.