how sulfates affect your hair extensions and why use sulfate free shampoo

How Sulfates Affect your Hair Extensions and Why Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo

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What are sulfates, and what makes a sulfate free shampoo so healthy?

As you walk down the shampoo aisle in Ulta, you may notice many shampoo bottles that read, “Sulfate-Free.” Lets learn exactly what this mean…

What are Sulfates?

Sulfates are a popular ingredient in detergent, hand soap, body wash and shampoo.

Sulfate is what causes the foaming lather that we all love. Sulfates are all primarily surfactants. A surfactant is a combination of molecules that attract both oil and water.

One molecule clings to oil while the other clings to water, allowing the grease and dirt to release from you there and flow down the drain. Unfortunately, studies have linked sulfates to some pretty gnarly consequences. Some reviews have related sulfates to cell damage in the hair.

Although sulfates have been deemed “safe in low quantities” by the Food and Drug Administration, studies conducted by the American College of Toxicology found that concentrations above 1% over continued use did cause cellular damage. Most shampoos have a concentration at a whopping 15%.

How Does This Affect Me?

If you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to avoid using sulfates to shampoo and condition your hair. On skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, or any other skin disorder, sulfates may encourage a flare-up.

If you have dry hair, using a sulfate shampoo will encourage your hair to be drier because sulfates strip the hair of its natural oils.

For those that like to experiment with color, a sulfate-free shampoo can help maintain your color and prevent it from fading.

damaged hair

How Sulfates Affect Hair Extensions

Using a sulfate shampoo on your hair extensions is even worse than using it on your natural hair!

Sulfates are harmful to your hair extensions because human hair extensions are not attached to a scalp, so no natural oils are being transferred to the hair shaft. Once the sulfate comes in contact with the hair extension, it strips all the oil and moisture from the hair. Lack of oil and moisture encourages frizz, tangling, and breakage.

Choosing a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner is imperative to maintain the health of your hair extensions.

Even though sulfates aren’t good for your health, we are bound to come in contact with them eventually. We can avoid using them in our hair; here are some alternatives to sulfate shampoo.



The co-wash craze emerged from the natural hair community. When curly –headed women discovered the harms of sulfate shampoo, they started cleansing their hair with sulfate-free conditioner. This method provided them moisture, easy-detangling, and soft, clean hair.

Now there is cleansing conditioner available for purchase. These cleansing conditioners are regular conditioners fortified with cleansing agents that clean and moisturize the hair simultaneously.

Cleansing conditioners are great for curly hair extensions. Using a cleansing conditioner on straight hair extensions may weight them down due to excess oil. Here are some products that you can use to co-wash:

wash n go

Product #1

As I Am Coconut Co-Wash is a cleansing conditioner can be found at your local Walmart or Target and retails for about $7.99. Formulated with coconut, tangerine, and castor oil this co-wash is ideal for moisture and detangling.

As I Am Coconut Co wash

Product #2

Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk is a cleansing conditioner is sulfate-free, color-safe, and is ideal for detangling curly hair extensions. This co-wash also leaves a natural shine and fortifies the hair with nutrients such as vitamin B5 and biotin.It is important to have vitamins in your hair.

These sulfate-free shampoos are great for regular cleansing on straight or wavy hair extensions, and can also be used to clarify curly hair extensions.

carol's daughter hair milk

Product #3

Alodia Nourish and Hydrate Conditioning Shampoo promotes a healthy scalp and hair growth.

It removes dirt, sweat and product build-up without stripping the hair of natural oils. Founder Dr. Chambers-Harris formulated this shampoo with avocado and peppermint oil. Avocado oil is lightweight and quickly absorbed into the hair and scalp.

It infused the hair with vitamins A, B, D, E, protein, amino acids, iron, copper, magnesium, and folic acid. Pepper oil is soothing to the scalp and is a natural antiseptic agent. Peppermint oil is excellent for dry, itchy scalp.

alodia shampoo

Product #4

Diva By Cindy Sulfate-Free Moisture Shampoo restores balance, cleanses, and repairs damaged and chemically processed hair. It is excellent for detangling and adds moisture to dry hair.

diva by cindy sulfate free shampoo

Tips for Washing Your Hair Extensions

Now that you’ve gone out and replaced all your damaging sulfate shampoos with healthier moisturizing sulfate-free alternatives, I bet you’re super excited to try them all out. Before you hop to it, here are some tips for washing your hair extensions properly to prevent tangling and breakage.

Before immersing your hair extensions into the water, thoroughly detangle the hair from tips to roots with a wide-tooth comb.

When cleansing your hair extensions, always use lukewarm water. Using lukewarm water opens the cuticle without encouraging tangles. One the hair is thoroughly saturated with water, wring most of the water out. Then use a palm-sized amount of your favorite sulfate-free shampoo to remove any dirt, oil, and product build-up.

I always recommend using two lathers to ensure you remove all impurities. During a lather, be sure to finger comb the hair downwards to prevent tangling.

After you thoroughly rinse the shampoo out, wring the excess water out to prepare for conditioner. A great sulfate-free conditioner to use is It’s A 10 Miracle Daily Conditioner or Redken Extreme for color-treated extensions.

Washing Hair Extensions

Make Sure to Condition

To ensure your extensions absorb the conditioner into the cortex and reap all the benefits, place your conditioner-saturated extensions in a plastic grocery bag. Place the bag in a bowl/tub or hot water. This bagging method will open the cuticle of the hair shaft and allow all the moisture and protein to penetrate the cortex.

After the conditioning process, I love to use 100% pure Argan oil on my extensions before I blow dry. Argan oil adds beautiful shine and keeps the ends healthy.

Now that we know that sulfates are not only harmful to our hair extensions, but also our natural hair and health, its time to throw out the bottles of harsh shampoos! I challenge you to test out one of the sulfate-free shampoo options mentioned earlier and build a new hair care routine for your extensions and your natural hair.

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2 thoughts on “How Sulfates Affect your Hair Extensions and Why Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo

  1. Veneta James says:

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    Hi! This post was very informative! I have a skin condition and I had no idea that sulfates could impact my skin that much. I usually use a gel prescribed by my doctor but I noticed when I use certain shampoos I’ve experienced more build-up than others. Recently I’ve been inquiring mot about sulfate free shampoos and I love the feel after I wash my hair. Even with hair extensions, I have experience with hair but I never thought about the hair not being able o have access to the hair oils that our scalp provides. I’ve heard people use different shampoos and conditioners for certain things. For instance, many recommend at least one cheap shampoo that strips the hair of all build up and oils like VO5. Now that I’ve read your article I assume that they recommend it because it’s sulfate? I saw that you said sulfate gives shampoos their lather. Does that mean that sulfate free isn’t supposed to lather? I think mine does. With my recent hair extensions before I discovered PLE. I bleached the hair and washed it with shimmer lights and sulfate greet shampoo and it was tangled and so dry no matter how much leave-in conditioner I added each day. I enjoyed reading your post. It was very informative. I know you recommended sulfate free but are there any brands that are harsher than others?

  2. Sha'Keisha says:

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    This article provides some great information. A lot of people are not familiar with sulfates and how they can affect your hair. Have you ever washed your hair and your hair just felt “squeaky clean”? Well, you probably used a shampoo/conditioner containing some sort of sulfate. Squeaky clean is not good. You want your hair to be clean but not squeaky clean. Sulfates strip out ALL of the natural oils from your hair, oils needed in order to provide your hair with the proper nutrients it needs to thrive. The good thing about your natural hair is that it is just going to produce more. On the other hand, in agreement with the article, sulfates can be even worse on extensions than on your natural hair for the simple fact that since the extensions have been separated from the scalp, the hair cannot just produce more natural oils to combat the dryness from the sulfates.

    Always go with sulfate-free shampoo and always keep your hair moisturized.

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