How To Safely Use Sulfate Shampoos On Natural Hair

How To (Safely) Use Sulfate Shampoo On Natural Hair

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I experienced an episode just recently that made me reach for a shampoo that was crawling with sulfates. While I haven’t used sulfates or silicones for the past two years, I happened to have a bottle left over from my product junkie days that I’d bought during the oily transition period just in case I couldn’t handle life without the suds.

Why I Used A Sulfate Shampoo On My Natural Hair

So one day I did a co-wash and wanted to hurry and get out of the house because it was the first warm day of the season. The sun was out and I really wanted to enjoy the sun. However, in my rush to get outside, I got a bit heavy handed (ahem) with the coconut oil and my hair was an oil slick.

How To (Safeley) Use Sulfate Shampoo On Natural Hair

Sulfates strip the hair of oil, so naturally it’s useful when you need to remove excess oil from your hair. The trick to using sulfates is to not overuse them because that will lead to your hair being excessively dry and feeling “squeaky”.


Doing a pre-poo treatment will protect your hair because it gives you an extra protective barrier of moisture prior to washing. Long story short, sulfates should only be used when you have “too much” product or oils on your hair and scalp.

Dilute Your Shampoo

Diluting sulfate shampoo makes it less harsh because you’re going to be using less of it and the water you dilute it with is still adding moisture. Another great reason to dilute shampoo is to make it easier to reach the scalp while in protective styles.

Only Use It When You Need It

Using a sulfate shampoo daily and, for me, even weekly would just be too much. Sulfate shampoos are great for when you need to clarify and don’t want to spend the money on sulfate-free shampoos (hey, that stuff can be expensive! $11 for a 12oz bottle of shampoo??) that you’re only going to use once a month or once every two weeks.

The key to safely using sulfates on natural hair is to make it something you do when your scalp needs a really deep clean. Consider it Spring cleaning your scalp. Speaking of…

Focus On Your Scalp

Your ends are the driest part of your hair, which is why most naturals have a hard time retaining length. Dry ends equal breakage, so unless you really went crazy with the oil while in a rush to go outside, I would highly advise not using a sulfate shampoo on the ends of your hair without diluting it first and even then, you should spend most of your time on the scalp since it can produce it’s own oil (sebum).

This Was An Eye Opener For Me

Even though I had an excess amount of oil coating my hair, reaching for that emergency bottle of sulfate shampoo scared me and even hurt my pride a little. Two years making sure I’d avoided silicones and sulfates only to reach for it two years later? Ugh, but it was a necessary evil.

I imagined my hair would go back to the matted, frizzy, tangled mess it’d been back when I washed with sulfates weekly (I know, I know). However, once I’d rinsed my hair, conditioned and let it air dry, I realized my hair was still moisturized and I still felt a bit of oil coating my strands once my hair air dried. Yup, I was that heavy with the coconut oil. The Terressentials mud wash would have worked, but it would have had to sit on my hair for a while and I didn’t have that kind of time.

While I definitely don’t INTEND to use a sulfate shampoo on my hair again, I won’t be so paranoid if I happen to over-apply my oils again and I can now see why some naturals don’t go out of their way to avoid them. They’re really not all that bad as long as you don’t overdo it.

Are You A Natural That Uses Sulfates?

Leave your comment below and let me know where you stand when it comes to using sulfates on natural hair.

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