Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are common cleaning ingredients in shampoos. There’s a lot of debate about the “toxicity” of the ingredients, but that’s for another time. People with curly hair should avoid them for one very simple reason: they are very rough and dry!
Curly hair is naturally dry and brittle, so you should choose a very delicate cleanser. Think of it like you would your skin. If your skin is prone to irritation, you switch to gentle cleansers, right? Well, the same goes for your strands!
The good news is that there are many excellent sulfate-free shampoos on the market. Good options include shea butter, coconut oil, and oat oil.
A co-wash (or conditioner wash) can also help keep your hair clean while hydrating it in the process.
“Ideally, not just conditioner, but conditioner instead of shampoo. An ideal co-wash uses mild surfactants to gently cleanse the hair, whereas typical shampoos are more concentrated. It uses a gentle surfactant and helps to deeply cleanse the hair,” says Sunny, owner of Lumiere Vive Salon.
If you decide to incorporate co-washing (a great idea), do it alongside occasional shampooing sessions for deeper cleansing. It’s very important, but you may not need to do it often,” Sunny says.