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Why Is Sulfate-Free Shampoo Best For Color-Treated Hair?

People invest a lot of money into making their hair more attractive. Overall coloring, lightening, adding highlights and lowlights, and covering gray are common procedures.

Most of these processes involve color being added to the shafts. The exception is lightening which bleaches the strands to reveal the natural color of the keratin that forms each one. Keratin is a pale yellow color, and the natural pigment in the hair affects the exact shade that occurs with lightening. If you color yours and would like to keep your color along with the health of your hair, then you should use sulfate-free shampoo.

What Is Sulfate-Free Shampoo?sulfate-free shampoo for color treated hair

Sulfate-free shampoo does not contain sulfates, a common ingredient found in shampoos and other cleansers. Sulfates are used because they are deep cleansing and because they cause the suds and lathering that we are used to in our shampoos and soaps.

However, when it comes to the hair, the cleansing provided by sulfates is actually too deep; sulfates strip away the natural oils of the scalp and hair, leaving it more vulnerable to damage from heat styling and chemical processing. It also strips the color more quickly than a sulfate-free shampoo will. Many shampoos are currently being produced that do not contain sulfates. These are a much better option in general, but for color-treated hair, they are essential for leaving you with a rich, vibrant color rather than dull, faded locks.


Bleach, along with other ingredients, is used to lighten hair.

The melanin that gives its natural color is bleached with the lightening product. This causes the melanin to oxidize, removing the color and leaving the essentially colorless keratin to remain. If hydrogen peroxide is included in the lightener, it reacts with the alkaline in the product to open the hair shaft. This allows the product to penetrate through the hair to the melanin. This also makes your strands more vulnerable. Not only can sulfates affect the shade after it has been lightened, but by stripping away the excess oils, it causes it to dry out. This makes hair more likely to break off or result in split ends.


Whether you are just touching up your roots or going for all over color, hair dye is used to change the color of your strands. Ammonia is the most common ingredient used to open up the shaft and cuticle of the hair so that the dye can change the color of each strand.

Although dying is typically followed with a conditioner that helps to seal the cuticle, effectively sealing in the color, sulfates can strip it away. The harsh chemicals won’t remove all of the color, but the shade and vibrancy of the color can be affected, leaving dull locks.

The stripping also makes the hair more likely to become dry and brittle. If you use a temporary coloring kit that adds color to the outer layers of the strand, then the color will wash away after several shampoos. However, using a sulfate and paraben free shampoo can remove your color before you’re ready. Sulfate-free shampoos are milder and gentler so that they can cleanse the hair of dirt and excess oil without stripping color or drying out your locks.

In fact the larger challenge may come when you experience build-up or residue on hair strands from use of sprays, mousse or styling aids. Though styling products rarely affect color or hue, they do accumulate and lead to dulling - removing shine and increasingly decrease styling ability. In theses cases, use a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo that is designed to remove accumulated residue without harming or stripping coloring.

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