What is the Best Sulfate Free Dandruff Shampoo in 2024?

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Attractive blond woman browsing through a shelf, looking for the best sulfate free dandruff shampoo in the store.

Sulfates in shampoos are often credited as being a major cause of dandruff. The drying effects of sulfates can strip the scalp and hair of the natural oils and proteins they need to remain healthy.

Sulfates can also be found in engine degreaser, floor cleaners and laundry detergents as well as products used for the body like soaps, bubble baths, conditioners and of course many shampoos. It’s highly unlikely that your hair will ever get so dirty that it needs the same ingredients used in an engine degreaser or floor cleaner!

So why on earth are sulfites added to so many shampoos? Sulfates are powerful cleaning agents that were first added to a shampoo by Procter and Gamble in 1930, in Royal Drene Shampoo that is even housed in the Smithsonian Collection for the important role it played in how we care for our hair.

Most anti-dandruff shampoos have always been sulfate free due to the drying effect contributing to increased dandruff, but recently sulfates have become a major topic of discussion for the safety of shampoos in general. In this article we’ll look at some of the options without sulfates and at the end I’ll reveal my picks for the best sulfate free dandruff shampoo on the market.

What Are Sulfates?

Sulfates are a surfactant that shampoos use to remove sebum and dirt from the hair and they also create the foam or lather. They basically bind with the dirt and oil, so they are flushed away, when you rinse the foam from your hair.

Popular sulfates used in shampoos are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Unless your shampoo is specifically marked “sulfate free”, chances are that it will contain one, if not both of these sulfates.

What Are The Potential Risks Of Sulfates?

The US Food and Drug Administration found SLS to be safe and not harmful if used briefly and rinsed away from the skin in use of shampoos and soaps. Although the same research showed sulfates can cause mild irritation when left on the skin in animal studies. (source) There have been rumors of a cancer causing effect, but most studies find no link between use of sulfates and cancer; the American Cancer Society states sulfates do not cause cancer. (source)

The largest risk of using products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate tends to be irritation to the skin, especially the scalp, eyes, mouth and lungs. The longer the product stays in contact with the skin or eyes, the worse the irritation will be. If you have sensitive skin, using a shampoo with sulfates may cause stinging, burning or redness.

Sulfate based shampoos can be safe to use but you should be careful to avoid getting any into the eyes which causes severe stinging. A sulfate free shampoo will generally be more gentle on the skin, hair and eyes. For individuals with dandruff, a sulfate free formula is a must as the residue from sulfates can still be a scalp irritant even after being rinsed away.

Sulfate Free for Dandruff Protection

Originally sulfate free shampoos were solely used for dandruff shampoos and treatments. It was ironically Procter and Gamble again that introduced a sulfate free shampoo in response to many customers wanting a milder shampoo than they produced at the time. Dandruff shampoos were a big hit as an effective way of treating dandruff with Head and Shoulders being the most well known medicated shampoo of all time.

Sulfates actually strip your hair and scalp of natural nutrients that are needed to stop the flaking. If you have experienced a dry scalp, itchiness or redness and dandruff then a sulfate free formula is an ideal choice to follow. Many people who don’t have dandruff also choose sulfate free shampoos as a way of cutting down the harsh chemicals we encounter in everyday life.

Sulfates in shampoos are used to remove the dirt and oil to clean your hair which is the primary purpose of your shampoo. Any sulfate free option should contain alternative ingredients to ensure washing your hair still means getting a good “wash”. Natural alternatives include essential oils like tea tree oil or jojoba oil that can attract other oils and help to keep the hair and scalp clean. As an added bonus, many of these oils moisturize and nourish both the hair and scalp at the same time.

The Best Sulfate Free Dandruff Shampoo

There are many sulfate free dandruff shampoos available that are very effective in reducing dandruff and can be used by people with sensitive scalps too. We have looked at some of the best selling formulas to bring you the best sulfate free dandruff shampoo.

Our Choice for the Best Sulfate Free Dandruff Shampoo

Choosing a sulfate free shampoo can greatly reduce the risk of a dandruff problem getting worse. Many of the medicated shampoos we have used in the past have harsh chemicals or sulfates that strip oils and moisture from the scalp contributing to many scalp conditions including dandruff. Choosing a sulfate free shampoo can be beneficial for all, but if you suffer with dandruff it can be crucial.

In our opinion, the best sulfate free dandruff shampoo is the Pure Tea Tree Oil anti-dandruff Shampoo by Maple Holistics. If you suffer from mild dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis Maple Holistics have created a quality product that can also make your hair look better too!

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