Monday, 1 September 2014

Dry or Itchy Scalp?

Recently, the haircare market has seen the oncoming of sulphate-free shampoos. Most of the time you'll see the words 'sulphate-free' in big bold highlighted letters on shampoo bottles - so you definitely won't miss them!

But why the sudden influx of these shampoos? More importantly, what are the benefits of a sulphate-free shampoo?

It's easier to first look at what's bad about sulphate in shampoos. More often that not, the first ingredient listed on the back of shampoos is sulphate, a grease-cutting detergent that is commonly found in industrial cleaners and beauty cleansing products. In shampoos, sulphate is the element that assists in the forming of soap, helping you to get that nice lather that leaves your scalp feeling clean. 
The problem with sulphate is that it can irritate the scalp and skin. It's responsible for that burning sensation when you get shampoo in your eyes. It can also contribute to an itchy and dry scalp, which in itself can lead to or aggravate problems such as dandruff and eczema on the scalp. Bad news for sensitive skin types!

Sulphate is also said to make hair dry, dull and brittle because it can dissolve the natural oils in our hair. Colourists say that, by extension, it can make your new hair colour fade faster. Some state that, because the ingredient is so corrosive, it can damage hair follicles and make you lose hair. This is made even worse if the shampoo isn't properly rinsed out. 

There are some other research studies floating around the internet claiming that sulphate can contribute to a plethora of more serious health issues such as organ failure and cancer.
I've been using Kao Essentials Rich Premier shampoo, which has sulphate in it, for years already and   it honestly is the best shampoo I've ever used. Not only does it clean really well, it smells absolutely divine. Their conditioner is even better, keeping my hair nice and soft. Sometimes, I'll even substitute the conditioner for their Damage Care Intensive Hair Mask for a bit of pamper!

You may have heard about the dermatitis on my hands and how it's been the bane of my existence for such a long time. My hands are permanently red looking and, when it's at its worst, I'll have open wounds. 

It's just plain scary. 

I actually have dermatitis on my neck and sometimes on my scalp as well. 

I've seen a truckload of dermatologists and herbalists, and nothing has helped. Until I met my current Chinese doctor who told me to stop using shampoo with sulphate in it. 

And would you believe that its seriously helped?! Alongside a few courses of Chinese herbs and a few changes to my diet, my hands and scalp are blister free and are finally looking skin-coloured! Wooo! My neck sometimes gets itchy but I feel like it's more to do with the Hong Kong heat/humidity more than anything else. 

But why the sad face? 

It's because sulphate-free shampoos are a totally different ballgame. They don't lather like normal shampoos and so my hair doesn't feel as clean as before. When I first started using sulphate-free shampoos, I had to wash my hair twice and even then I noticed that my hair gets oiler much quicker than before. I'm assuming that this because there is no longer any sulphate present to wash away my natural oils. 

I tried to use my normal shampoo a few times and my hands started to itch again - so it's a no go for me from now on!

I continue to use the Essentials Rich Premier conditioner but have found that my hair feels less soft than before - not coarse and necessarily drier but less softer to the touch. I'm actually still on the hunt for the perfect sulphate-free shampoo. 

Having said that, I am extremely happy that the skin on my hands and neck, and scalp are healing. So I'm going to have to stick with sulphate-free shampoos. 

I really recommend anyone with a dry or itchy scalp, or redness on their neck or around their eyes to give sulphate-free shampoos a go. A few friends of mine with mild eczema on their scalp and the back of their necks made the switch and it all healed up!

What hair type are you? Oily, normal or dry? 
Have you ever used sulphate-free shampoos before?  


  1. My hair is really fine and gets oily so fast. I have to wash daily =[ I have been hunting for a good sulphate free shampoo too since I need to wash my hair everyday.
    Glad you found a solution to your skin issues!!!

  2. Wow, that's both amazing and kinda scary! My hair definitely gets oily pretty quickly - washing every second day is a stretch for me, but I don't like using dry shampoo because of all the chemicals and nasties (reserved for desperate occasions only ;)). I've used a Neways shampoo all my life...brb checking ingredients! Thanks for the information - super helpful :) x

  3. I have very sensitive scalp but I have to use sulphate shampoos because I suffer of dandruff.
    Thank you for this useful post!

  4. I didn't think it's make THAT much of a difference! But it absolutely has. Sulphate-free shampoos are much more expensive than I imagined. So I'm much more careful with the amount I use. Good to know that you're mum likes Living Proof though because it's on my to-try list!

  5. Switching to sulphate free might be a good idea if you're gong to wash daily! Let me know if you find anything good! I'm still on the lookout!

  6. No worries! A friend of mine also had a lot of dandruff but once she switched to baby shampoo, which doesn't have sulphate, it all cleared up!

  7. No problemo! I was pretty shocked. I itch like mad when I try to use normal shampoo again! I've always wanted to give dry shampoo ago because it is so much more convenient (I have thick and slightly wavy hair - so I have to run a straightener through it after every wash. Takes about 30mins+!). Not sure whether I'll get an allergic reaction though! Ahhh!

  8. OMG my scalp has been super dry and dandruffy maybe I should change my shampoo to sulphate free! thanks so the help haha xxx

  9. Hmm I guess it is a tradeoff huh. My scalp has been okay lately but comes winter it gets super dry, maybe I should have a diff shampoo when the weather changes