The latest trend in the world of personal grooming is “pareben-free and sulfate-free” shampoos and soaps. These products are often labelled as “natural”. They are much more expensive than regular products that we normally use. And, to top it all, they don’t even lather properly! But, what are parabens and sulfates? And, why are all shopping apps telling us to invest an arm and a leg in them?
Here’s all you need to know about parabens and sulfates in shampoos and soaps, and whether it is important to shift to chemical-free products.
What are sulfates and parabens
Sulfates and parabens are chemicals used in soaps and shampoos. Sulfates are basically surfactants - they are the cleansing agent. In other words, they amplify the cleansing effect of the product and strip away oil, grime, etc.
Parabens, on the other hand, are chemicals used to increase the shelf-life of the products and prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. Basically, they are used as a preservative in water-based grooming products such as soaps and shampoos.
Why are sulfates and parabens harmful?
Sulfates can leave your skin and hair feeling really dry, as they take away all the natural oils. They can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, or scalp. They can cause hair fall. Long-term use can also cause problems in the lungs. It is also to be noted that sulfates are derived from petroleum, and hence, its use is harmful to the environment.
Parabens, on the other hand, can cause allergic reactions or can make dermatitis worse, especially in children. They can cause hormonal disruption in the body as an endocrine disruptor. As a result, they can even lead to breast cancer. In fact, paraben concentrations have been found in breast tumours, especially the malignant ones.
How to recognise them?
If your shampoo or soap lathers, then it contains sulfates. If you want to be absolutely sure, the ingredients list should reveal if it contains any sulfate compound. The two main sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Apart from these, any other ingredient with the word, “sulfate” in it is an obvious way to recognise it.
To recognise parabens, the only thing to depend on is the ingredients list on the label of your shampoo or soap. Parabens are marked as propylparaben, butylparaben, and methylparaben. But, be careful. It’s not just words with “paraben” in They may also be present in your products as Alkyl parahydroxy benzoates.
What products to use?
To get rid of sulfates, look for products that use natural cleansers derived from fruits and vegetables. Milder chemical alternatives in cleanser can be glucosides, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, disodium laureth, isethionates, and betaines, though some people may be allergic.
To stir clear of parabens, you can select products that contain ethylhexylglycerin, derived from plants, or phenoxyethanol, made from ether alcohol. These are used as alternatives of parabens in shampoos, soaps and intimate wash and foam, and other cosmetic products.
So, to sum it up, it is a good idea to take a little time out and find soaps and shampoos that are sulfate-free and paraben-free. There are several brands, including drugstore brands at reasonable prices, that offer shampoos, soaps, and cosmetics that are safe to use.