May 2, 2019

What You Need to Know About Transitioning to Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Consider this your ultimate guide to the sulfate-free journey ✅

So you've decided to make the switch to a sulfate-free shampoo. Congrats! Committing to being sulfate-free is a big step and your hair and scalp are going to thank you for it.

There are many benefits of going sulfate free - you'll likely experience a reduction in frizz and oiliness, not to mention your scalp will feel much less irritated. You'll be able to spend less time and money maintaining your 'do, and more on doing what you love!

But what is the journey to becoming sulfate-free going to look like? You know about the eventual payoff, but Rome wasn't built in a day. Results take time! What should you expect as your hair and scalp adjust to a gentler formula?


First of all, washing with a sulfate-free formula is a different sensory experience. To get a great wash from a sulfate-free product, you'll need to follow a few basic steps.

  1. Completely soak your hair with water before applying your shampoo. Sulfate-free formulas don't create the same lather as sulfate-based formulas, so plenty of water is essential to evenly distribute your shampoo!
  2. Pump your shampoo into your hands and evenly distribute it. You'll want a thin layer of product across your palms and fingers so you can evenly apply it across your scalp.
  3. Massage shampoo into your scalp for at least 3 minutes. Take your time - give yourself a nice scalp massage! Don't worry as much about spreading the product to the ends of your hair, your scalp is where you should be focusing. Scrub-a-dub-dub!
  4. After you finish your scalp massage, leave the product in your hair for an additional 2 minutes for the best results. It's not done cleaning just yet!
  5. No time to massage for 3 minutes? Feel free to wash twice! If you decide to go with this option, definitely still give your scalp a good massage to distribute the product evenly.
  6. Rinsing time! Be sure to rinse your scalp for at least a full minute. It's important to be sure that you're removing any trace of the shampoo.

Note: You might notice that your sulfate-free formula doesn't foam up as much as sulfate-based ones. This is totally normal! While bubbles are fun, they're not absolutely necessary for a great shampooing experience. You'll find that you'll be able to get a bit more lather by adding a little extra water as you massage your scalp.

And that's it! You've just completed your first sulfate-free wash. Nice job! Dry your hair using your preferred method and get going with your day!

Okay, fast forward a bit. You're out and about, doing your thing, but you're noticing something odd - your hair isn't looking so squeaky clean. It feels oily at the roots, like you didn't just wash it this morning. Don't worry - this is absolutely normal and very common! Your hair is going through an adjustment period as it adapts to your new, sulfate-free regimen.

If you're like most Americans, you've been using sulfate-based products for years. They're cheap and readily available - you'll find them in nearly every name-brand drugstore shampoo and body wash (as well as in many industrial cleaning products - yuck!) They're very, very powerful cleaning agents, and your scalp has learned to over-produce natural oils in order to fight back and keep your hair balanced.

You know that you've ditched the sulfates, but your scalp hasn't gotten the message yet. It needs a little bit of time to adjust to your new routine. You're helping your hair break a years-old habit of over producing oil. Like breaking any bad habit, this process might take a little patience! Whatever you do, don't return to a sulfate-based formula as your hair is adjusting. It can be tempting to throw in the towel (pun intended) and wash with your old products but this will only reset the clock on your sulfate-free transition.

If you're experiencing an oily scalp, it usually takes 6 washes with a sulfate-free formula to successfully transition. Use this time to explore exciting new up-dos or break out that fedora you bought on a whim last summer! You'll find the transition to be absolutely worth it.

All this being said, every head of hair is unique. You may not experience any greasiness at all (yay!), or you might need a full 6 washes to adjust. Either way, as long as you follow these easy sulfate-free wash instructions you'll begin to see why going sulfate-free is all the rage. You'll never want to go back!

Wanna learn more about how to take better care of your hair? Here's what to check out next:

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Tammy Lisi
Lead Chemist
Caroline Schmidt