I think I’ve been on the hunt for SLS free shampoos for at least a year – over time (years), I’ve started to react more and more to anything foamy to the extent that I now develop contact dermatitis-like reactions to my hair as soon as I use certain shampoos, and a new ‘foaming’ toothpaste gave me a lovely breakout of perioral dermatitis. For most products, it’s relatively easy to find options without SLS (most Dove bodywashes are fine, as are Sensodyne or natural toothpastes), but there are not that many shampoos out there, especially on the high street.
SLS is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (also look out for Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate). It’s a surfactant – I’m not going to go into the science but there is a great article all about it on XoVain here. On a very basic level, it’s something which foams!
For me, what happens when I use a shampoo with SLS in is that the palms of my hands immediately feel like they’re totally stripped of all moisture as soon as I put the shampoo on my hair, then once it’s washed out I start to get really itchy skin at either end of my hair – so not just my scalp but also where the ends of my hair brush up against my neck and collarbone. One use and it’s just super irritating, more than that and it starts to develop into something more like dermatitis. I’ve not been to the doctor about this so I don’t know if it’s an allergy or sensitivity (it takes forever to get referred for dermatology allergy testing, so as long as I’m sure I’ve found out what it is I should be avoiding then I’m not going back down the route of waiting months to have 100 little stickers put all over my back to see if I’m right -I’ll do another blog post about what actually happens with that though).
I’ve now found a few SLS-free shampoos that are relatively easy to get hold of – some work better than others (the one that didn’t make it into this list was the Avalon one from Holland and Barratt which was just awful and went straight into the bin), so here are the ones in my current stash.
Caudalie Gentle Conditioning Shampoo – I love this shampoo! No irritation, super shiny soft hair (it’s Caudalie, so this one has grape vinegar in it) and it feels lovely to use. Two downsides – firstly after a while it does lead to a bit of buildup, so I do have to wash one use of a shampoo with ALS in to detox my hair (I use a Cattier clay one which doesn’t give me too much of a reaction), and secondly Caudalie now only ship from French websites to France, so where I used to be able to buy it for around £6 from Easyparapharmacie, now it’s £11.50 from lookfantastic. I blame Brexit.
Richard Ward Keratin Volume Shampoo – I think this is only available at Waitrose (Waitrose are actually a really good stockist of SLS free shampoos). This actually does have Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate in, so it’s not the best, but I find that to be much less irritating than SLS. I don’t love this – as well as the ALS meaning I can’t really use it for longer than a week before it starts to irritate, I find that it just doesn’t leave my hair feeling that clean. It’s OK to have in the cupboard as a backup, but I don’t think I’ll repurchase. Other people seem to love it though, so if you want to give it a try it’s £5.99 at Waitrose.
OGX – OGX shampoos are the easiest to get hold of – they’re at most supermarkets (often really good offers at Asda), Boots and Superdrug. I would say that they’re a good option but maybe not the best – I’m yet to find one that is quite the right level of moisture for my hair; I found the Coconut Water too drying, the Coconut Milk too heavy, and I do get a teeny tiny bit of irritation. However, it’s a huge range so it may just be that I haven’t found the one for me yet – and what is really great isn’t just that you can find these shampoos everywhere but that you can get them in travel sizes, so you don’t need to worry about finding something SLS free in Boots at the airport! Check the range out at Boots – £6.99.
Vichy Dercos Ultra Soothing – This one is totally the best and I’m so happy I found it! No irritation, no buildup, super soft hair that doesn’t get as greasy, foams as if it actually has sulfates, so far there are no downsides. There are versions for dry and normal to oily hair which is another plus. It’s available on Escentual – usually £8.50 but at the moment they have one of their French offers on so it’s £5.66 (and yes, I have just ordered 6 months supply…).
There are still a couple of products I’m yet to try – the Liz Earle shampoo looks like a great option, if I ever find L’Oreal EverPure I will definitely snap it up, and I also want to check out the Daniel Galvin Jr range (also at Waitrose). But for now I am all stocked up on the Vichy Dercos, and hoping nothing bad ever happens to take it away from me.