Sulfates are common ingredients found in several cleansing and cosmetic products, including shampoo and conditioner. While in general, sulfates are safe if the concentration is just lower than one percent or if you use them for a short period of time, it is still crucial to avoid this substance altogether when you are already in your middle-age, specifically 45 and older.

The reason is that as you age, it is all the more important for you to protect your hair from harsh chemicals that may cause further damage. Sulfates are among these chemicals as they are harsh and can trigger cell damage. Let’s delve deeper into whether or not sulfates are bad for your hair, especially when you hit 45.

What Exactly Are Sulfates?

Sulfates are additives to cleansing products that stimulate their foaming action. One common type of sulfate is SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), which is present in a lot of hair shampoos and conditioners. Sulfate is mainly used as a foaming agent. When combined with water, it emulsifies grease in such a way that it disperses it to the water, making it possible to wash it away.

According to, sulfate, specifically sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), can be classified as a surfactant responsible for keeping the surface tension in between ingredients in shampoo and the water lower. This is the reason why it is classified as a foaming and cleansing agent. It helps loosen the sebum and grease in your scalp and hair. 

Note, though, that while sulfates can effectively get rid of oil and dirt from your hair, it is still too strong and harsh for some people. There are those who may not respond well to it, including those with sensitive skin and hair. It may not also be good for you if your hair is already aging, making it more sensitive, and if you have allergies to this ingredient. 

Negative Effects of Sulfates on Your Hair

Sulfates have negative effects on your hair and scalp that may become even more apparent if you use products containing such ingredients to your hair when you are in middle age. It is crucial to note that sulfates can affect several parts of your hair and scalp, including your hair follicles and shaft.

Among the negative effects of this ingredient on women’s hair when they are 45 and over, include the following:

  • Dryness – The inclusion of too many sulfates in shampoos is actually bad as it may result in dryness in your scalp and hair. Sulfates tend to dissolve all natural oils found in your scalp, making it and your hair dryer than usual.
  • Irritation – Sulfates may also irritate your scalp. It may even worsen eczema and dandruff. Moreover, the excessive exposure of your scalp to this ingredient may cause it to feel itchy and tight.
  • Fading hair color – If you decide to color your aging and graying hair, then there may also be a chance for it to fade easily because of how aggressive sulfates are when it comes to cleansing. This means that sulfates may strip off the color of your dyed hair. In addition to quickly fading your hair color, it may also end up becoming dry and dull. 
  • Hair thinning and loss – This is another problem with aging hair that may worsen with the use of products containing sulfates. It is because sulfates may damage your follicles, further causing the loss of your hair. This happens even further if you don’t make it a habit to rinse the shampoo from your hair properly.

Sulfates are not completely bad, though, as they work effectively in removing dirt and grease from your hair. However, take note that this substance is too strong for several people, especially women over 45. There is also a high possibility that you will have a bad response to this chemical if your hair and skin are sensitive or if you are allergic to it, so be extra careful.

Why Should You Switch to Sulfate-free Shampoo?

If you want to avoid the negative effects of sulfates on your hair, it is time to switch to a sulfate-free shampoo that’s milder and gentler on your hair. Most of the sulfate-free shampoos in the market right now serve as milder hair cleansers, making them safe to use regardless of your hair type and color. Because they are generally gentler, they may be of help in preventing scalp inflammation.

Most sulfate-free shampoos that are available in the market are also often formulated in a way that they can lessen hair loss and thinning caused by inflammation. They can also minimize dryness and itchiness in the area. Moreover, most of these shampoos, being sulfate-free, can retain your hair’s natural oils. With that, there is a high chance to retain the smoothness of your hair even as you age.

Possible Downsides to Sulfate-free Shampoos

One thing to note when it comes to using sulfate-free shampoos, though, is that they are incapable of creating as much lather like other shampoos containing it. This means that you may have a different feel when you start using it and if you just have made the switch. You may even feel like your hair is not properly cleaned. Keep in mind, though, that even without the lather, most sulfate-free shampoos that you can buy right now have decent cleansing power.

Another possible problem is that some sulfate-free shampoos may cause your hair to feel oily faster than usual. The reason is that the shampoo you are using is no longer stripping off the natural oils from your hair. This may cause you to feel like your hair is building up oils quickly.

If you feel uncomfortable with the oiliness, you may want to style your hair into a ponytail or bun. Another great option is to use a dry shampoo for women over 45. You can just spray your chosen dry shampoo at your roots for it to absorb excess oil from your hair.


Especially once you hit 45, it is wise to avoid sulfates. These ingredients may speed up the aging process of your hair, so it would be best to start using a sulfate-free shampoo. While it may take you a while to get used to using a sulfate-free shampoo, you will get accustomed to using the new product soon. Changing to a sulfate-free shampoo will also help you retain the good health of your hair and scalp regardless of your age.