Why You Want a Sulfate-Free Shampoo! | Nairian
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Why You Want a Sulfate-Free Shampoo!
22 August, 2017 / by Maya Adivi

For months we have been asked over and over again by our friends and customers if we have a shampoo. It’s such an important product, for just about anyone who has hair, and the options in Armenia for natural shampoos were few and far between. Add to that the extremely dry winter air that has been leaving everyone’s locks looking dull and lifeless, and the need for a quality product became urgent.  

The Nairian lab worked diligently, and came up with dozens of different potential formulas. At the office it seemed like every other week we were sent a new batch of shampoo samples to try, with strict instructions to report back on our experience. Eventually, our clever team of chemists settled on an exquisite formula, that combines hair strengthening plant extracts with the gentlest cleansing agents available. You can check out the new shampoo here. 

In addition to Nairian’s commitment to never using harmful chemicals, synthetic fragrances, or dyes, it was also very important to Anahit, the head of R&D, that the final formula be completely sulfate free. 

What are sulfates?
The word ‘sulfates’ normally refers to sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), but it also applies to other anionic surfactants. SLS and SLES, however, are the sulfates used in shampoos, body washes, and cleansers. They are what makes cleansing products foam up, and cut through oil. 

Why are they bad? 
Sodium lauryl sulfate, specifically, is a well known irritant. Long term exposure to SLS causes skin irritation for the majority of people, while short term exposure will irritate some. Both SLS and SLES leave an alkaline residue behind which, in the case of the hair, increases frizziness, causes cuticle breakage, and reduces shine and smoothness. Most people who have made the switch to sulfate-free shampoos (myself included) find that once their hair gets used to the gentler product, it starts looking and feeling much softer and healthier. 

What did we use instead?
To formulate the shampoo, we still had to use surfactants, ingredients that would bind the excess oils in the hair to water, so that they can be rinsed away along with other impurities. 
However, by choosing multiple different gentle surfactants, our chemists were able to ensure that the shampoo they were creating would be both extremely gentle and extremely effective. You’ll have to bear with me for a moment, because I’m going to attempt to talk science.

As cosmetic chemist Stephen Alain Ko explains in this excellent post, a tiny surfactant molecule (like SLS) can easily penetrate the skin because of its size. Once it has penetrated, it can cause an inflammatory response within the skin. Using surfactants with larger molecules is one way of mitigating potential irritation, but the best way is by combining surfactant molecules that will bind to each other and create micelles. Micelles are clumps of surfactant molecules, and the larger the micelle, the gentler it is on the skin. The surest way to create large, stable micelles is by combining a lot of different surfactant molecules at different sizes. That’s what we did with our new shampoo. 

Unfortunately, this also makes our ingredient label less attractive, because it lists a lot of chemicals that most of us wouldn’t immediately recognize. The very thing that makes the label inelegant is actually what makes the formula so gentle and lovely. Once you look more closely into each individual surfactant, you learn that they are all naturally-derived, biodegradable, and are given the best possible safety rating by the Environmental Working Group's cosmetic database. 

A few other ingredients I’m loving for hair
Naturally, a great shampoo has to do a lot more for the hair than just cleansing. It should also strengthen the hair and moisturize it a little. In the new shampoo these effects are achieved with moisture-binding aloe vera, and conditioning jojoba oil. Cornflower extract and rose geranium oil protect the hair from environmental damage, because of their high content of antioxidants. It helps that they also leave the hair smelling fantastic, and turn your shower in a full sensory experience. 

We are so excited to have this product available, both in Armenia and abroad! We released it concurrently with a rich and softening Hair Conditioner and a refreshing Shampoo Soap Bar, that we know you will love.

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