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12 Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos

Don't you deserve a more gentle cleanse?
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Sulfates: They're something you might not want in your shampoo. Until recently, that was all we knew about sulfates -- more and more brands started avoiding them, but we didn't know why, or if we should avoid them, too. The personal care industry is filled with complicated chemical names and lots of "rules" about what you should and shouldn't be putting on your body. Today, we're shedding some light on the sulfate debate: Should they stay or should they go?.

Sulfates are strong detergents that cleanse the hair and scalp. "These are very efficient cleansers used in shampoos, body washes and toothpastes," says Eric Spengler, SVP of Research and Development at Living Proof. "Sulfates tend to get a bad rap because of how they function in shampoos -- they can strip your hair of its natural oils, making your hair feel rough, dry and brittle," says Spengler. "It's also possible for your scalp to become dry and irritated with over-cleansing," he adds. Spengler also points out that studies haven't yet proven some of the more serious claims leveled against sulfates, like if they cause cancer.

Since sulfates are so strong, they often scrub hair color away along with dirt. If you have color-treated hair, stick to sulfate-free hair products. If you have coarse or dry hair, opting for a sulfate-free shampoo can be easier on your scalp. And if you have curly hair, a shampoo without sulfate will preserve the oils that keep your coils springy and soft.

Sulfate-free shampoos are overall gentler on your hair's natural oils, which means those promises to make your hair bouncier, sleeker, softer, etc., have a far better chance of coming true. Here, a few of our favorite shampoos without sulfates that will treat your hair right.

Image via Imaxtree

Please, please do not wash out your fresh balayage coloring by using a shampoo formulated with sulfates. This gentle cleanser from Grown Alchemist promises to keep color intact, while saving you a much-too-soon trip to the salon to fix your faded dye job. Plus, this bottle is exactly what every modern aesthete needs in her bathroom.

Kristin Ess, the stylist responsible for Lauren Conrad's beach waves and Lucy Hale's lob, has (finally) joined the ranks of celebrity stylists with namesake hair-care lines. Ess knows the importance of a sulfate-free shampoo, and that's why she made it available to the masses with this $10 steal, on shelves at Target.

Have you ever seen Khloe Kardashian with a flyaway? Credit her sleek waves to stylist Jen Atkin, who launched her own brand so the rest of us can keep up. The best sulfate-free shampoos aren't just about protecting color; this one manages to tame frizz while giving a gentle cleanse.

You don't often hear about cult classic shampoos, but Living Proof's Perfect Hair Day (PhD to those in the know) makes the list. It's safe for all hair types, affordable and gentle enough to use daily.

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