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Use Sulfate-Free Shampoo? Here's The One Thing You Need To Know

Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director. Previously she worked at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.
Image by Mihajlo Ckovric / Stocksy
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May 18, 2019

One of the biggest complaints I get from my friends and fellow sulfate-free shampoo users is they miss the lather of traditional shampoos. I get it: A satisfyingly sudsy shower is simply a different hair-washing experience. And even if it's just in your head, building a lather makes you feel cleaner (even if sulfate-free shampoos do the job just as well, sans the damage).

Well, according to hair colorist Sharon Dorram, that might be because you are doing it wrong. Here's how most people apply shampoo: Squirt a bit into your hand, immediately start running it through the hair and scalp, scrub around until you feel little bubbles forming, and then rinse.

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With sulfate-free shampoos, you're missing one key step: You need to pre-lather the product in your palms before applying it to the scalp.

"The shampoo needs to be emulsified first in your hands with a bit of spray from the shower," she says. "You'll notice it lathers almost immediately and definitely activates the shampoo much better than directly applying the shampoo to the hair."

I heard this tip from Dorram a few months ago, and tried it on my very next hair wash. Let me tell you: It. Works. After depositing Virtue Recovery Shampoo (my go-to) in my cupped palm, I let a bit of water splash onto it. Then I built up a subtle lather—it almost feels like a creamy whipped mousse—by rubbing my palms together several times. Only then did I start working it into my scalp.

"It won't be as much as a traditional shampoo, but by activating it in your hands before you apply it to the scalp, you'll get something a bit more," she says. And she's right. You're never going to get a full-blown bubble situation. But, in my opinion, this method feels even better—sensorily and because you're not putting harmful ingredients on your hair.

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Alexandra Engler
Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director at mindbodygreen. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She has worked at many top publications and brands including Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends and updates in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as travel, financial wellness, and parenting. She has reported on the intricacies of product formulations, the diversification of the beauty industry, and and in-depth look on how to treat acne from the inside, out (after a decade-long struggle with the skin condition herself). She lives in Brooklyn, New York.