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What’s lurking in your sulfate-free shampoo


L'Oreal Everstrong ShampooL’Oreal has finally figured out that women want sulfate-free shampoo and has even created a splashy commercial around its new line of EverStrong products starring Evangeline Lilly and the “Lost” star’s lustrous locks. (It’s posted the end of the article, if you haven’t seen it.)

Sulfates are detergents that create lather. They’re used for stripping the build up of debris from skin, hair, and your kitchen floor, which is why they’re in traditional beauty and household products—and on the dirty dozen list of toxic or potentially toxic ingredients to avoid. (Sulfates have been linked to contact dermatitis, irritation, and even the conservative Cosmetic Ingredient Review, a trade association, says they’re intended only for “brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin.”) So, it makes sense to avoid them if you want to preserve your hair color, as the New York Times points out—or your health.

While L’Oreal is proudly promoting the gentle nature of its EverStrong hair-care line, the beauty company is not telling you about the dirty dozen ingredients that its sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners contain, like propylene glycol and methylparaben to name just two.

This classic greenwashing trick comes from the advertising textbook, like when Mad Men’s Don Draper helps his cigarette client sidestep the cancer-causing controversy by calling attention to the fact that “Lucky Strike is toasted.” While sulfates might damage hair with repeated use, the potentially toxic ingredients contained in the EverStrong line might cause more than split ends.