If there’s one haircare ingredient we see pop up regularly, and in varying forms, it’s sodium. On the backs of just four shampoos I grabbed at random, I saw sodium chloride, sodium pca, sodium lactate, sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate, sodium cocoyl isethionate, sodium hydroxide, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate and sodium cocoyl glutamate. I know, a foreign language, right? It begs the question, what is sodium in haircare?
After studying the aforementioned ingredients lists, I realized it would take an extremely long time to break down every single type of sodium. Rather, I decided it could be more informative to get to the bottom of sodium in general, and which forms are specifically good or bad.
Keep reading for what I learned!
What Is Sodium in Haircare?
We’ve already covered sulfates at length, so you’re probably well-aware that these controversial foaming surfactants are a commonly used form of sodium in haircare. Lesser discussed, but also quite common, is sodium chloride. This is in fact just plain ol’ table salt. It’s used to make a product’s consistency thicker.
Why Does Sodium Have a Bad Reputation?
The downside of sodium sulfates is “they can often lead to skin dryness, irritation and inflammation,” TrustRx‘s Product Development Specialist, Darcy Mendoza, told Mane Addicts. “These are especially irritating to anyone suffering from eczema, dermatitis or extremely sensitive skin types.” Mendoza notes that sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are what to look out for, and they’re most commonly used in haircare because “they’re both inexpensive and effective in creating a really nice, rich lather.”
Curly-haired people in particular should avoid sodium sulfates.
“They can dry and strip the hair from much-needed moisture,” Mendoza says. “Curly hair tends to lean towards the dryer side naturally. The journey from scalp to ends for hair’s natural oils is a bumpier one when compared to straight or wavy hair types. Moisture is really the best tool when encouraging curl patterns to really shine and do their thing.”
When it comes to sodium chloride, according to Nutrafol, it, too, can make an already-sensitive scalp dry and itchy—which can eventually cause hair loss.
What Are Good-for-You Sodiums?
“The best sulfate alternatives are Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, Disodium/Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Decyl glucoside, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium (C14-16) Olefin Sulfonate, and Lauryl glucoside,” Mendoza says. “These are all safe, non-toxic and effective at cleansing the hair and scalp, while allowing for simultaneous moisture retention.”
Speaking of salt, HERE‘s why salt sprays are bad for your hair!