Reviewed by ErinP on February 1, 2013

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I am hyper-aware of what goes into the products that I choose to apply to my hair, face and body. So when I came across L'Oreal's EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care System line, I immediately wanted to investigate. The flashy commercials featuring celebrity endorser Eva Longoria Parker's flowing locks didn't hurt either. While L'Oreal can't hold claim to the title of first or only sulfate-free shampoo on the market, it is the first company to offer a drugstore line. There are plenty of sulfate-free options out there for sudsing up from hair care powerhouses such as DermOrganic, Enjoy, TIGI, and Back to Basics. But unless you're lucky enough to find these brands in the specialty section of your local Target, they all usually require a trip to Sephora or your favorite salon, and can cost upwards of $15 to $30.

See our Five Best shampoo recommendations and Five Best hair conditioners

L'Oreal EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care System brand features three separate lines aimed at smoothing, moisturizing, or volumizing color-treated hair, and every product is under $10. I've been dyeing my hair for almost nine years in an attempt to keep my natural brassy red highlights from washing out my complexion. It seems, however, that no matter how deep, dark, or cool I try to go, within a matter of weeks the orange-tinted hue is catching the sunlight and breaking through, long before my roots are necessitating another salon session. Any hair care line that offers longer-lasting color is worth trying in my book (or shower, as it may be).

Sulfates, and most surfactants, are color-stripping culprits, but only because they're doing their job. By definition, these ingredients - which include sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lareth sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate and myreth sulfate, amongst others - are cleansers and foaming agents. In order to truly clean your hair, they must have some stripping action that allows them to whisk away oil, dirt and residue. Unfortunately, naturally moisturizing oils and luxurious color often follow the greasy gunk down the drain after a thorough shampoo session. This can leave hair dry, dull, and weak. In addition, sulfates have been linked to contact dermatitis and irritation, can be considered potential carcinogenics, and are only CIR approved for "brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin."

What's In L'Oreal EverPure Color Care?

According to L'Oreal, "EverPure Color Care products are 100% vegan and contain naturally-derived cleansing ingredients with no harsh, color-stripping sulfates or salts. An exclusive Anti-Fade system protects and conditions for long-lasting purity." Thanks to what they're calling 'advanced technology,' L'Oreal has supposedly found a way to provide a milder alternative that still provides sudsy satisfaction and clean locks without traditional sulfates and surfactants. And with 100% vegan ingredients at that, which means everything is animal free! So what is in L'Oreal's EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care shampoos to substitute for the harsh sulfates?

At first glance, I was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about my new EverPure Smooth Shampoo. Sodium cocoyl isethionate, the second ingredient in the formula, is a mild surfactant derived from coconut oil that actually has some conditioning properties, so in theory, it is one cleanser that may replace some of the moisture that it's taking away (although it can be an irritant, according to some studies). Benzyl salicylate can also offer some UV protection and keep color from fading and sun damage. But then things begin to go downhill. Additional primary cleansers and foaming agents include sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, which can be an irritant and isn't considered very mild nor natural, and disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, which the Cosmetics Database actually rates as a moderate hazard ingredient because of its potential to carry ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane, known toxins and carcinogens. Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is even worse, since it actually increases absorption levels, and can be contaminated with nitrosamines. There are also a number of PEGs, preservatives (like methylisothiazolinone, a human skin toxicant according to the CIR), and some irritating fragrance ingredients, although natural juniperus communis fruit oil and rosemary oil do provide the pleasant juniper and rosemary scent. L'Oreal may have gotten rid of the harsh sulfates, but it seems to have replaced them with unsavory substitutes. Perhaps it is 100% vegan, but after close examination of the ingredients list, that seems to be a nice marketing attempt to jump on the organic bandwagon without doing any of the work to create a natural product.

Does L'Oreal EverPure Color Care Work?

Although the shampoo was what really piqued my curiosity, I am a bit compulsive about being true to trying a brand, and did pick up the EverPure Smooth Shampoo ($6.99), EverPure Smooth Conditioner ($6.99), EverPure Smooth Frizz-Free Serum ($8.99) and EverPure Smooth Deep Control Masque ($9.99) for the full EverPure experience. After four weeks of trying out this line, I did feel as if my color was a bit richer than it's been when I've used other sulfate-laden shampoos and conditioners, and I am happy to say that I am still a lovely brunette, and not on my way to being a brassy redhead just yet. And I loved the smell of the conditioner, which substitutes mint for the juniper fragrance. The EverPure Smooth Deep Control Masque was my favorite product, and gave my hair a boost that left it thicker, stronger and smoother than before. However, even though L'Oreal may have finally introduced sulfate-free shampoos to the mass market, calling it EverPure is quite the stretch.

Check out our Five Best recommended shampoos and conditioners and all our Five Bests for face, hair and body

Ingredients in L'Oreal EverPure Smooth Shampoo:

Aqua/Water, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycol Distearate, Divinyldimethicone/Dimethicone Copolymer, Glycereth-26, Decyl Glucoside, Parfum/Fragrance, PPG-5-Ceteth-20, Amodimethicone, Polyquaternium-10, Methylparaben, PEG-55 Propylene Glycol Oleate, Propylene Glycol, Carbomer, C11-15 Pareth-7, Benzophenone-3, Benzyl Salicylate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Glycerin, Trideceth-12, Laureth-9, C12-13 Pareth-23, Linalool, Tocopherol, C12-13 Pareth-3, Limonene, Benzyl Alcohol, Juniperus Communis Fruit Oil, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Rosmarinus Officinalis Oil/Rosemary Leaf Oil, Methylisothiazolinone, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid

Ingredients in L'Oreal EverPure Smooth Conditioner:

Aqua/Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cetyl Esters, Isopropyl Myristate, Quaternium-80, Polysorbate 20, Parfum/Fragrance, Methylparaben, Camphor Benzalkonium Methosulfate, Polyquaternium-37, Paraffinum Liquidum/Mineral Oil, Benzophenone-3, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Tocopherol, Limonene, Chlorhexidine Dihydrochloride, PPG-1 Trideceth-6, Linalool, Rosmarinus Officinalis Oil/Rosemary Leaf Oil, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol

Ingredients in L'Oreal EverPure Smooth Frizz-Free Serum:

Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethiconol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Phenyl Trimethicone, Parfum/Fragrance, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Linalool, Rosmarinus Officinalis Oil/Rosemary Leaf Oil, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Coumarin

Ingredients in L'Oreal EverPure Smooth Deep Control Masque:

Aqua/Water/Eau, Cetearyl Alcohol, Amodimethicone, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cetyl Esters, Parfum/Fragrance, Trideceth-6, Methylparaben, Camphor Benzalkonium Methosulfate, Benzophenone-3, Cetrimonium Chloride, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Tocopherol, Chlorhexidine Dihydrochloride, Linalool, Rosmarinus Officinalis Oil/Rosemary Leaf Oil, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol