I imagine I am now behaving much like a "reformed" smoker who atones for decades of past sins by extolling the benefits of their new lifestyle to all who will listen. But in this case I haven't ever smoked;  I am instead preaching the virtues of sulfate-free "cleansers" instead of clean lungs, fresh breath and a cleaner planet.

Marta was the first to bring the evils of sulfates in cleansers to my attention, and in honor of Earth Day 2009, Copley just did a great overview of sulfates (Organic Alternatives to Common Synthetics) and other common additives which you might want to avoid. Note:  If you aren't already sure if it was worth the effort to find sulfate-free cleansers of all types before reading the April 22nd Earth Day posting, you will certainly drink the kool-aid and swear sincere sulfate repentance after reading her review.

For the last 90 days I have been testing all categories of sulfate-free cleansers.... from facial cleansers to shampoos and body washes, and I haven't even come close to finishing all that are on my list. The great news is that there are some terrific alternatives out there and you might find you like them EVEN BETTER than the sulfate-laden products you are currently using. The knock on sulfate-free products used to be that they didn't cleanse as thoroughly (or at least foam as thoroughly), and they were fairly pricey... but this certainly isn't the case anymore. Oh sure, some of the products I tested were indeed duds, (and there will be a mind numbingly large number of "sulfate free" postings from me to follow explaining all of this), but one clear winner is the Enjoy Hydrating line of shampoo and conditioners which I have been using for these last 30 days.

First and foremost, the Enjoy Hydrating Shampoo (which the nice people at Enjoy selected for me to test because my hair is long, course, and color treated) doesn't contain sulfates despite the "sulfate-sounding" ingredient called Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate.  One very significant difference between Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate and the true villian Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the molecule size..... Sulfoacetate molecules are too large to penetrate the skin, as compared to the smaller molecule sized sulfate, which DO penetrate the skin and thus can be irritating or worse.  Sulfoacetate comes from the oil of coconut and/or palm, and is regarded as a safe surfactant (tech talk for "foaming agent") for both skin and hair.  The Sulfoacetate ingredient is "hydrophilic", meaning it is attracted to water, allowing it to dissolve more readily and then rinse off more easily and completely.  Another primary cleansing ingredient used in the Enjoy line is Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, which is quite mild and great for sensitive skin.  Add in a variety of effective moisturizers and you have a gentle, safe cleanser which is not only great for your head and scalp, and it actually doubles as a nice body wash as well.   My long highlighted hair looked and felt wonderful after the second or third washing; it seems it took a little while for the past deposits of evil chemicals to completely dissipate. And even though I am still testing emu oil as a twice-weekly scalp conditioner, the Hydrating shampoo did an excellent job of cleaning away that gunk from roots to tip....without drying it out. My hair was much smoother and softer, and interestingly enough it also stayed much cleaner between my twice-weekly shampoos.

Enjoy Hydrating Shampoo Ingredients: Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Phenoxyethanol, Glycol Distearate, Polyquaternium-7, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Potassium Sorbate, Avocado (Persea Gratissima) Oil, Dimethicone, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Disodium EDTA, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Citric Acid, Fragrance, Orange 4 (C15510).

The Enjoy Hydrating Conditioner is also excellent, although I must stop short of giving it the complete rave due to the fact that it does contain parabens.  That aside, it is packed with good things like Stearyle Alcohol ( a soothing, softening emulsifier which is derived from stearic acid and vegetable fatty acids) and Cetrimonium Chloride (another conditioning, softening, and "anti frizz" agent), plus soy protein and avocado oils.   I was particularly impressed with how quickly it worked.... I always try to cram too much into my early mornings before I leave for work.... and this seemed to provide excellent conditioning within just a minute or two.  I rubbed a quarter-sized dollop into the lower half of my tresses, and then distributed the conditioner from root to tip by using a wide-tooth comb. By the time I had shaved my legs, it was time to rinse my now tangle free hair. The product rinses clean (perhaps this is why my hair remained cleaner between shampoos) and it smells great. No heavy perfumery smell, just a nice clean scent which doesn't compete with my scented body lotion.

Enjoy Hydrating Conditioner Ingredients: Water, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetrimonium bromide, Cyclomethicone, Glycerin, Cetrimonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, ceterayl Alcohol, cimethicone, Potassium sorbate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Avocado Oil, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Wheat Amino Acids, PPG-5 Ceteth-20, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Propylparaben, Citric Acid, Fragrance, Orange 4, Yellow 5.

If you thought you had to sacrifice to have healthier hair and skin by switching to a sulfate-free shampoo, quit worrying. The Enjoy Hydrating Shampoo (and the companion Hydrating Conditioner) is a terrific alternative (and available at a reasonable price), and your hair, scalp and skin will appreciate the difference.