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The Ordinary Pro-Sulfate Shampoo Review: Are All Sulfates Bad?

I Tried The Ordinary’s New Pro-Sulfate Hair Cleanser and Conditioner: Here Are My Honest Opinions (Photos via Kayla Kuefler)

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Thanks to the Internet, shopping for hair products has never been easier or more confusing. Sure, there’s some terminology we’re all familiar with: Repair, hydrate, etc., but what about buzzwords like collagen, biotin, and sulfates? While collagen and biotin have each been hailed as superstar ingredients, sulfates are a different story.

In hair care, sulfates serve as both a cleansing agent and the secret ingredient behind a product’s lathering, frothy formula. While they are found in shampoos of all calibers, sulfates have a bad reputation for drying out and irritating the hair and scalp. However, not all sulfates are created equal.

This spring, The Ordinary launches new hair care line this argues for sulfates. That’s right, a pro-sulfate shampoo. Despite myriad brands moving away from sulfate-laden formulas, The Ordinary’s new line confesses that sulfates, in low, gentle doses, are actually good for hair.

The Ordinary Sulphate 4% Shampoo Cleanser for Body & Hair in a white bottle with a blue band and black text (Photo via Sephora)

The Ordinary Sulphate 4% Body and Hair Cleansing Shampoo (Photo via Sephora)

$9 at Sephora

What makes The Ordinary 2-in-1 shampoo and shower gel unique?

the Sulfate Cleaner 4% is a gentle yet effective 2-in-1 shampoo and body wash designed to remove dirt, oil and debris. Its low foaming formula contains a mild sulfate called SLES-2, which cleanses the hair without bleaching it.

The molecular structure of SLES-2 is designed to provide effective cleansing at a lower concentration, minimizing the risk of irritation. Its gentle formula is safe for all hair types and textures, including colored hair.

The Ordinary Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner in a white bottle with a blue band and black text (Photo via Sephora)

The Ordinary Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner (Photo via Sephora)

$9 at Sephora

What makes The Ordinary Conditioner unique?

Accompanying the launch of Sulphate 4% Cleanser, The Ordinary’s 2% Behentrimonium Chloride Conditioner.

The brand’s scientific conditioner has a minimalist formula that avoids many bulky ingredients found in other hair products. For your hair, this reduced ingredient list translates to more manageable locks with less weight. The color-safe conditioner is safe for all hair types, including straight, wavy, curly, and curly locks.

what people say

With an average rating of 3.9 stars on Sephorashoppers say the 4% Sulphate Cleanser left their hair “clean and light.”

It’s a “different texture” compared to other shampoos, but it’s “[cleansed] without leaving my dry hair feeling stripped,” writes one reviewer.

“Love it as a break from my regular shampoo,” said another. “It really cleans [and] I feel like it gets all the buildup and product out of my hair!”

While reviewers tout the shampoo as “cleansing” and “refreshing,” several shoppers note its scent or, more specifically, lack thereof.

“Don’t let the ‘Fragrance Free’ fool you,” writes one user. It “made me feel like I hadn’t really taken a shower, so it wasn’t a fun experience.”

hand holding regular shampoo and conditioner against towels in bathroom
The hair duo in question, plus my all-time favorite HBC Towels

Sephora shoppers gave the brand’s Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner a slightly higher rating of 4.3 stars and noted how “light” it made their hair.

The conditioner “made my hair soft, unlike the shampoo,” according to one user. Its “light” formula does not make your hair “heavy”, they write.

Another buyer says the conditioner doesn’t weigh down her fine/straight hair. Adding, it had a “serum-like effect” instead.

Similar to the cleanser reviews, several buyers cite the smell of the product as their main criticism.

“My main annoyance is that it has no smell,” writes one user. “When I wash my hair, I expect it to smell at least good.”

What I thought

To be honest, I’ve always found The Ordinary products to be pretty ordinary. While some of my colleagues trumpet brand moisturizers and acne serums like some of the best they’ve tried, I’ve always remained semi-indifferent to their line of products.

That being said, I’m just one try anything once kind of girlso I was excited to test the brand’s cleanser and conditioner.

For starters, what I loved: my hair felt clean and refreshed after using the cleanser. I never paid much attention to the residue left by other hair products, but I could feel a noticeable difference after use. The Ordinary’s Sulphate 4% Cleanser; my hair and scalp felt lighter and cleaner.

A fan of The Ordinary's 4% Sulfate Body and Hair Wash, In The Flesh (on screen)

One thing to note: the cleanser and conditioner bottles are very small. To give a comparison, a normal sized bottle of Head and shoulders shampoo is 400ml, while The Ordinary bottles are only 240ml. So despite their affordable price of $9, the duo may have a higher cost per use due to their small size.

Now for what I didn’t like: the smell. I’m a fan of fragrance, and part of the joy of cleaning my hair is the scent it leaves behind, so The Ordinary’s fragrance-free formula left me craving. Second, although I liked the conditioner, it didn’t blow me out of the water. He did what he said he would do: no more, no less.

The verdict

Would I Repurchase Sulphate 4% Cleanser? For $9? Absolutely. My hair felt clean and light, and despite the non-existent smell, I was happy with the results. As for the conditioner, I would probably repurchase it, but honestly more for the price than anything else. It wasn’t amazing, but I like the look of symmetry in the shower, so I’d probably repurchase just to give the cleanser to a friend.

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