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Lately, I’ve been considering my tresses quite a bit. Soon the weather will turn colder and with the warmth, the moisture will be sapped from the air, leaving my tendrils thirsty. So it’s occurred to me that it’s time to reconsider whether I should be using a sulfate-containing shampoo or something a little gentler.
So when we were sent New York Streets’ Shampoo ($29.94, amazon.com) and Conditioner ($29.94, amazon.com), I decided to put it to the test and see if the sulfate-free formula would make my hair soft. I found that I really enjoyed my curly locks after using the duo.
Sulfates in Shampoo
When people talk about sulfates in shampoo, they’re generally talking about sodium lauryl sulfate. This ingredient is great for creating shampoos expected foaming power but it can very drying to skin and hair, which is why there’s been an upswing in people talking about “sulfate free” products.
Sodium lauryl sulfate, one of the most frequently used cleansing surfactants can cause skin irritation and impair the skin barrier, which is why it gets used often in ‘challenging patch tests,’ which measure the barrier function of skin (Cosmetic Dermatology). It’s been found to be bad for the skin and has been show in one study to negatively impact the skin of hair stylists, who come into contact with it frequently (British Journal of Dermatology).[Read More: Spotlight On: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate]
Sodium C 14-16 Olefin Sulfonate in New York Streets Shampoo
Sodium C 14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, also known as Alpha-Olefin Sulfonate (AOS), is used in New York Streets Shampoo in place of something like sodium lauryl sulfate because of its foaming and cleaning abilities and price. Much like sodium lauryl sulfate, AOS lathers and foams. It’s more difficult to get the right viscosity and takes more care to make AOS the same from batch to batch, which is why it isn’t used as often (Hair and Hair Care).
AOS is used because it’s less irritating than sodium lauryl sulfate and has been found in studies to be about as irritating as soap (Surfactants in Cosmetics). While there’s no promise that it won’t irritate skin and dry hair at all, it’s considered a gentler surfactant, though some people still choose to avoid it altogether (Naturally Curly).
Alcohol in Hair Products
It’s easy to see “alcohol” and think “drying,” but the alcohols found in New York Streets shampoo and conditioner are not something to worry about. There’s a pneumonic device known as “5 C’s steer left” to remember the hydrating alcohols that are good for skin and hair: cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, cetostearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol 40, C12-15 alcohols, stearyl alcohol and lanolin alcohol.
According to Dr. Audrey Kunin, board certified dermatologist and creator of DERMAdoctor.com, these agents act as stabilizers, emulsifying agents, and thickeners that give formulations their creamy consistency. And they’re moisturizing, rather than drying. New York Streets Conditioner has three of these: Cetearyl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol.
Personal Use and Opinion
I enjoyed the way New York Streets Shampoo and Conditioner made my hair look — my curls formed really well when I used it and my hair was really shiny. My hair didn’t seem to frizz up as much throughout the day as usual when I played around with it, which suggests a nice moisture and smoothing boost — likely due in part to hydrolyzed barley, silk, and soy protein. And for those who need the suds to feel clean, New York Streets has them. The consistency on the shampoo was a little watery, which isn’t so much of a problem as it is something to be aware of before squeezing it out of the bottle.
New York Streets Shampoo and Conditioner is sulfate-free, but contains alpha-olefin sulfonate as its suds-lending surfactant. This is considered less drying and irritating than surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate, though some people still choose to use products without it. Don’t be afraid of the alcohol in the conditioner — it’s the hydrating kind. And you’ll get a moisturizing boost from the hydrolyzed silk, barley, and soy protein in the conditioning.
Product Rating: 7/10
- High or optimized concentration of ingredients: 2/3
- Unique formulation or new technology: 2/3
- Value for the money: 3/3
- Sunscreen: 0/1