Are all sulphates bad? I tried The Ordinary's pro-sulphate shampoo: My honest review

hand holding the ordinary hair care cleanser and conditioner and brunette woman wearing white t-shirt and leather jacket
I tried The Ordinary's new pro-sulphate 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. Of course, there's certain terminology we've all come to recognize: Repairing, hydrating, etc., but what about buzzwords like collagen, biotin and sulphates? While collagen and biotin have each been lauded as superstar ingredients, sulphates are a different story.

In haircare, sulphates serve as both a cleansing agent and the secret ingredient behind a product's lathering, sudsy formula. While they're found in shampoos of all calibres, sulphates have gotten a bad rap for drying and irritating the hair and scalp. However, not all sulphates are created equal.

This spring, The Ordinary launched a new haircare line that makes a case for sulphates. That's right, a pro-sulphate shampoo. Despite a myriad of brands moving away from sulphate-laden formulas, The Ordinary's new lineup avows that sulphates, in low, gentle doses, are actually good for the hair.

The Ordinary Sulphate 4% Shampoo Cleanser for Body & Hair

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

$9 at Sephora

What makes The Ordinary's 2-in-1 shampoo and body wash unique?

The Sulphate 4% Cleanser is a gentle yet effective 2-in-1 shampoo and body wash designed to remove dirt, oil, and debris. Its low-foam formula contains a mild sulphate called SLES-2, which cleanses the hair without stripping its colour.

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 colour-treated hair.

The Ordinary Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner

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

$9 at Sephora

What makes The Ordinary's conditioner unique?

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

The brand's science-first conditioner has a minimalistic formula that avoids many of the bulky ingredients found in other hair products. For your hair, this thinned-out ingredient list translates to more manageable strands with less weigh-down. The colour-safe conditioner is safe for all hair types, including straight, wavy, curly and coily locks.

What people are saying

With an average rating of 3.9 stars on Sephora, shoppers say the Sulphate 4% Cleanser left their hair feeling "clean and lightweight."

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

"I love this as a break from my regular shampoo," says another. "It really cleanses [and] feels like it gets all the build-up and product from my hair!"

While reviewers tout the shampoo as "cleansing" and "refreshing," several shoppers note its scent, or, specifically, its lack of one.

"Don't let the 'no scent' fool you," writes one user. It "made me feel like I hadn't really showered, so it wasn't a fun experience."

hand holding the ordinary hair care shampoo and conditioner against towels in bathroom

Sephora shoppers have given the brand's Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner a slightly higher rating of 4.3 stars and note how "light" it made their hair feel.

The conditioner "made my hair feel soft, unlike the shampoo," according to one user. Its "lightweight" formula doesn't make your hair feel "heavy," they write.

Another shopper says the conditioner doesn't "weigh down" their fine/straight hair. Adding, it had a "serum-like effect" instead.

Similar to reviews of the cleanser, several shoppers cite the product's scent as their primary criticism.

"My main turn-off is that it has zero scent," writes one user. "When I wash my hair, I expect it to at least smell good."

What I thought

If I'm being honest, I've always found products from The Ordinary to be, well, kind of ordinary. While a few of my colleagues trumpet the brand's moisturizers and acne serums as some of the best they've tried, I've always remained semi-indifferent to their product lineup.

With that being said, I am nothing but a try-anything-once kind of gal, so I was excited to put the brand's cleanser and conditioner to the test.

To start things off, what I loved: My hair felt clean and refreshed after using the cleanser. I never paid much attention to the residue left behind by other hair products, but I could feel a noticeable difference after using The Ordinary's Sulphate 4% Cleanser; my hair and scalp felt lighter and cleaner.

A fan of The Ordinary's Sulphate 4% Cleanser for Body and Hair, in the (on screen) flesh
"Wow, I love her earrings" you say? They're the Charlotte Bold Hoops from Mejuri.

One thing to note: The cleanser and conditioner bottles are very small. To give a comparison, a regular sized bottle of Head & Shoulders Shampoo is 400mL, whereas The Ordinary's bottles are only 240mL. So, despite their affordable $9 price tags, the duo may have a higher cost per use because of their small sizes.

Now, for what I didn't love: The smell. I am a fragrance fan, and part of the joy of cleaning my hair is the smell it leaves behind, so The Ordinary's fragrance-free formula left me wanting. Second, while I liked the conditioner, it didn't blow me out of the water. It did what it said it would do: No more, no less.

The verdict

Would I repurchase the Sulphate 4% Cleanser? For $9? Absolutely. My hair felt clean and light, and despite its 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 extraordinary, but I like the look of symmetry in the shower, so I would probably re-buy if only to give the cleanser a friend.

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