In addition to cleansing and conditioning agents, shampoo formulas often contain active ingredients for treating various scalp and hair conditions as well as additives to make the product more visually appealing or to increase its shelf life.
Thickeners are additives used to increase viscosity, which makes the product less runny and therefore easier to spread across the hair.
Sodium chloride, the chemical name for common table salt, is the most widely used viscosity enhancer in shampoo formulas. It is commonly used in combination with sulfate surfactants to enhance viscosity, giving the shampoo a creamy texture.
Manufacturers prefer using sodium chloride for thickening purposes because it is an effective and fairly cheap thickening agent.
Our list of suggested salt-free products is at the end of this post.
Is Sodium Chloride Safe for Topical Applications?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rated sodium chloride as a low hazard. Some animal studies show it to be a skin irritant at medium doses, and the safety data sheet shows that sodium chloride may slightly irritate skin and eyes.
That means that sodium chloride is considered relatively safe when used in personal care products, and you can often find it listed on the ingredient label of shampoos at all price and quality points.
Is Salt Bad for Your Hair?
Sodium chloride is a highly hygroscopic substance, meaning it tends to attract water from its surroundings. Consequently, salt can encourage dryness by absorbing moisture from your hair. Just as consuming foods high in sodium chloride increases thirst, salt can leave your hair feeling dry.
For people with dry and naturally curly hair, it is advisable to use salt-free hair products, especially if they are meant to be left on the hair. People with oily and normal hair can be more comfortable with salt-containing products, especially when it comes to hair shampoos.
However, the amount of salt in a shampoo formula won’t have a significant drying effect on your hair, especially when the shampoo is applied for a short time. The salt will be washed away with the shampoo and will not remain in your hair.
Does It Have Any Benefits?
Manufacturers use sodium chloride because it is cheap and efficient. Because it is an organic ingredient, sodium chloride is widely used in organic shampoo formulas.
People with an oily scalp and hair can benefit from using a sea salt scrub mask. Sea salt is preferable to plain salt for scalp nourishing purposes because it contains naturally-occurring trace minerals, while table salt has been chemically treated to remove trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, bromine, zinc, and sulfur. However, table salt contains a small amount of added iodine, which is known for its ability to increase follicle strength and restore hair growth when applied topically.
Why Use a Salt-Free Shampoo?
If you have invested in a Keratin treatment, you probably already know that using harsh shampoos and other inappropriate hair care products can strip the treatment of your hair, and salt is one of the ingredients to avoid.
Therefore, to make sure that your shampoo will not undo the results of your keratin treatment, you should only use gentle hair shampoos that are made without sodium chloride and harsh sulfate cleaners.
Shampoos without salt have become a trend because of the increased popularity of keratin straightening and smoothing treatments, so manufacturers with salt-free shampoos will advertise this fact, so you can easily find them online and at many local beauty stores. Below are several salt-free shampoos, which are also free of harsh sulfate cleansers and made preferably with natural ingredients:
This organic, vegan shampoo is free of parabens, sulfates, and sodium chloride, and is therefore safe for your colored or keratin-treated hair. Calming and refreshing lavender oil soothes itchy scalps and stimulates the hair follicles to promote hair growth.
Nature Nut Shampoo is enriched with natural oils derived from five nuts, vitamin E, Vitamin A, and antioxidants, and is free of sodium chloride, harsh sulfates, and parabens. It gently cleanses the hair, delivers deep hydration, and gives a silky feel and more shine to dry and chemically treated hair.
This natural shampoo is made with natural Hawaiian protein flora complex and plant emollients and is free of sodium chloride, sulfates, and parabens. It claims to smooth unruly curls, eliminate frizz, and create radiant shine. The nut oils leave a soothing, magnificent scent that lingers in your hair.
This SLS/SLES and sodium chloride-free shampoo claims to gently cleanse hair, replenish moisture, reduce frizz, and create a smooth and shiny finish. It is formulated to protect your Keratin treatment and is also safe for your color.
It is widely known that argan oil provides the best nourishment to damaged, colored, and chemically straightened hair. This paraben, sulfate, and sodium chloride-free shampoo is enriched with jojoba, peach, avocado, and almond oils to cleanse your hair without stripping it; leaving it moisturized, soft, and shiny. The company is also listed as cruelty-free by PETA.
Does Your Hair Need a Salt-Free Shampoo?
Unless you have very dry hair or you have received a keratin treatment, you should be comfortable with using shampoos that contain salt. There are many far more harmful ingredients in an ordinary shampoo formula you should avoid such as fragrances, parabens, SLS/SLES, DMDM hydantoin, Methylisothiazolinone, etc.