Silicones and Sulfates, the devil is in the details
If you have curly hair, and probably even if you don't, you've heard the great debate by now. "Sulfates strip your hair" or Silicones are the devil". The following is my humble opinion on both. Don't worry, this won't be a science class. I'll save that for another post.
The beauty of sulfates is their versatile ability to pull impurities off of your scalp, hair, skin, dishes, car etc. There are a variety of sulfates, some harsher than others. Obviously , the dishsoap that we use to cut grease in a flash isn't the same sulfate you want in your shampoo to lift debris from your scalp and hair, while preserving your haircolor. Nor is the detergent in car soap what you want in your body wash or bar of soap in the shower.
Two of the most common sulfates used in beauty products are sodium LAURETH sulfate and sodium LAURYL sulfate. Generally speaking, sodium laureth sulfate is the milder of the two. There are variations in quality within these sulfates, so just seeing one or the other listed in the ingredients isn't always enough. But, at the very least, you're armed with the knowledge that if your shampoo has sodium LAURYL sulfate in it, it's not doing your haircolor or frizzy texture any favors. And many curly clients feel that even higher quality sulfates strip their hair of too much natural oil and leave their tresses too fluffy. Cocamidopropyl betaine is often used to create lather in a sulfate free shampoo and is viewed as gentler than the above surfactants while still being effective.
Silicones. Naturally curlies have heard for years that silicones are terrible for their hair. They prevent moisture from penetrating the hairshaft and ultimately cause dryness and breakage. True. But they also prevent HUMIDITY (moisture) from penetrating the hairshaft and sabatoging your style. They also often impart shine and softness. Who doesn't want soft, shiny, frizz-free hair? Which is why you'll find "water soluble silicones" often used in many hair products. Amodimethicone and Dimethicone copolyol are two of the most common ingredients in beauty products. (They can also be found in foods, like chicken nuggets and french fries. Do with THAT information what you will.) There are others that are flat out plastic. I won't confuse you by going into the rest of the silicones with very similar sounding names with very different outcomes. If you are concerned with which siliones to avoid, a quick google search can send you down that rabbit hole. The point is, silicones can prevent frizz and impart shine. Some build up on the hair faster than others and will require a stronger detergent to remove them. If you don't periodically remove these silicones, you're risking a barrier on your hair that does more harm than good. The good moisture in your conditioners can't do their job if they can't get past the plastic coating that some products will deposit on your hair.
Here's my synopsis: Does your hair respond well to silicones? GREAT! Use them! Just know that you'll need to use a clarifying shampoo periodically to give yourself a clean slate. That "periodically" depends on how often you're using said products vs. how often you shampoo. If you reapply styling products daily that contain frizz fighting silicones, you'll want to clarify weekly. If you go a few days between reapplying said products, you can clarify a couple of times per month. You'll likely want to follow up your shampoo with a deep conditioner. Next time we'll discuss washing vs. cowashing! So stay tuned!