The last several years have seen a rise in the popularity of “sulfate free” beauty and self-care products that rely on lathering agents to clean the skin or hair. Still today though, a lot of commercial soaps, shampoos, liquid cleansers, toothpaste and body washes rely on these highly concentrated surfactants, originally created to be industrial strength cleaning agents.
The most common goes by the name sodium lauryl sulfate (also known as SLS) but this ingredient has many other offshoots. These can include sodium laureth sulfate, otherwise known as SLES, and any others that end with the term “sulfate” in the ingredient list.
These lathering agents are used as a very cost-effective way to achieve a large amount of lather with a small amount of the ingredient. They are a petroleum-based product, so the sustainability of the ingredient is also questionable since petroleum is a finite resource. Many people also like to avoid petroleum derivatives in their personal care products for other reasons as we’ve recently discussed in another blog post.
Sulfates could be compromising the health of your skin, mouth and hair
Aside from the facts listed above, this lathering agent tends to deplete skin of moisture by disrupting the delicate acid mantle that protects the skin from injury and upset. It also can strip the protective cuticle designed to keep your hair in top shape, causing breakage and roughness.
This can diminish the natural shine and vibrance of the hair, while also stripping any coloring or glazing agents if you color or highlight your hair. We spend a lot on these coloring services and products, we don’t want to see it stripped away faster!
Sulfates in oral care products like toothpaste can cause similar dryness and irritation. There are plenty of toothpastes, rinses and toothpaste alternatives that are much safer and gentler. Your teeth, gums and inner lining of the mouth do not need harsh sufactants to maintain health. In fact, you may be doing more damage than good. Notice how your mouth feels after brushing, if it feels like it’s burning or sudsing too much, and your mouth feels dry and irritated, consider switching to a sulfate free alternative.
Preserving moisture inside the mouth while also soothing the delicate lining rather than irritating it with a harsh lathering agent is optimal for oral health. There are plenty of more natural options for oral care that do not use SLS, SLES or any of its derivatives, but still get the mouth, teeth and gums squeaky clean.
Why all our products here at Aura Sensory are sulfate free
Our facial and body soaps are sulfate free for all of the reasons listed above. Let’s get down to more detail around the reasons why sulfates should be avoided in personal care products, and the many products this family of surfactants is found in.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is classified as a skin irritant. These potent lathering agents have a high penetration ability when they come into contact with the skin, mouth, scalp, and any membranous areas of the body. Traces of sulfates have been found in human tissues, suggesting that they remain in the body long after usage.
The way these chemicals are created is a concern as well. The manufacturing process can produce byproducts that are carcinogenic such as nitrosamines, although sodium lauryl sulfate itself is not yet classified as a carcinogen.
It also has the ability to absorb straight into the hair follicles. This is cause for concern as well since most of the common shampoos on the market contain the surfactant. It is clear that sodium lauryl sulfate has a high degree of ability when it comes to penetration and absorption.
The reason it is not used in children’s and baby shampoo is that it also is a strong eye irritant. It can enter the body through the eye, which is a membrane, very easily. There have been reports of children suffering eye damage from using products with this ingredient.
Data shows that SLS is harmful via the oral route in some animals, and by dermal absorption route in others. It is an eye and throat irritant and may aggravate oral ulcers if frequent contact is made. In addition, in animal studies, it has demonstrated an aggravation of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract.
Sodium lauryl sulfate free soaps, cleansers, toothpastes, shampoos and other personal and beauty care products are a lot more readily available now though. If you have any concerns about using products that contain this chemical, go for products that have “SLS or Sulfate Free” on their labels.