Often we will see some brands label their cleanser as sulfate-free. Do you know what that means?
Usually it means the cleanser is free from Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) or other forms like Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS).
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
SLS is used as surfactant, detergent and emulsifier in many body shampoos, cosmetics, hair shampoos, skin cares and toothpastes. Its function is to breaks the surface tension and separates molecules so that the product can interact better with your skin or hair, hence, more effective cleansing.
Why is SLS a concern to us?
A study in Exogenous Dermatology has confirmed that SLS to be a very “corrosive irritant” to the skin – irritation which persisted in the research subjects for 3 weeks (1). SLS exerts its damage by stripping your skin of protective oils and moisture.
Without the protecting layer of oil and moisture, our skin is prompt to issues like sensitive skin, acne, infection, blackheads, oily skin, severe skin shedding and etc.
Besides, The International Journal of Toxicology also provides a safety assessment of SLS and recommends concentration level of SLS should not more than 1% in products with prolonged use (2). Irritation effect or even corrosion of the skin increase directly with the concentration of SLS used.
How about Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)?
SLES become a concern because it has a high possibility to be contaminated by dioxane during the manufacturing process. Dioxane is a suspected carcinogen and it cannot be metabolize by our body effectively and hence, will stay longer in our body.
However, it is considered less of a skin irritant if compared to SLS.
Is it just a skin irritant?
Other than irritation of the skin and eyes, Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews also suggested that SLS have shown links to (3):
- Organ toxicity
- Developmental/reproductive toxicity
- Neurotoxicity, endocrine disruptive, ecotoxicity, and biochemical or cellular changes
- Possible mutations and cancer
People are concern about the gradual, cumulative effects of long term, repeated exposures of SLS to our health.
What choice do I have other than SLS?
There are other ingredients available which is milder and not hazardous compared to SLS.
For example, HERBEA AQUA Plus Cleansing Gel is using disodium cocoamphodiacetate (4), sodium cocoyl glutamate (5) and cocamidopropyl betaine (6), which are all have “Good” rating in Paula’s Choice. All these 3 ingredients used are derived from coconut oil.
With these milder ingredients, you can wash your face without worry that it would irritate or dry out your skin and cause more problems to you.