Ingredients Diary: Sulfates

Image by SMN@Flickr

Image by SMN@Flickr

When looking for new products to try I also want to learn more about ingredients and choose more wisely what I am using in the future. Thus I thought it would be a good idea to introduce a new category called ‘Ingredients Diary’ where I note down what I found out about certain ingredients and if I choose to use them or not.

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate

Ammonium lauryl sulphate is a surface-active agent or surfactant. Surfactants are partly water-soluble and partly oil-soluble. This allows oil and water to mix. (Source: Lush)

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, salts of Lauryl Sulfate, are widely used surfactants. In cosmetics and personal care products, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate are used primarily in shampoos, bath products, hair colorings, facial makeup, deodorants, perfumes, and shaving preparations, but can also be found in other product formulations. (Source: CosmeticInfo)

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) (…) can irritate eyes, skin and lungs but is much milder and safer than SLS. (…) All of the above [Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate] are anionic surfactants (or wetting agents) which are used to lower the surface tension of water. (Source:


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Versatile ingredient composed of several non-volatile alcohols. Functions primarily as a surfactant but can also be used as a skin-conditioning agent, emulsifier, and solvent. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is one of the most irritating cleansing agents used in skin-care products. In fact, it’s considered a standard comparison substance for measuring skin irritancy of other ingredients. (Source: Paula’s Choice)

Both SLS and SLES are very effective ingredients used in cleansing products and as creams and lotions. In this function, surfactants wet body surfaces, emulsify or solubilize oils, and suspend soil. These ingredients contribute foaming and lathering properties to cleansing products and bubble baths. (…)  There is no direct or circumstantial evidence that these two ingredients have any carcinogenic potential. The studies that have been conducted on SLS and SLES indicate that both are safe under proper conditions of use. (…) SLS and SLES can cause skin irritation in some persons, which is one reason why it is important to follow the label instructions when using a cosmetic product. (Source: CosmeticInfo)


Sodium Coco Sulfate

A surfactant derived from coconut oil. SCS is a mild cleanser and conditioner that also boosts foam and bubbles. Compared to commonly used alternatives (like sodium lauryl sulfate), sodium coco sulfate is very mild, non-irritating, and not suspected to be potentially toxic or harmful to the environment. (Source: Honestly Blog)

What they’re talking about here is where they’re getting the raw materials—in this case, the lauryl alcohol. Getting back to chemistry, SLS is synthesized in the lab by treating lauryl alcohol with sulfur trioxide gas or chlorosulfuric acid. Lauryl alcohol can come from petroleum, but it can also come from coconut oil. (…) No matter where the alcohol comes from, it’s still mixed with the other chemicals to produce SLS or SLES or other forms of the ingredient. The result is still a chemical that is a long way from the original coconut oil. (Source: Dr. Frank

sodium coco sulfate is largely SLS, with all the concerns that are linked to that product. Basically it is just another way to hide SLS in formulations with yet another name. Both sodium coco sulfate and SLS are synthetic detergents and should never be part of any natural cleanser. Natural products that are kind to your skin, and environmentally friendly, will not contain lauryl sulfate, laureth sulfate, coco sulfate or any of the long list of other synthetic detergents. (Source: Hebebotanicals)



According to CosmeticInfo SLS and SLES are not problematic and safe to use in cosmetics and the fact that many people are avoiding them is based on an Internet hoax. However, the fact that it can cause irritation and I generally prefer a basic and natural ingredients list if possible, I think I will try to avoid both Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as well as Sodium Coco Sulfate, the latter being almost the same thing, in order to receive more natural and clean products. So far I am not completely sure what to think of Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and wether I should make sure not to use any products that contain it. If you have any recommendations please share them in the comments.

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