A Closer Look at Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium lauryl sulfate can be found in the top ten list of ingredients to avoid by countless “experts” despite the fact that it scores a 100 on the biorenewable carbon index, is naturally sourced from the fatty alcohols of coconut oil, is completely safe in wash off formulas, lets off 0% VOC (won’t vaporize into the atmosphere), is readily biodegradable, and is EO/PO free (contains no Ethylene Oxide/Propylene Oxide Copolymer). By all green standards sodium lauryl sulfate is the perfect ingredient but many self proclaimed watch-dogs in the industry claim otherwise.
The Sodium Lauryl Sulfate molecule has one end that is polar and water-soluble and another end that is non-polar and organic-soluble. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a wetting agent and foaming agent that is designed for wash-off products only. If you are finding them in your leave-on products, discard those products.
Some companies do use sodium lauryl sulfate in leave-on products because it gives a pearlescent appearance and fluffy whipped look to a product. In leave-on products, it is an irritant and can cause problems. I have found sodium lauryl sulfate in lotions, crèmes, foundations, sunscreens, and soufflés.
Read labels, read labels, read labels, and avoid this ingredient in leave-on products. The truth is that in wash-off products sodium lauryl sulfate is not a problem. It is commonly used in shampoo, shower gel, and toothpaste.
There are thousands of “no-sulfate” products available in all categories. At Essential Wholesale we responded to customer demand and have dozens of them ourselves. It is easy to find “no-sulfate” shampoo, shower gel, and even toothpaste. But the fact does remain that SLS is a perfectly safe, effective, and totally green option among the plethora of surfactants available on the market.
More about the author: Kayla Fioravanti is the Vice President, Chief Formulator, ARC Registered & Certified Aromatherapist for Essential Wholesale and its lab division Essential Labs. Read more from this author