When we look at hair- and skincare and the ingredients in the formulations we often get the question if they include Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) in the ingredient list. These ingredients, when combined with water can easily dissolve oil or fat, and that is why they are widely used within these product categories.
What is the function of SLS and SLES?
We call these ingredients surfactants or 'surface active agents', the group surfactants works to solve grease and oil in your hair or on your skin. They are also foam creating agents, surfactants lower the surface tention, this allows them to trap air and create foam.
Why don't you want SLS and SLES on your ingredient list?
What we don't like about both ingredients is that they also wash away the good and necessary oils from the skin surface. The barrier function (something we talk A LOT about) of the skin can be damaged by this, resulting in dry and irritated skin.
There have been reports of skin irritation around Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, but there is no proof that this ingredient is causing diseases. The biggest concern reported at the moment is irritation of the skin, around the eye area and in the lungs. SLS penetrates the skin and breaks the outer skin layer. This is for us enough to decide that we would not want to have these ingredients in our formulations. You will mainly find this ingredient in your toothpaste, shampoo, hand wash and body soap but also in household products like cleansing products.
Are there also non-aggressive and non-drying surfactants?
The good news is that there are ingredients is this category we can use to formulate beautiful skincare. From plants you can extract surfactants, often used plants are coconut or palm but also from soja it is possible to extract surfactants. Another benefit of these plant-based ingredients is that they are kind to the planet, the natural origin makes them bio-degradable, non-toxic and eco-friendly.
If you would like to read more, then check out the following article: Sodium Coco Sulfate.