If you’ve ever taken a look at the ingredients listed on your personal care products, then you may have noticed various forms of sulfate present. If so, these products could be damaging your skin. Read on to learn more about sulfate cleansers and why you should go sulfate-free.
What is Sulfate?
Sulfates are ingredients present in many personal care products that give them their foamy, lathery trait. There are several different types of sulfates used in beauty products. One of the most common and scrutinized is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), but you’ll also see the irritating ammonium lauryl sulfate, among others, present in many shampoos and toothpastes.
How is it Dangerous?
As of late, many doctors, beauty professionals, and scientists have questioned the safety of sulfate ingredients in personal care products. The scientific and beauty communities already know these ingredients are irritating to the skin and, in some cases, can increase hair loss.
For people with sensitive skin, SLS and other sulfates can be particularly irritating when present in bubble bath, which people are generally exposed to longer than other sulfate products like shampoo.
When used in toothpaste, SLS can increase the presence of canker sores for individuals with sensitive gums. Studies have shown that using a non-SLS toothpaste can improve these symptoms.
If that doesn’t bother you, consider this: SLS is used in lotion tests to first irritate the skin before being soothed by the lotion. It’s also used to test other irritants by comparing their effect on the skin against SLS.
While some people may not experience severe irritation or allergic reaction, sulfates can produce many other unfavorable effects. Since it’s a detergent, sulfates strip the body of its natural oils and can leave hair feeling dry or can increase the occurrence of acne. For people with allergies and sensitive skin, these ingredients can cause severe reactions.
What Types of Sulfate Should You Avoid?
If you can, it’s always best to go with a sulfate-free cleanser, especially if you have sensitive skin, a condition like eczema, or chemically damaged hair. Just some of the more common sulfates found in personal care products that are worth avoiding include:
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
- Ammonium lauryl sulfate
- Sodium laureth sulfate
- TEA lauryeth sulfate
- Sodium myreth sulfate
Read your labels carefully, and be cautious of “natural” sulfates since plant-based sulfates are often later mixed with the more irritating and harmful versions.
Why You Should Use a Sulfate-Free Cleanser Instead
While there hasn’t been a lot of research completed on the long-term effects of SLS and other sulfates, sulfates are worth avoiding given what we do know about them. It’s also worth noting that many sulfate products are designed for short-term, wash-off use, and there’s no indication that sulfates cause cancer, so the risk is minimal for many individuals. However, given that sulfates are a strong skin irritant, they are particularly important to avoid for people seeking hypoallergenic products.
If you choose a sulfate-free cleanser as an alternative, the product will be gentler on the skin and you’ll be less likely to experience dry skin, increased hair loss due to a dry scalp, itchy skin, canker sores, and a myriad of other complications attributed to products with sulfates in them.
Seeking a sulfate-free cleanser that works for you? Be sure to read the ingredients and to research any ingredients you’re unfamiliar with. Be careful about choosing a “natural” cleanser without reading the ingredients as this does not always mean sulfate-free or hypoallergenic. Some of these formulas claim they’re gentler because they use additional ingredients to counter the irritation of SLS, but going sulfate-free is really the only way to avoid the effects of sulfates.
How will knowing more about sulfates in personal care products change your cleansing routine?