If you have sensitive skin, you are probably already using an SLS-free body wash. But did you know that this does not necessarily mean that it is completely free of sulfates?
Most of us know the two most common sulfates (or sulfates), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).
These two ingredients are notorious for their drying and stripping effects, but there are actually hundreds of sulfates … and "sul fakes" that can also make the skin worse.
The addition of sulfates reduces the surface tension of water, which means that the detergents spread more easily and the fragrances are better distributed in the gel.
They also give the washes the foamy texture that we combine with the feeling of cleanliness.
In order to hold on to these "good things" and avoid the sulfate stigma, some products are instead formulated with "sulf fakes".
These chemical compounds differ slightly from real sulfates, so that they can be labeled "free from sulfates" – although they can have a similar effect on the skin.
You can recognize them on frothy products as follows:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
- sodium lauroyl isoethionate
- sodium lauroyl taurate
- Sodium cocoyl isoethionate
- sodium lauroyl methyl isoethionate
- sodium lauroyl sarcosinate
- disodium laureth sulfosuccinate
If that wasn't confusing enough, the way sulfates are made can allow for a little creative labeling (also known as "greenwashing").
Sodium coconut sulfate is made from coconuts and is often found in "natural" body wash products. in reality it is anything but.
Here's what is scientific: Lauryl alcohol is treated with sulfur trioxide gas or chlorosulfuric acid to produce a sulfate. This alcohol can come from petroleum … but it can also come from coconut oil.
Although it was once a coconut, it takes a sophisticated process to pull out the lauryl alcohol … and this alcohol is still mixed with other chemicals to produce SLS or SLES.
It may sound exotic, but unfortunately coconut sulfate is still a sulfate and can be just as irritating for sensitive skin.
So the next time you lather up, make sure you turn your bottle and look closely at the label!