Skincare Ingredients to Avoid, Part 6: Sulfates

Posted on December 12, 2012

Chemicals have become so entrenched in our consumer lifestyle that we barely even notice how many of them we are consuming or applying to our body each day. Your facial cleanser alone probably contains about 10 different chemical compounds. One of these is likely a sulfate.

Sulfate SaltsWhat is it and Why is it in my Cleanser?

Sulfates in beauty products are salts derived from certain types of alcohol. Since the alcohol that sulfate compounds are derived from can be toxic or extremely harsh, they have to go through a process called ethoxylation to become a milder, “FDA-friendly” compound. One such chemical is sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), a common surfactant in soaps and shampoos.

The SLS surfactant serves as a foaming agent and oil remover in many soaps, cleansers, and shampoos. In fact, 90% of standard shampoos contain the chemical. So what’s the big deal?

Effects on the Skin and Body

These chemicals are known to cause skin irritation in high concentrations, but are not regulated in the milder, less-concentrated formulas of beauty products. For instance, high concentrations of SLS are commonly used in scientific testing to induce skin irritation and dermatitis on subjects. This fact alone should be a red light to health-conscious consumers. And that’s not all.

1,4-Dioxane and Nitrosamine

Sulfate compounds have also been found to produce dangerous byproducts in the ethoxylation process, such as 1,4-dioxane. Traces of this disturbing toxin are often found in skincare products that contain SLS. 1,4-dioxane has also been associated with liver and kidney damage, but you won’t find it in the ingredient list of any beauty product. Since it is a byproduct, not an intentional ingredient, it is not required to be listed on product packaging.

Another harmful byproduct of SLS compounds is nitrosamine, a formidable carcinogen. Nitrosamine can be created when SLS reacts with other common cleansing ingredients. Again, you won’t find any mention of nitrosamine on the label, but it could be lurking within your favorite shampoo.

Avoiding Sulfate Compounds

These frightening chemicals can be found in many types of cleansing products, such as:

It is best to avoid all sulfates in your future beauty purchases, not just SLS. Here are some common ingredients to watch out for:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium myreth sulfate
  • Sodium pareth sulfate
  • Magnesium laureth sulfate

Living Clean is a proud provider of sulfate-free skincare products.

Read more about harmful skincare ingredients:

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