Sulphates are surfactants used in detergents to foam. Their use is fairly common in soap, dishwashing gel, shampoo, toothpaste, hand soap, floor detergent, etc. You can find them at a high level of concentration as they have a powerful detergent and foaming effect in these kinds of products.
They are powerful and pretty harsh which make them irritating too for the skin. If you have a sensitive, dry or dehydrated skin (face and body) we recommend you to check the list of components in the products you use to wash your face and body, if you find sulphates in it, then it might be a good idea to switch to a free sulphate products.
Organic labels impose the use of more natural and respectful surfactants that will have good cleaning properties too but that won’t be as harmful to the skin.
List of sulphates (non-exhaustive):
- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
- Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate
- Sodium Laureth Sulphate
Should you ban sulphates?
First, the problem with sulphates is that they are in so many products that we use on a daily basis. By being over-exposed to this product you will irritate your skin. The action of sulphates is simple: they basically destroy lipids and thus the hydrolipidic film. You need your hydrolipidic film to protect your skin as well as to maintain your skin hydration. When you destroy it, the skin becomes dry and dehydrated and that is just the same for hair.
You should favour soft surfactants that won’t irritate your skin as much as sulphates. You will find synergies that combine hard surfactants like sulphates and soft ones to diminish the irritating effects. If you don’t mind not having foam at all (it’s not useful anyway, the foam does not wash) you can opt for a soft surfactant based on coconut or sugar Coco-Glucoside or Sodium Coco Sulphate. Combined with hydrating and moisturizing actives, you won’t suffer from dry skin after you took your shower!
If you have a sensitive, dry, dehydrated or atopic skin, you should avoid sulphates. Using free-from sulphates products should help you get rid of itching, burning and stretching unpleasant sensations that you can experience after your shower. The water is already rich in scale so you don’t need to add more irritating things on the top of it.
Same for your shampoo, sulphates will irritate your scalp or may burn your eyes. Plus, by drying your scalp, it may provoke dandruff and it can weaken your hair, accelerate hair loss and create split ends.
By removing the hydrolipidic film of your body, sulphates will help toxins, endocrine disruptors and other nasties to penetrate your body. Hydrolipidic is a real protective barrier and you need it.
Why are they used?
Sulphates allow to maintain the product in a good state for a long time and make the formulas more stable. Another good point is that they are pretty cheap – just like any other popular but harmful components. And last but not least, from a marketing point of view, foam is linked to cleanliness. In the mind of most consumers, foam is directly linked to the action of cleaning. Cleansers without foam just sell less well so the companies respond to the consumer needs.
Cosmetic labels banned the worst eco-toxic form of sulphates, the Sodium Laureth Sulphate as the process of production is particularly harmful toward the environment. Besides being the worst sulphate ecologically-speaking, it is the most irritating as well.
Other forms of sulphates are allowed as they come from natural origins and haven’t any negative impact on the planet. Plus, combined with anti-irritating components, they won’t harm the hydrolipidic barrier of your skin making them non-toxic skincare products.