What are Sulfates?
All of us must have heard about “sulfates” but we are not sure what they really are, why they are used? And whether we should be using products containing sulfates?
“Sulfates” is the common use term for a group of cleaning ingredients more correctly known as “alkyl sulfates”. Sulfates are the most common cleaning ingredients used in commercial cleaning products, such as laundry and dish washing detergents and engine greasers. They are used because they are the lowest cost most powerful cleaning ingredients available.
However sulfates are also the most common cleansing ingredients used in skin and hair care products! No wonder so many people suffer from an itchy scalp and dry skin and hair.
There are a number of different subtypes of sulfates. Let’s have a look at the main ones:
• Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) - common “standard” used in irritancy testing, against which the irritancy of other substances is compared (1). Researchers have found that the skin is the most vulnerable to SLS as skin tissue readily absorbs it and that it can also produce a dry itchy scalp and dandruff(2). Other research has shown a corrosion of the hair follicle leading to hair loss (3). Pretreatment with SLS has also been shown to cause increased susceptibility to other irritants (4,5).
• Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) – this is the most commonly used “sulfate” in beauty products.
• Ammonium lauryl sulfate - A relative of SLS, ammonium lauryl sulfate is used in some so called “SLS-free” shampoos - however it is also a strong irritant like SLS(6).
People can make their own choice from the evidence available on whether they want to avoid products containing sulfates. However, those with sensitive skin and/or itchy scalp may benefit from using products which are “sulfate-free”.
After considerable research, The Purist Company has chosen to use the following ingredients in place of sulfates:
• Sodium lauroyl sarcosinate - from palm, a mild amino acid (sarcosine) derivative cleanser.
• Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate – from palm, a mild cleanser recommended for those who have problems with soap.
• Sucrose cocoate – 100% botanical source anti irritant sugar ester cleanser.
• Lauryl polyglucose – 100% natural source and milder to skin and eyes than the more commonly used decyl polyglucose.
• Disodium cocoamphoacetate – Mildness "standard" amphoteric cleanser from coconut.
• Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine – Mild amino acid derivative cleanser delivers superior and milder performance compared to the common and cheaper alternative cocamidopropyl betaine.