What are sulfates, and why should I care?

Are Suflates Bad For You?

The answer to this is a little “yes”, a little “no” and a lot of “maybe.” There is an urban myth going around that sulfates are linked to cancer, which isn’t supported by the actual scientific research. So in that sense, no. BUT, sulfates can be irritating and drying to your skin and the more you use it, the worse it gets. So in that sense, yes.

Here’s the maybe: it kind of depends on your skin type. If you naturally have very oily skin, then sulfates can actually help to keep that under control. If you have normal or combination normal-oily skin, you can probably still get away with using them, but should probably limit their use. If you have naturally dry skin or your skin is hyper-sensitive, I would suggest you stay away from them completely.

What are Sulfates?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate(SLES) are surfactants–that is, they are the ingredient in soaps and shampoos that create lather and foam, allowing the soap to attach to the dirt and oil molecules on your skin and wash them away.

The problem with them is, they’re too effective. They rinse away more of your skin’s oils than you’d necessarily want them to, which can cause irritation and dryness.

What are the alternatives?

Generally speaking, in a liquid body wash or shampoo that lathers, you’re going to have surfactants. Some of these include cocamidopropyl betaine, as well as lauryl sulfonates and sulfosuccinates. These are all milder cleansers in comparison to sulfates, and won’t strip your skin of essential moisture. In the case of sulfosuccinate, the molecules are larger than a sulfate molecule. So much bigger, in fact, that they can’t absorb into your skin, reducing the risk for irritation. These are used in products like Brickell’s line of washes and shampoo.

If you want to avoid these types of surfactants altogether, I would suggest going with a good bar soap. Something from Brickell or Drifter or O’Douds will be about the gentlest clean you’ll ever get. The line of bar soaps by Mistral smells absolutely amazing and, while it’s a little less natural than the other brands, will still be gentler on your skin than the liquid soaps.

Check out all of our nature-based and sulfate-free products by clicking the button below.

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