The Devil is in the Detail
SLS vs SLSa – what is the difference and do you care?
Their acronyms may only be one letter different but their properties are far greater and worth knowing so it’s easy to see why people can be confused their product names being so similar but they could not be any more different in terms of safety and quality.
SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate): What is it?
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), also known as Sodium dodecyl sulfate, is a widely used surfactant in cleaning products, cosmetics, and personal care products. The sodium lauryl sulfate formula is a highly effective anionic surfactant used to remove oily stains and residues. It is found in high concentrations in industrial products, including engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash products, where workplace protections can be implemented to avoid unsafe exposures.
In lower concentrations it is found in household and personal care products such as cleaning products, toothpastes, shampoos, (not handmade) and shaving foams. It is a cheap surfactant that creates large bubbles when combined with water.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is that SLS (as it’s commonly referred to) dries out the skin pulling all nutrients, moisture and minerals out leaving drier and more damaged skin. In the health & beauty care/cosmetic industry, SLS is still used in the majority of mass market products because it is super cheap.
SLS Is Not A Friend For Your Skin…SLS a chemical detergent has a small molecule structure that passes into your body pretty easily. Research has shown that concentrations as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% can cause skin corrosion and severe irritation.
So why are surfactants such as SLS used if they are irritants? Bottom line is cost being the priority, they are cheap.
It is a fact that SLS & SLSa are easily confused. This allows some companies to take advantage of the fact and disguise their use of SLS with clever advertising. Consumers may be unaware of what SLS can do or simply not bother reading the label because most of the ingredients read as gobbledygook ( made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms). The problem lies in the fact that when a consumer sees sodium lauryl, they may think that all surfactants are skin damaging, or not even read past sodium lauryl and automatically think they are all created equal, not so.
SLSa (Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate): What is it?
Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate is not referred to as SLS in the beauty industry and has a completely different profile in terms of performance and mildness. SLSa is made from coconut and palm oils and is classified as a safe skin friendly surfactant for both skin and hair because of its large molecular structure that does not penetrate the skin. This mild plant derived surfactant creates a lather that effectively removes surface oil, dirt and bacteria, without stripping or drying sensitive skin or hair. SLSa or Lathanol (as you may see this product listed) trades at nearly 400 times what SLS trades for per ounce.
SLSa is also hydrophilic, this means it is attracted to water, which enables it to dissolve more readily in water, thus providing superior rinse ability. It is becoming the standard foaming ingredient for those who are looking for “natural” products for body and haircare.
SLS has its place in such things as domestic and industrial cleaning products but not in personal care, beauty products, or health care, but that’s just my opinion.