Skin Care and Treatments of Melbourne Dermatology - Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate

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Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate

Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate

Too much foam's a headache...

Reports of sensitivity to sodium laureth sulphate appear to be on the rise.

While sodium laureth sulphate cleansers are safe, and generally preferable to soaps, irrational and financially-motivated online scare-mongering about this ingredient is rife.

Subsequently, a new breed of skin care products have come into existence touting a flagrant lack of sodium laureth sulphate, or sodium laureth sulphate of petrochemical origin.

Providing it is free of impurities, petrochemically-derived sodium laureth sulphate is chemically identical to botanically-derived sodium laureth sulphate.

Claims Against Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate

Claims against sodium laureth sulphate are partly an attempt to insult big-business and derive from organic and natural skin care dialogues.

Within the realm of the (super)market, people are understandably wary that a shrinking number of multi-national companies providing dishwashing detergents are funneling their efforts (and ingredients) into the provision of facial cleansers, shampoos and toothpastes.

The development of seemingly contradictory products "free" of one ingredient or another nevertheless frequently gives rise to other irritating flaws in formulation.

Absence of sodium laureth sulphate does not automatically indicate a product is more suitable than another.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate Sensitivity

Rising rates of sodium laureth sulphate sensitivity are nevertheless a concern and possibly attributable to overuse.

In recent years the (super)market, department store and spa have been flooded by a large and ever-growing range of hair, body and hand washes with practical as well as lifestyle applications.

Cussons Imperial Leather Soap has been left for dead.

In times gone by, people were not cleansing their skins so liberally and frequently, and may have taken longer to bathe more deliberately.

Some Lux products (see Lux Glamourazzi Shower Gel and its ingredients) have exchanged sodium laureth sulphate with sodium pareth sulphate, possibly to mediate psychological or cutaneous concerns regarding the ingredient's increasing use.

Irritation and skin dehydration attributable to inappropriate cleansers (or overuse of certain cleansers) is certainly commonplace, but easy to prevent and correct.

Clinical Experiences with Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate Cleansers

Many skin complaints are seen to quickly recede or even vanish where cleanser use alone is modified to be more individually-fitting.

The majority of cleansers containing sodium laureth sulphate are a poor match for skin, primarily due to their relatively high alkalinity and tendency to foam heavily.

These two formulation properties challenge the equilibrium of the skin's barrier (which is not healthily alkaline) and, despite the substantial lather they produce, these cleansers do not cleanse deeply — they slip and slide superficially beneath a foamy show.

Sodium laureth sulphate cleansers typically provide an impression of efficient cleansing greater than what is actually occurring.

This ingredient characteristic has probably done much for its popularity because purported benefit in skin care products is generally preferred over actual.

The ingredient's behaviour also has great affinity with the time-poor mindset that besets many skin care users seeking rapid results because it is capable of quickly stripping oil and moisture.

Upon commencing use of shampoos not containing sodium laureth sulphate, or low-foaming shampoos, a few individuals have commented that they miss the cascading sound of heavy suds hitting the shower floor, but mostly they express a kind of liberation at having cleansed their scalps deeply for the first time.

This low or no-foaming method of cleansing the scalp improves the hair's volume by desincrusting the follicles of the same sebum and dead cells commonplace shampoos help fix in place to produce long-lasting lift without the use of additional styling products.

Interestingly, the shrinking number of non-American owned French and Italian skin care manufacturers (DIBI, OLOS) of which we have catalogued so far do not make such prominent use of sodium laureth sulphate, suggesting their native users do not welcome or require its cleansing character.

If there's time to siesta, there's likely to be time enough to cleanse thoroughly without sodium laureth sulphate!

Sound Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate Usage

Being surfactants common to dishwashing detergent, sodium laureth sulphate cleansers may have a tendency to excessively remove ceramides, cholesterol and essential fatty acids from the epidermis — the prime constituents required for healthy skin barrier function.

The same tendencies can make sodium laureth sulphate cleansers with near-neutral (or ideally slightly acidic pH) a potentially good fit for oily skin on the face and body, although not if that oiliness is the rebound effect of harsh cleansing.

Individuals with skin that is dry-prone to any degree, diets substantially lacking in essential fatty acids, and especially those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs should generally avoid cleansers containing sodium laureth sulphate.

Sodium laureth sulphate's alkaline nature also means it will remain on the skin unless it is rinsed very thoroughly — rinse at least 10 times at the basin to ensure it's removed.

If possible, and if you have the time, use a shampoo that doesn't contain sodium laureth sulphate, such as MD Rx Anti-Inflammatory Scalp Decongesting Cleanser, or re-purpose a suitable facial cleansing product as a shampoo.

Jan Marini C-ESTA Cleansing Gel and Jan Marini Bioclean have been used to relieve an itchy scalp and scalp acne, and, in an off-off-label use of Bioclean, Maltese dermatitis.

A small number of skin care products other than cleansers contain sodium laureth sulphate to assist penetration and/or cosmetically elegant wear.

Given that this ingredient is used to provoke irritation in tests designed to asses the anti-inflammatory properties of other ingredients, such products are not generally recommended — there are always better alternatives.

Foaming Cleansers Not Containing Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate

Effective cleansers that still produce foam (without the use of sodium laureth sulphate) are few and require some modifications to use to ensure they function as intended.

Jan Marini Bioclean is one option that makes use of natural saponins derived from Yucca.

Skinceuticals Foaming Cleanser is another alternative.

DermaVeen Soap Free Wash has a near-perfect pH of 5.5 and includes sodium laureth sulphate, but also contains a betaine cleanser and colloidal oatmeal (refer betaglucans) to help mitigate irritation.

Such products are generally intended for skin prone to sensitivity, but are superior and beneficial outside of that concern.

Treating Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate Problems

Avoid the use of sodium laureth sulphate by using a more appropriate facial cleanser.

Nymphae alba flower extract (available in Skinceuticals Epidermal Repair) may be used for short periods of time to treat itching, stinging and erythema caused by sodium laureth sulphate.

Gernetic Cells-Life, Synchro and Skinceuticals Skin Firming Cream greatly increase skin's resistance against irritation from facial cleansers of all descriptions and may be used on a permanent basis.

Further External Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate Information

Sodium Laureth Sulfate in Shampoo Causes Cancer — About.Com Urban Legends.

Hidden Dangers in Cosmetics by Matthew Probert from Continuum Magazine @

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate by Paula Begoun.

Sodium Laureth Sulfate SLS/SLES @ "Chemical Free Skin Care Campaign."

The Case Against Sodium Laureth Sulfate by Narelle Chenery, member of the Australian Society of Cosmetic Chemists.

Discussion of Sodium Lauryl Sulphate @ Vegetarian and Vegan Society of Queensland Forum.

Skin Care Products Containing Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate and Further Sodium Laureth Sulfate/Sulphate Notes

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