Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a synthetic surfactant commonly used in cosmetics, personal care products, and household cleaning products. SLS is mainly used as a surfactant, responsible for producing lather in products like shampoos, soaps, and toothpaste. SLS is also used as an emulsifier; it helps to disperse and blend ingredients such as oil and water. This property is particularly valuable in skincare, makeup, and within other formulas that require a smooth texture.
One of the advantages of SLS in cosmetics is its effective cleansing capacity. It helps remove oil, dirt, and impurities. The foaming action of SLS also contributes to the sensory experience during product use, providing a fulfilling lather and a perception of effectual cleansing that many consumers expect and even require from their cleansing products.
One concern with SLS, though, is its potential to cause skin irritation or dryness, especially in individuals with sensitive or already-dry skin. SLS has been known to strip the natural oils from the skin and upset the skin barrier.
A major issue with SLS is its potential to form nitrosamines, potentially carcinogenic compounds. The development of nitrosamines is reliant on specific interacting conditions, though, such as pH and temperature, and manufacturers take (or need to take!) measures to curtail this risk by using nitrosamine-free ingredients or ensuring proper formulation ratios and methodologies.
Plant-based surfactants from coconut oil, sugar, or amino acids can offer cleansing and lather properties that at least somewhat parallel the effect of SLS. These natural counterparts are often milder on the skin and have a lower likeliness for irritation and skin reaction compared to SLS.
Additionally, certain extracts and oils, such as aloe or lavender can offer calming and hydrating benefits in cosmetic formulations, diminishing the need for tough surfactants like SLS. Heal Yes! does NOT use SLS in any formulas.