What is it that makes my soap all sudsy, and foamy? How come some conditioners don’t foam? Is foaming necessarily a bad thing, or is it a good thing though?
If you have ever wondered any of this, then you are probably curious about sulphates
You see, Sulphates are what makes practically all the soaps in the world foam, whether they are for laundry, hair, or skin.
Are you now wondering wether this foaming agent called Sulphate is safe?
Okay, let’s do some research and find out!
The Ugly Truth about Sulphates in Skin-Care
To be completely honest (and we don’t really lie to each-other here, do we?), I only wondered about sulphates myself when I noticed that Bella Terra Cosmetics maintains sulphate free soaps, and skin-care products. So usually as a Type-A personality, I start wondering if things that are not sulphate free are bad for me.
Are these Sulphates/Sulfates as common as you say?
Sulfate compounds, which we normally just call sulfates/sulphates are found in many products like shampoo, toothpaste, shaving foam, body washes and facial cleansers.
Here’s where it gets interesting, because in facial cleansers especially; they function as surfactants: water- and oil-soluble compounds that, when combined with water, foam and emulsify (make soluble) greasy substances According to a chemist and product consultant in Laval, Quebec, named Yves Lanctôt; “Sulfates are synthetic ingredients partially based on sulfur, which is derived from petrolatum or other sources.”
Before you have a mini freak out session, due to our mutual abhorrence of all things petroleum related, please note that sulfates are not just petrolatum-derived. The largest part of the molecule comes from lauryl alcohol, which is derived from coconut oil or other plants.
To make sulfates, lauryl alcohol is reacted with sulfuric acid. Sulfur can be found naturally on earth, but for manufacturing it’s generally produced using petrolatum, thankfully. I mean, imagine all of that coconut oil wasted on industrial matters. Scientists are only thinking about us, Beauties!
If My Products’ Ingredients Don’t Say “Sulphate” Are They Sulfate Free?
Generally speaking, a product is only sulphate free if it is clearly stated on the packaging, otherwise, you are taking a chance just like rest of us.
So let’s focus on facial care for a second then: Did you know that there are literally hundreds of sulfates out there available to us, but sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are the ones most commonly used in personal care products? Yeah!
According to Michelle Sparrock, who is the executive vice president of a beauty brand from Canada called Live Clean, the popularity of these above-mentioned sulfates is largely due to the fact that they are high foaming, and so you don’t have to use very much.
She estimates that more than 90 percent of shampoos and body washes contain SLS or SLES.
That’s a large percentage if you ask me, so that’s probably why an already exceptional brand like Bella Terra Cosmetics would feel the need to exclude such an ingredient.
Just another fabulous reason for people who are believers to get healthy skin. And of-course this makes them totally different to many other companies out there on the market
All Sulphates Do Is Foam? Is That A Bad Thing?
That is the questions isn’t it?
Well, Health Canada, the European Union and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA); consider SLS and SLES to be safe ingredients, as does practically anyone who really makes any key decisions in the cosmetic industry.
So Sulfates Just Make Me Clean?
Well Lanctôt says that while SLS and SLES are not sensitizers —molecules that cause allergic reactions— they are irritants, and in some people can temporarily aggravate the skin, causing redness, dryness and itching.
Well damn! What else can happen?
“SLES is not as good a detergent as SLS, but it’s a lot milder; SLS is more irritating,” Yves Lanctôt says.
However, a by-product of SLES—the compound 1,4-dioxane—“is a carcinogen,” says Marilyn Patterson. She’s a cosmetic chemist and owner of Natural Cosmetic Solutions Inc. She continues to explain that: “Manufacturers try to clean it out, but they can only do it to a certain degree.”
Lanctôt estimates (so the number could be greater) that for every 10 million grams of SLES manufactured, a scant 10 grams of 1,4-dioxane are produced. “And that’s the raw material,” he says. “So when you put it in shampoo, it’s further diluted.”
Can Sulfates Actually Cause Cancer, For Real?
Health Canada assessed 1,4-dioxane in 2009 and found that adults’ exposure to it through personal care products is thousands of times lower than the levels that could affect our health.It’s not because people are not washing their hair as much, or any silly thing like that, but it truly is diluted by the time it makes its way into our cosmetics, so you can really take a chill pill about that.
Children’s exposure levels were even lower. Moreover, adds Ashley Lemire, a spokesperson for Health Canada, the claim that sulfates cause cancer is “a known myth” and the miniscule amounts that are in shampoo have been proven not to cause cancer.
Even so, for some companies, going sulfate-free is about sustainability, since petrolatum is a non-renewable resource, and we all mutually abhor it!
But Ecocert, an international organization with an office in Canada that offers natural and organic certification of eco-friendly products, does approve the use of some sulfates—including SLS and SLES—since they are biodegradable and have low eco-toxicity, meaning they don’t harm water or plant life.
Bleurgh! Give me my Bella Terra Mineral Cosmetics, which is Sulfate Free, and let’s just call it a wrap! At least someone out there considered all there is to be considered, posturing aside, and decided to exclude the cumbersome product for all our good!
If you have any questions, let me know at: thatbeautyword(at)gmail(dot)com and maybe the answer to your question will serve as inspiration for my next post!
Bye for now.
- Knowing your ingredients (thecaribbeancurly.wordpress.com)
- The Omnipresent SLS in Beauty Products – A Friend or an Enemy? (thenailartandbeautydiaries.wordpress.com)