My cheat sheet on Sulfates…

This is my cheat sheet on sulfates..the good, the bad, the ugly and the ones that can be used in moderation.  I always get confused, so this blog post will be updated as I find out more sulfates or new information.  If you have any good insights as well, please comment below!  Yes, I do know that I am quoting sources, but the thing is that I just keep googling for the same info, over and over and over again ~ so I decided to put them into one blog post instead!!


Sodium Lauryl Sufate

Versatile ingredient composed of several non-volatile alcohols. Functions primarily as a surfactant but can also be used as a skin-conditioning agent, emulsifier, and solvent. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is one of the most irritating cleansing agents used in skin-care products. In fact, it’s considered a standard comparison substance for measuring skin irritancy of other ingredients. Thus in scientific studies, when they want to establish whether or not an ingredient is problematic for skin, they compare its effect to the results of SLS. In amounts of 2% to 5% it can cause allergic or sensitizing reactions in lots of people (Sources: European Journal of Dermatology, September-October 2001, pages 416–419; American Journal of Contact Dermatitis, March 2001, pages 28–32). But irritancy is not the same as the other dire, erroneous warnings floating around the Web about this ingredient! Read on to learn more about the myths surrounding this detergent cleansing agent. (source)


  • Sodum Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS)
  • Sodium Myreth Sulfate
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate

Sodum Laureth Sulfate ~ Can be derived from coconut; it is used primarily as a detergent cleansing agent. It is considered gentle and effective as typically used to formulate cosmetic products (most typically facial or body cleansers and shampoos). Despite the name similarity, sodium laureth sulfate is NOT the same as sodium lauryl sulfate. It is a milder cleansing agent due to a higher amount and different chemical structure of the fatty alcohols that required to manufacture this cleansing agent. The safety of sodium laureth sulfate has been reviewed by numerous industry experts and deemed safe as used (source)

Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) ~ A surfactant derived from coconut oil.   SCS is a mild cleanser and conditioner that also boosts foam and bubbles.  Compared to commonly used alternatives (like sodium lauryl sulfate), sodium coco sulfate is very mild, non-irritating, and not suspected to be potentially toxic or harmful to the environment.  Many products these days tout “sulfate-free” formulas leading consumers to believe sulfates are bad. But sulfates encompass a wide range of very different chemicals with very different chemical properties. For example, iron sulfate is a common form of iron used in supplements for people and soil for plants. Magnesium sulfate (aka “Epsom salts”) are used in therapeutic baths. And there are even organisms found near deep-sea thermal vents that use naturally occurring sulfates for energy in place of sunlight. Clearly, not all sulfates are bad.  It’s milder, safer, doesn’t have any toxic contaminants, and is made from coconut oil and not petroleum. (source)

Detergent cleansing agent similar to sodium laureth sulfate or ammonium laureth sulfate. It is used most often in shampoos and sometimes in facial or body cleansers. Along with many other cleansing agent, sodium myreth sulfate has been thoroughly evaluated and deemed safe as used in the amounts commonly used in cosmetic products. This cleansing agent is not known to be milder or safer for hair than lots of other cleansing agents.  (source)

Sodium Myreth Sulfate ~ is the sodium salt of sulfated, ethoxylated myristyl alcohol which is used as a surfactant and cleansing agent in cosmetics at concentrations ranging from > 1.0–5.0% to > 50.0%. A formulation containing 7.0% Sodium Myreth Sulfate was shown to be an ocular irritant in experimental animals and in some human test subjects. These irritant effects were similar to those previously reported for the chemically similar compound Sodium Laureth Sulfate which was shown to be safe for use in cosmetics. The report summarizes the safety test data on Sodium Laureth Sulfate. Based upon the combined data cited in the report on both cosmetic ingredients, it is concluded that Sodium Myreth Sulfate is safe as a cosmetic ingredient in the present practices of use and concentration.   (source)

Behentrimonium Methosulfate  (BTMS/Behenyl Trimethyl Ammonium Methosulfate/Docosyltrimethylammonium Methyl Sulphate) ~ Behetrimorium methosulfate is basically considered to be the most promising hair detangling ingredient ever; it is also considered to not only be effective but also safe and mild to use. Behetrimorium methosulfate is also known as BTMS, Behenyl Trimethyl Ammonium Methosulfate and Docosyltrimethylammonium Methyl Sulphate. It is synthetically created from modified rapeseed oil. It may be seen as off-white pastille shaped with a faint odor when in room temperature. It is insoluble in water but dispersible in both water and oil.  (source)

The blend consisting of Behentrimonium methosulfate (&) Cetearyl alcohol (or BTMS) is considered the mildest conditioning hair-detangling ingredient available today. This sophisticated ingredient is a hair thickener that unlike most, does not cause build-up on the hair. This is in part due to the fact that it does not coat, but actually penetrates the hair shaft. Because it is so extremely gentle, it is recommended for use in leave-on baby products. This ingredient is not the same as behentrimonium chloride, which is not nearly as mild or gentle. (source)

Sulfosuccinates/disodium laureth sulfosuccinate ~ Sulfosuccinates are generally sodium salts of alkyl esters of sulfosuccinic acid that are a result of condensation of maleic anhydride with a fatty alcohol, followed by sulfonation with sodium bisulfite (NaHSO3). In other words, they are sulfonated like the other sulfates and sulfonates .. They are considered very mild, with good foaming and detergent properties. Sulfosuccinates are recommended for oily hair as they can remove oil and sebum gently without stripping hair too much, but all hair and skin types can use them without fear of harshness. (source)

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate ~ Can be derived from coconut; used primarily as a detergent cleansing agent and is considered gentle and effective.  (source)

Ammonium Laureth Sulfate~ is the ammonium salt of sulfated ethoxylated lauryl alcohol. It can be derived from coconut. Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is an effective cleansing agent that remove oils and dirt from hair and skin. It produces a lot of foam and softens the skin.  Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is considered to be gentle. However, like all surfactants, in can cause irritation to people with sensitive skin.  (source)


[ all descriptions in italics are properly sourced.  Click on the “source” link to read the full document ]

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