Why do Sulphates have a bad rap and should you go SLS free?
With the ever increasing rise of consumer awareness, the amount of “free from” [insert a buzzword] beauty products have been flooding the market. today, let’s talk Sulphates.
There are no two ways about it – Sulphates have a bad rap!
Two of the main cleansing agents are probably in 99% of your shampoos, body washes, face cleansers, toothpaste as well as dishwashing detergent, bathroom cleanser and even in car shampoo’s – Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES).
Sulphates are used in beauty products as cleansers; doing a great job in the process. In fact, a little too good. They were created to dissolve grease and dirt – hence being efficient at cleaning your dishes, bathroom and cars – This means that they are strong enough to remove your sebum (natural oil which protects your skin from pollutants and also prevents moisture loss, in case you’ve forgotten my first skincare lesson), wash out your hair colour or dry out your mouth. Sulphates are proven to cause irritation, dryness and even sensitivity. At the very least, after using them your skin may feel tighter.
Upsetting the moisture balance of your skin isn’t the worst thing you can do. Sulphates produce toxic bi-products which have been considered to be a type of human carcinogen, even though their use has never been proven to cause cancer.
They are also in a wide variety of toothpastes and are responsible for that dry after feel, ulcers and even bad breath. Sulphates do have a taste, so artificial sweeteners are added to toothpaste to neutralise it.
Sulphates are also foaming agents. We’ve all been brought up with the belief that if it doesn’t lather, it doesn’t work. We also love a good bubble bath, don’t we?
Even though I cry a little when my boyfriend comes home with a strawberry-scented Imperial Leather body foam, (he is not allowed to buy anything for our bathroom anymore…except toilet paper), many of my products aren’t sulphate free, despite knowing all the above. Here’s why …
Whenever I’d tried a face wash with sulphates, my skin felt a size too small. I am no longer a spring chicken and dehydration is a big concern. Further drying up my skin is just not gonna’ happen.
In general, I believe that sulphates do not belong on your face. Except maybe when you are REALLY oily. I am talking oily oily. If this is the case there are other alternatives that will remove the excess sebum of your skin. The skin on your face is simply too delicate.
My hair. We have a love/hate relationship. It’s thin and light. When worn down, my hair separates and after few hours I look like a wet cocker spaniel. During humid times it turns into a wavy mess.
I alternate between sulphate and non-sulphate shampoos. As I wash my hair every two/three days, when choosing a shampoo I try not to be as strict. What I’ve noticed is that if I use styling products (or a conditioner full of silicones), sulphate-free shampoo will not do the greatest of jobs, therefore double shampooing is essential.
I normally shower twice a day, so it’s really important to choose products which don’t dry my skin. (the good thing is that I am obsessed with oils and body butters, that I apply religiously). I do not ban sulphates from body washes either. I do like to invest in some better quality washes instead of 3 for £2 promotion at the drugstore.
Having tried out almost every sulphate free body wash/oil/cream on the market, as with haircare I’ve stumbled across a similar problem – the majority of products sometimes fail to do the job.
I have a confession to make. As much as I want to be a responsible skincare blogger, using/experimenting and recommending products that are the best for you and your health, I completely fail in the deodorant category. Yes. I am Ana and I use strong aluminium-full antiperspirants. Boohoo.
To cut a long story short – at the end of a loooooong day – sulphate free body wash occasionally fails to remove the residue of my deodorant.
I normally opt for body washes with SLES as opposed to SLS as it’s the ever so slightly gentler option. Slightly.
Sulphates have been in our beauty products since 1930’s. They are not the most innocent of cleansing agents, but then again some other alternatives aren’t either. I started to get a flaky scalp by using SLS free shampoo and fixed it by swapping for one with sulphates. There is no right or wrong here. If you suffer from dryness and/or irritated skin, try a sulphate free option and see how it works.
Watch this space for some recommendations of sulphate free products which I have tried – and liked.