Subtle Green

My Account

Chemicals to avoid - Sulphates


Primary function – Detergents that provide foaming action. Found in shower gels, shampoos, shaving foam, toothpaste and cleansers
sulfates in body productsSulphates are partially based on sulphur that is derived from petrolatum or other substances. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) were originally invented as degreasers in industrial strength detergents to clean floors and have since been incorporated into personal care products. Many shampoos (more than 50%) contain sulfates. Sulfates - though not classified as allergens by FDA, Health Canada or the EU – are irritants that cause itchiness, dryness or redness as captured in a Bristol university study. People suffering from eczema or having sensitive skin would be quick to feel the negative effects of sulfates on skin. Although Sodium Lauryl sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are not known carcinogens, they may cause mutations that then lead to cancer. According to Ovarian Cancers Survivors, sulfates are best avoided due to their toxicity. A by-product of SLS synthesis even causes hormone disruption. Despite the growing concern about sulfates, they are cheap and give many manufacturers an economical way to mass produce cleansing products. When buying cleansers, body washes, shampoos and other foaming products look for SLS and SLES in the ingredient list to know whether they are incorporating sulfates.

Quick Summary (Sulphates)
Be on the lookout for:
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES)
What makes them controversial:
Skin irritant,
Hormone disruption,
Can exacerbate eczema and dry/ allergic reactions
Commonly found in:
Cleansing products like shower gels, shampoos, body washes,
Shaving foam, toothpaste and facial cleansers

Find out about more chemicals that can be found in your skin care products