What Are Sulfates? Are They Hiding In Your Face Wash?

By Valeria D.

You'll mostly find them in your cleaning and personal care products - shampoo, toothpaste, body washes and facial cleansers.

What those sulfate compounds are causing to your skin and health?

Is it safe to use them?

Here is what you need to know about sulfates. ...


What are Sulfates?

Sulfates are aggressive detergents responsible for the foaming lather that we often associate with being clean.

The most common sulfates are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).

Back in the 1930's those compounds were introduced as a revolution in the cosmetic industry.

Before that people relied on simple and may be not so harmful soaps and cleansing products.

Nowadays they are one of the most common chemicals in our households and we begin understand that they have impact on our health. 

How Sulfates Work

How Sulfates Work - Face Wash

What is good about them? - Well, they are good in what they are used for - cleaning.

They can lift the oily dirt and grime off of our skin and hair, and rinse everything down the drain. 

And when I say they are good in cleaning, I mean they are REALLY good in cleaning! 

Nice, huh?

Not really!

Because they are so effective, sulfates are also used in the manufacturing and construction industries to clean the grease from heavy machinery.

The problem? 

Imagine applying those strong substances on your face (and scalp).

They will strip all the the protective oils from your skin.  

Sulfate-free? Check again!

Sulfates are damaging my skin! Oh shit!

Although most cosmetic products rely on sulfates to get the desired foaming effect, I am happy to see more and more brands stating their products are 'sulfate-fee' or 'non-sulfate'.


Some brands rely on chemicals that are only an atom or two away from a true sulfate.

This means that the product can be called 'sulfate-free' even though it contains substances close to the sulfates' nature - the so called sul-fakes.

Those are:

❌ Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate
❌ Sodium Lauroyl Isoethionate
❌ Sodium Lauroyl Taurate
❌ Sodium Cocoyl Isoethionat
❌ Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isoethionate
❌ Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate
❌ Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate

Make good choices

Keep an eye on the ingredients - sulfates in skin care products

You know how important is to read the ingredients label of the food you buy and check for palm oil, sugar, GMO and other harmful compounds.

One of the main ways your body absorbs nutrients (other than eating) is through the skin. 

Therefore, you should be very strict when buying your personal care products - bar soaps, body washes and cleansers.

Because your skin is your largest organ, it allows you to absorb vitamins and minerals.

But, unfortunately, it also absorbs harmful chemicals we put on it.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to skin care, sometimes less is more. So less foam could be more benefits (and less health damage).

Keep an eye on the ingredients and carefully choose your face wash (and not only).

Or even better - make your own.

Once I post my DIY face wash recipe I will be linking it here 🙂

Meanwhile, check my post about beauty hacks you can DIY in your kitchen.

Thank you for reading my blog. Hope this post was helpful!

And hope to hear from you in the comments - What is your opinion on the matter?

Stay tuned and take skin care 🙂

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