Why is our Shampoo and Body Wash sulfate free?

By Dr. Eddie Valenzuela

Many brands tout sulfate free as a great thing. How did society come to love sulfate-free products, and why should you should look for a sulfate free body wash and shampoo? Dr. Eddie Valenzuela and Happy Cappy did the research and concluded that Sulfates were not the best ingredients for our customers and all Happy Cappy shampoo and body wash products are sulfate free.

What do you mean by sulfate?

Shampoos and body washes are associated with lather. The two most common chemicals that make products lather are the surfactants sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). What is a surfactant? A surfactant is a, “substance such as a detergent that, when added to a liquid, reduces its surface tension, thereby increasing its spreading and wetting properties [1].” In addition to finding these chemicals in shampoo you can also find them in toothpastes and mouth rinses. SLS gets used more than SLES because it is cheaper to produce [2].

Is SLS or SLES dangerous?

The short answer is no. But it is interesting to see the origin of the negative commentary that abounds on the internet.

Dermatologist Neil Sadick, in an Allure article, points out concisely that in the 1970s, some shampoos contained an ingredient called ethanolamine lauryl sulfates. When used in conjunction with other chemicals a cancer causing chemical called nitrosamines was released [3]. More specifics on nitrosamines and their effects on the body can be found on safecosmetics.org [4]. The dermatologist goes on to say, that in that era manufacturers took corrective action and removed that chemical but ever since, sulfates became associated with health risks [3].

To be clear ethanolamine lauryl sulfates is not the same chemical as similar sounding sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. Snopes.com thinks some people may have confused these similar sounding non-cancer causing lathering ingredients with a chemical no longer found in cosmetics [2].

Dr. Sadick correctly concludes,“The FDA, European Union, and Health Canada have all reached a consensus that [the sulfates currently in shampoos] are safe when used as intended [3].”

If the sulfates used in modern cosmetics do not cause health risks like cancer are there other reasons sulfate free moisturizing shampoo is recommended?

If you read the 2010 New York Times article, “Sulfate-Free Products Have Some in a Lather,” on sulfate free shampoo you would not be so sure. The author gathered opinions from producers of famous sulfate free hair products, sulfate free interest groups, and area hair stylists.

In summary, most were in agreement that sulfate free products were better for people with certain hair types like curly hair, “gentler on the hair fiber” said one person, and some thought being sulfate free was better for color treated hair.

One contrarian hair stylist did not think that sulfates dried hair and one cosmetic chemist thought sulfate had no effect on color treated hair. Some had concerns that a sulfate free shampoo would not lather as well as one containing sulfates. And finally, one manufacturing executive commented, “Sulfates are associated with harshness,” and because of this their company created a sulfate free shampoo that may have less lather but a cleansing that feels “a little bit more gentle [5].”

However times are a changin’.

10 year later: Sulfate Free, Lather, the Environment and Skin & Eye Irritation

We agree, sulfate free is less harsh! And while lather may have been a concern 10 years ago, the sulfate free products being used now are as high-foaming or better than the old products.

Sulfate free it is also a greener choice than SLS or SLES. Why greener? Many sulfate free products are made without solvents which are harsh on the environment and some can be produced without any toxic by-products. Some companies use starting materials that come from from bio-renewable or mineral sources, resulting in a 100% biobased product [6].

Why use a sulfate free body wash? Alas products, like SLS, and SLES are drying, they strip away oils from skin. There is a reason SLS is found in dishwasher detergent. Sulfate free products are less irritating to the skin compared to sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). One sulfate free producer was able to quantify that their product was less irritating by conducting a 14 Day Cumulative Skin Irritation study.

Quick Explainer on what a 14 Day Cumulative Skin Irritation study does:

“The objective of this kind of study is to determine the ability of the study material to cause irritation to the skin of humans under controlled patch test conditions. Substances that come into contact with human skin need to be evaluated for their propensity to irritate and/or sensitize. This testing is a modified primary irritancy patch test that can detect weak irritants that require multiple applications to cause a skin reaction [7].”

The score from test conducted is recorded as, “Mean Irritancy Score.” For reference distilled water had a score of 6, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (sulfate free surfactant) a score of 20, and sodium lauryl sulfate a score of 32 [8].

People with sensitive skin conditions stand to benefit from using a product that irritates less. Two common chronically irritated skin conditions are Eczema and Seborrheic Dermatitis. Because of the properties of these cleaning molecules we think using a sulfate free shampoo for eczema is the way to go. One should also consider the use of a sulfate free shampoo for seborrheic dermatitis.

Sulfate Free products are also less irritating to the eyes than SLS or SLES. For this reason we advocate the use of sulfate free shampoo for kids.

Happy Cappy Shampoo products are Sulfate Free

For all these reasons Happy Cappy Shampoos are proud to be Sulfate Free. The sulfate free surfactants that are found in our products are: Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, and Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate.

References:

  1. Encylopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/surfactant . Accessed 7 April 2020
  2. Mikkelson, David. “Does Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in Shampoo Pose a Cancer Risk?” Snopes. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/shampoo-sham/ Published 11 June 1999. Accessed 7 April 2020.
  3. Sy, Wendy. “14 of the Best Sulfate-Free Shampoos on the Market.” Allure. https://www.allure.com/story/best-sulfate-free-shampoos . Published February 22, 2018. Accessed 7 April 2020.
  4. “ETHANOLAMINE COMPOUNDS (MEA, DEA, TEA AND OTHERS).” CAMPAIGN FOR SAFE COSMETICS. SAFECOSMETICS.ORG http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/ethanolamine-compounds/ . ACCESSED 7 APRIL 2020
  5. Saint Louis, Catherine. “Sulfate-Free Products Have Some in a Lather.” The New York Times. Published 29 September 2010.https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/fashion/30Skin.html . Accessed 7 April 2020.
  6. Courtesy of Colonial Chemical. https://www.colonialchem.com/
  7. “14-Day Cumulative Irritation Patch Test in Subjects With Normal Skin.” ClinicalTrials.gov .https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02309294 . Accessed7 April 2020
  8. Courtesy of Innospec. http://www.innospecinc.com/