Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) vs. Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate: What’s The Difference?

I’ll admit it. When I’ve been looking at the ingredients list on my cleansing products seeking to see if it has Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or it’s derivative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) I assumed that Sodium Laurel Sulfoacetate was the same thing. I did not learn the difference until I tried out a body wash that stated it was sulfate-free but had the ingredient Sodium Laurel Sulfoacetate in it. So what’s the difference? To put it bluntly, they’re both foaming agents but Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is harmful for you and Sodium Laurel Sulfoacetate is not harmful. Here is a summary of their attributes with the sources listed at the end.

CRITERIA SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS) SODIUM LAURYL SULFOACETATE
What is it? A harsh detergent and surfactant (read what a surfactant is here) A mild and safe surfactant derived from plants
What’s its purpose? It is a foaming agent to create bubbles and help remove dirt from the skin’s surface. It is a foaming agent to create bubbles and help remove dirt from the skin’s surface.
Where does it come from? It is produced in labs by combining lauryl alcohol (from petroleum or coconut oil) with sulfur trioxide gas or chlorosulfuric acid It is derived from coconut and palm oils.
Is it safe? No, it causes many skin irritations and tends to dry out skin. It can cause breakage on the skin’s surface due to its small size allowing bacteria to seep into the dermis (lower layer of skin by the bloodstream). It has been linked to cancer but some people debate this. Because it is much more mild it is relatively safe to use on any skin type, including sensitive skin. They cannot penetrate the skin like SLS as they are too big and therefore do not cause skin irritation and penetration the way SLS does.
Why is it still used? This is a cheap ingredient to cause products to foam. Even though SLS is an irritant, it is supposed to only be applied to the skin for a short enough amount of time to not cause the skin to react. Those with dry and/or sensitive skin though tend to react to SLS despite its short contact with the skin. It is a safer yet still effective alternative to SLS. Products that use this instead of SLS tend to be made with the intent to be less harmful to the skin.

Sources:
Did you say Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate?
Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate from Coconut Safer Than Regular SLS?
Sodium dodecyl sulfate
What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate?

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2 Comments

  1. Hi, can you tell me where you gathered the information for the chart? I see this information all over the internet and I’m confused because it seems to be taken from blogs and more blogs.

    • Hi Melissa. All the information in the table was obtained by the sources I listed in the blog post. I summarized my findings from them.

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