Sulfate-free, what does this mean?

May 19, 2019

Sulfate-free, what does this mean? - Olavie

A sulfate-free product is one that does not contain sulfates and the most common sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). These two ingredients are found in the vast majority of products whose function is to clean, e.g., shampoo, bath gel, dish soap, etc.

Our body constantly generates lipids and fatty compounds (thanks to the sebaceous glands) that come to the surface of the skin, and form sebum. Once outside, they are mixed with other substances to form the hydrolipidic mantle, which has a protective function. All this – that the body has wisely formed – accumulates, oxidizes, mixes with external dirt, with bacteria, etc. So while protective, excess sebum and oils on the skin should be cleansed off of the skin on a regular basis.

How are oils and dirt cleansed off?

To properly clean the skin, water is not enough. Water is not capable of dissolving any fat. We need surfactants, which disperse dirt and grease in water, allowing them to be rinsed away.

Both SLS and SLES are very powerful anionic surfactants (they eliminate fats very well). They are primarily petroleum derived, low in cost and have a high capacity to foam. Many mass market manufacturers have over time convinced consumers that high foam equals good cleaning, which is not true. In fact, these harsh surfactants are a major cause of contact dermatitis. In addition, they may impact the environment negatively.

Natural alternatives

There are natural alternatives that are less aggressive for the skin. For example, sodium cocoamphoacetate and sodium c14-16 olefinsulfonate are both coconut-derived surfactants that cleanse the skin without entirely stripping it of the protective mantle. That’s why our Hand & Body Wash are formulated with them. In addition, our Chardonnay grape seed antioxidants, which are seven times more potent than Vitamin E, help protect the skin. So whichever cleanser you choose, be sure to read the label and opt for products that contain natural surfactants.

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