Surfactants|The 101

There is something so satisfying about a frothy foam in a cleanser that just can’t be explained...well it can. Ever wonder what the purpose of a lovely foam is? These are categorized as Surfactants and their role is to break down oils and fats on our skin.

There are 3 types of Surfactants; Lipophilic (oil loving), Hydrophilic (water loving), and Hydrophobic (water hating).

Common Surfactants you will see listed in your personal care products are sulfated detergents.

  • Sodium laurel sulfate

  • Ammonium laureate sulfate

  • Disodium laurel sufosuccinate.

  • Cocamphocarboxyglycinate.

  • Cocoamidopropyl betaine

Surfactants are totally safe as long as they are derived naturally. There are two that I would recommending avoiding all together.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is used for its corrosive properties and its ability to break down grease. These strip lipids from our skin, drying it out and breaking down the cellular membrane.

Then, I would stay clear from Sodium Laureth Sulfate. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) is a cheap readily available ingredient that label regulations allow companies to say its derived from coconut. Well actually, the SLES manufacturing process involves a chemical reaction, where the end product once a coconut based structure, becomes part vegetable, part petroleum. The process involved using ethylene oxide, which has been known to cause both kidney and liver damage.  While might be a minuscule amount, I want to err on the safe side.

Natural Surfactants I would categorize as safe even for sensitive skin.

Coco Betaine (Cocamidopropyl Betaine), Polyglucose (Decyl Glucoside), SCI Granules (Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate), and SLSA (Sodium Lauryl Sulphoacetate) are all safe natural surfactants. Look for these on the ingredient lists of your personal care items.

What formula questions do you have?