Ingredient Spotlight: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Lexin Ann Morales     

When it comes to personal care products, there are numerous ingredients that play a crucial role in their formulation, one such ingredient is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).

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Photo: Karolina Grabowska

Known for its cleansing properties, SLS is widely used in various skincare and haircare products. If you're curious about this common ingredient and its functions in personal care, this beginner's guide is here to provide you with all the essential information.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, often abbreviated as SLS, is an anionic surfactant commonly derived from petroleum or coconut oil. It is a highly effective foaming agent and detergent widely used in personal care products, including shampoos, body washes, toothpaste, and facial cleansers. SLS has a long history of use in the cosmetic industry due to its excellent cleansing abilities.

What are the functions of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

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Sodium Lauryl Sulfate serves several functions in personal care products due to its unique properties. Let's explore some of its primary functions:


SLS is a powerful cleanser and degreaser. It has the ability to remove dirt, oil, and impurities from the skin and hair by breaking down surface tension and lifting away unwanted substances. Its foaming action helps create a rich lather, giving a satisfying and thorough cleansing experience.


As an emulsifier, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate helps to blend oil and water-based ingredients in personal care formulations. It aids in stabilizing and dispersing ingredients, ensuring a uniform distribution throughout the product. This property helps prevent separation and maintains a consistent texture.


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate acts as a surfactant, reducing the surface tension of liquids. This property enables it to spread easily and evenly over the skin and hair, allowing other ingredients to penetrate and provide their intended benefits effectively.

Foaming agent

SLS is widely known for its exceptional foaming properties. It creates abundant foam and lather, which many individuals associate with effective cleansing. The luxurious foam generated by SLS-containing products gives a sense of thorough cleaning, contributing to a satisfying user experience.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in personal care: benefits

Now, let's delve into the benefits of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in personal care products. Here are some key advantages of incorporating SLS into your skincare and haircare routine:

Efficient cleansing

The primary benefit of SLS is its exceptional cleansing power. It effectively removes dirt, excess oil, and impurities, leaving the skin and hair feeling clean and refreshed.

Foaming experience

SLS generates abundant foam and lather, enhancing the sensory experience of using personal care products. The rich foam helps distribute the product evenly, ensuring thorough cleansing and promoting a luxurious feel during use.


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is compatible with a wide range of other ingredients commonly used in personal care formulations. This versatility allows it to be incorporated into various product types, providing efficient cleansing across different product categories.


SLS is an economical ingredient, which makes it a popular choice for many personal care manufacturers. Its cost-effectiveness allows products containing SLS to be accessible and affordable for a wide range of consumers.

While Sodium Lauryl Sulfate offers effective cleansing and contributes to a luxurious foaming experience, it is important to note that some individuals may experience skin dryness or irritation when using products containing high concentrations of SLS. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to dryness, it may be worth considering alternatives or products with lower concentrations of SLS.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate for personal care: Benefits

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Photo: Karolina Grabowska

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a common ingredient found in many personal care products, including shampoos, body washes, cleansers, and toothpaste. Here are some of its benefits:

Cleansing properties

SLS is a surfactant, which means it has strong cleansing properties. It helps to remove dirt, oil, and impurities from the skin's surface, making it effective for cleansing products.

Foaming action

SLS is responsible for the foaming action in many skincare products. The foaming sensation can give a perception of thorough cleaning, but some people might find it too harsh or drying, especially for those with sensitive or dry skin.

Oil control

Due to its ability to remove excess oil from the skin, SLS can be helpful for people with oily skin as it may help in managing sebum levels.

However, it's important to be aware of potential drawbacks and considerations:

Skin irritation

One of the main concerns with SLS is that it can cause skin irritation and dryness, particularly for individuals with sensitive or easily irritated skin. It can strip the skin of its natural oils and disrupt the skin's barrier function.

Drying effect

SLS can be overly drying, leading to skin dehydration and potential long-term skin issues if used excessively.

Allergic reactions

Some people may be allergic to SLS, experiencing redness, itching, or even hives upon exposure.

The primary markets for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

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Source: Gravel

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a fast growing ingredient used in personal care products across multiple countries, with USA, Denmark, and Finland, Spain, and Poland being its major markets.

Discovering the various uses of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in personal care products

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Source: Gravel

The incredible versatility of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate across a wide range of products, delivering remarkable results in each application. From shampoos (4402), nourishing hair products (3976), and paste (3725) to toothpaste (3638). Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is also found in other kinds of products like cream, eye, whitening toothpaste, body products, oils, and foam.

Which brands use Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

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Source: Gravel

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a versatile surfactant, has gained widespread recognition and is utilized by renowned global brands across the world. Some of these prominent brands include Goldwell from France, Colgate from the UK, Wella from France, Head & Shoulders from the UK, Crest from the USA, Oral B from the UK, Garnier from the UK, Marvis from the UK, and Signal from France.

In conclusion, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a widely used ingredient in personal care products due to its exceptional cleansing and foaming properties. It serves as an efficient cleanser, emulsifier, and surfactant, contributing to the overall performance of various skincare and haircare formulations. However, it is essential to be mindful of potential skin dryness or irritation for individuals with sensitive skin. Ultimately, the inclusion of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in personal care products depends on personal preferences and individual skin needs.

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