is ammonium laureth sulfate dangerous

Is Ammonium Laureth Sulfate in skincare dangerous?

You’ll usually find it on all the to-avoid lists, but what did it do to deserve a spot there? Is it as dangerous as people claim or are people making a fuss about nothing again?

Let’s investigate:

What Is Ammonium Laureth Sulfate?

Scientific definition: Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is the ammonium salt of sulfated ethoxylated lauryl alcohol.

Plain English: A cleansing agent derived from coconut. The type used in skincare and haircare products is almost always synthetically made in a lab.

You’ll find it mostly in cleansing products like cleansers, shower gels, shampoos, etc.

P.S. Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is a large molecule, so it can’t penetrate skin.

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What Does Ammonium Laureth Sulfate Do In Skincare And Haircare Products?

Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is a cleansing agent.

(P.S. If it has Laureth Sulfate or Lauryl Sulfate in the name, it’s almost always a cleansing agent).

Ever tried washing a greasy pan with water alone? It won’t do. The grease stubbornly sticks to the pan, no matter how much you scrub it. Why?

Oil and water don’t mix. Just pour some oil into a glass of water and you’ll see it neatly stays on top. It doesn’t melt into the water at all.

Excess sebum is essentially oil. Your skincare and makeup products contain oil. You need to cleanse them off your face (and the rest of your body). But how?!

Enter surfactants, like Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. It helps water mix with oil and dirt, so they can easily be rinsed away. No harsh scrubbing. No pain. Just clean skin (and hair). Phew!

Does Ammonium Laureth Sulfate Has Any Side Effects?

Here’s the deal: all surfactants have the potential to be drying. They have to be. They literally remove oils and dirt from your skin. If they were too gentle, they wouldn’t be able to take off anything!

FYI, this is why it’s SO hard to find a sulfate-free shampoo that actually cleans oily hair. They’re too gentle and can’t remove anything unless you use the whole bottle (which totally defeats the purpose).

But you don’t want to use anything that’s even a little more drying than it needs to be. As a rule of thumb, surfactants with laurYL in the name ARE too harsh. Avoid them.

But what about those that have laurETH in the name, like Ammonium Laureth Sulfate? They’re in the perfect spot. They’re powerful enough to cleanse skin AND gentle enough not to dry it out and irritate it. Win win.

Sure, if you have very sensitive skin, there’s always the potential Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is too drying for you. But for 90% of people, it’s totally safe.

P.S. Ammonium Laureth Sulfate makes a lot of foam, too!

Where Can You Find Ammonium Laureth Sulfate?

  • Neostrata Mandelic Clarifying Cleanser ($32.00): Available at Dermstore
  • Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser ($7.99): Available at Ulta
  • Paula’s Choice All Over Hair Shampoo & Body Wash ($17.00): Available at Paula’s Choice

The Bottom Line

If you want very sensitive skin that gets irritated easily, you may want to avoid Ammonium Laureth Sulfate in skincare and haircare products. It may be a bit too drying for it. For everyone else, this is a gentle surfactant that cleanses skin and hair without irritation.

What’s your take on Ammonium Laureth Sulfate? Share your thoughts in the comments below.