Is Ammonium Laureth Sulfate In Skincare Dangerous?

by beautifulwithbrains
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.

Want to know what ingredients you really need to avoid in your skincare products? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Skincare Ingredients To Avoid” cheatsheet:

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.



Story of Mina Jade June 30, 2009 - 8:23 am

Does Ammonium Laureth Sulfate have more cleansing effect than Sodium Laureth Sulfate?

Yours thankfully,
Mina Jade
.-= Story of Mina Jade´s last blog ..Another surprise letter =-.

beautifulwithbrains June 30, 2009 - 2:42 pm

Hi Mina Jade,

I honestly don’t think there is much difference between the two. They are both good cleansing agent, both less harsh than Ammonium lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.

Rachel Oliver March 2, 2015 - 8:10 pm

If you want an SLES free product, use the green people. Because of the risk of contamination, they dont use ammonium laureth sulphate or any SLS in their products. So far, their products have been ace!

Gio March 2, 2015 - 9:08 pm

Rachel, I’m glad you are enjoying their products. I don’t mind SLES in my products, but it’s good to know there are alternatives for those who do.

Story of Mina Jade July 30, 2009 - 6:22 am

Thank you for the information!

Yours thankfully,
.-= Story of Mina Jade´s last blog ..Images, appearances =-.

beautifulwithbrains July 30, 2009 - 5:40 pm

You’re welcome, Mina Jade.

pasta July 5, 2010 - 9:27 am

Does Ammonium Laureth Sulfate less harm than sodium Laureth Sulfate? is it considered to cause cancer?

Best Wishes,

beautifulwithbrains July 5, 2010 - 10:42 am

Pasta, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are both derived from coconut and are considered to be gentle. I’ve never found any studies saying these ingredients can cause cancer so that’s a completely unfounded myth. These ingredients are harmful to humans. What should be avoided instead is Sodium LAURYL Sulfate as it is a strong irritant. Hope this helps.

caryn stockwell July 23, 2013 - 4:57 am

You might want to consider updating your information on this site … much has been revealed in the last 3 years.

Both Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to “foam up”. Both chemicals are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants.

SLS and SLES are esters of Sulphuric acid – SLS is also known as “Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt”, however there are over 150 different names by which it is known – see them here. In fact, SLES is commonly contaminated with dioxane, a known carcinogen.

Although SLES is somewhat less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, it cannot be metabolised by the liver and its effects are therefore much longer-lasting.

A report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation. National Institutes of Health “Household Products Directory” of chemical ingredients lists over 80 products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the ACT report called “highly irritating and dangerous”.

Shampoos are among the most frequently reported products to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms and split and fuzzy hair. The main cause of these problems is sodium lauryl sulfate.

beautifulwithbrains July 27, 2013 - 6:03 am

Caryn, I agree with you that Sodium LAURYL Sulfate is very irritating and should be avoided. But that doesn’t mean that all other surfactants, including Sodium Laureth Sulfate, are bad. I’ve used SLES for years and it has never irritated my skin.

As for the dioxane contamination, as I understand it, this chemical is present in trace amounts that aren’t harmful. It is the dose that makes the poison. Besides, surfactants are mostly used in rinse off products, so it’s unlikely they will penetrate into the skin, but will simply end up down the drain.

Olga January 20, 2014 - 12:54 pm

How about the Ammonium laureth sulphate? Should it be avoided and how does it compare with SLS and SLES? It is used in organic shampoos by Faith in Nature. Many thanks

Gio January 20, 2014 - 9:04 pm

Olga, Ammonium laureth sulphate is gentler than SLS and SLES. SLS should be avoided because it is very drying and irritating, while SLES is gentler (not as much as Ammonium laureth sulphate, though) and safe.

However, gentler also means that it won’t clean your hair as well. If you hair isn’t oily or you don’t use any heavy styling products, then the gentlest surfactants like Ammonium laureth sulphate may work for you. Otherwise, you may be disappointed by their performance.

sean November 10, 2010 - 8:07 am

what is the difference between ammonium LAURYL sulfate and ammonium LAURETH sulfate? Does this difference apply to sodium LAURYL sulfate and sodium LAURETH sulfate?

beautifulwithbrains November 10, 2010 - 10:17 am

Sean, the main difference is that ammonium LAURETH sulfate and sodium LAURETH sulfate are much gentler and hence less likely to cause irritations than ammonium LAURYL sulfate and sodium LAURYL sulfate.

Bunnysarah May 28, 2011 - 2:01 am

Is Laureth-6 bad or you. I’ve been looking for information but I can’t find a direct answer.

beautifulwithbrains May 29, 2011 - 7:51 pm

Bunnysarah, Laureth-6 is not bad for you. I have never heard anything about it being bad. You can check out the website for more info on this ingredient. Hope it helps.

Travis March 23, 2012 - 4:36 pm

my face wash says its a soap free face wash and its ingredient has the second listed product called ammonium lauryl sulfate.What does that mean?

beautifulwithbrains March 23, 2012 - 7:50 pm

Travis, soap free is a term used to imply that the product is gentle and won’t dry out skin. But it will have to contain some form of surfactants cos that’s what cleanses skin and ammonium lauryl sulafte is considered to be a gentle one. Hope this helps.

Travis March 24, 2012 - 8:31 am

Thanks for the quick reply 🙂

beautifulwithbrains March 25, 2012 - 7:23 pm

Travis, you’re welcome. 🙂

Ecopunk July 26, 2012 - 8:20 am

Hi, I’m not sure what you are basing this information on? Here’s the Mercola website which has referenced all the clinical trials that show evidence that all three of these additives are harmful:

It isn’t easy to find products that don’t have any of these so I’m going back to using a hemp soap or when i’m feeling a bit more flush I will be buying some Weleda shower gel because they never use these chemicals.

beautifulwithbrains July 26, 2012 - 10:16 pm

Ecopunk, I take my information from pubmed, a database of scientific studies. Thanks for the link, but honestly that Mercola guy just cannot be taken seriously! He claims that what we put on our skin is more dangerous than what we eat and claims that the sun is good when everyone knows it causes cancer! No serious doctor would ever say anything like that. He takes his information from the Environmental Working Group which is a well-meaning but unreliable organization. Whenever the EWG comes out with a report that something is dangerous, the scientific community refutes these claims as lies, exaggerations and twisted truths. Yet, when Mercola cites the study performed by Dr Green, which was abandoned because the scientist himself didn’t find SLS to be dangerous, he still claims it is toxic! In other words, Mercola twists the findings of these studies to scare consumers into buying his own products.

To assess the safety of an ingredient you have to take into consideration how it used and in what concentration. First of all, the purpose of the skin is to keep stuff out of the body, so most of the ingredients in cosmetics can’t penetrate inside it. They just sit on the surface of the skin or at the very least penetrate into the top layers, which are made of dead skin cells. Very few ingredients can get into the blood stream and these are very strictly regulated. SLS and other surfactants are usually used in rinse-off products so they are just rinsed away. They may cause irritation to those with sensitive skin while they are in contact with the skin, but that’s all.

Secondly, SLS and similar ingredients are used only in small concentrations in cosmetics and usually with substances that have the ability to reduce their harshness. I could go on because there are just so many things that are wrong with that article but I’ll stop here. in short, surfactants can cause irritations, but that’s it. They don’t cause cancer or other terrible illnesses, so, unless your skin is very sensitive, you can use them safely.

Opal July 12, 2015 - 3:59 pm

So sorry you feel that Dr. Mercola’s assertions regarding SLS, SLES, ALS & ALES skin exposure hold no validity. The medical community routinely mentions that many people are at a lower risk to exposure of toxins through the digestive system, just as Dr. Mercola says, due to the enzymatic, acidic & bacterial breakdown within the digestive tract. That’s why many exposures to contaminated food do not result in ‘food poisoning.’

Dr. Mercola states that there is disagreement regarding the safety of SLS, SLES, ALS & ALES, but says that his concern is with repeated exposure to chemicals that are known skin irritants over time, which has not been formally studies & especially how those repeated exposures will impact women especially who also have and are more suceptible to autoimmune issues.

The medical community is the first to say to be cautious about things such as herbs that have not been proven safe. Since there hasn’t been any double-blind, controlled, long-term exposure studies with a large number of participants, he is simply giving the same warning regarding SLS, SLES, ALS & ALES. That seems reasonable to me.

Also, I have irrefutable proof that repeated exposure can cause irritation across time, regardless of the fact that it is primarily rinsed off. I have a contact allergy to SLS & SLES. When I wash my hands usually in the community, I am at the mercy of whatever is available – and I generally do not show signs of exposure – but as I have worked with pre-schoolers (have forgotten to bring my own soap over the last 2 weeks), having to help several get the soap & apply it, has now resulted in blisters lead to peeling skin.

It doesn’t matter that it is rinsed off. Some amount of the SLS ir SLES is being absorbed and retained in the skin, or there wouldn’t be a reaction.

Also, in the particular article about SLS, I recall him saying that the skin is an organ that helps produce vitamin D through sun exposure, I don’t recall him saying to become a sun worshiper and disregard the need for UVA and UVB protection.

I don’t often reply to articles, unless I see inaccurate or omitted information that I know needs to genuinely be added to. My dermatologist stated quickly she knew many that had poor reactions to SLS, and she had a quick recommendation for a cleanser. If it was ‘not a problem’ then why would she be so knowledgeable?

There are many people who have ‘reactions’ to foods, chemicals, etc. that just haven’t connected the dots yet. IMO. Opal.

Gio July 13, 2015 - 6:19 am

Opal, I suppose that even Dr Mercola can be right sometimes, but the fact remains the man has a tendency to distort scientific facts to make a profit. I mean, he sells tanning beds when everyone knows they cause cancer (but of course his are special!).

It is true that repeated exposure to a substance can cause allergies in some people. But that can happen with any substance. Now, a lot of people have these reactions to sulfates because they are so widely used. If we replaced them with something else, it wouldn’t be long before people developed an allergy to them. That’s why I believe that it is pointless to ban ingredients just because they can cause allergies in some people. You’d have to ban everything! If you know that something is bad for you, avoid it. Don’t scare millions of people away from these ingredients for no reason. I understand that if you are allergic to something, it can be frustrating to find something that works for you, and I’d welcome more brands catering to those people, but, again, allergies can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone. You can’t prevent people from ever getting them.

Ecopunk July 27, 2012 - 10:07 am

Hi Beautiful,
Thanks for you reply, however, everyone knows that the scientists are paid off by the big pharmaceutical companies or else pressured into silence, there are so many examples of trials that have been dismissed because their findings were not going to benefit sales. It is a tremendously corrupt industry, pharmaceutical giants often have THEIR OWN research scientists on their payroll to test their products, they in turn report to the FDA their findings and the FDA have been known to take their word for it and not do any independent research. SLS, SLES, ALS and related chemicals are used because they are so cheap to produce.
There is an unbiased research article here:
Which mentions how the limited testing (only one short-term study was available) makes it uncertain whether or not it is a carcinogen (causes cancer). It was shown however, that it caused “severe epidermal changes to the area of skin of mice to which it was applied” indicating a need for further studies to determine if it has a tumour-enhancing effect.
According to Wikipedia, who of course will not be going against Big Pharma, but none the less state that: “Some products containing SLES have been found to also contain low[vague] levels of 1,4-dioxane, with the recommendation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that these levels be monitored.[7] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies 1,4-dioxane to be a probable human carcinogen” and although they go on to say that at low levels it is not so bad, the problem is in todays world most people use many different products, e.g. shower gel, moisturiser, deodorant etc etc, thereby adding a cocktail of hundreds of chemicals to their skins increasing the toxic load.

As for the permeability of the skin, UV damage increases the chance of particles penetrating the skin as well as damage to the top layer of skin such as shaving or waxing. The addition of chemicals such as oleic acid increases the permeability the skin and now the “Big Pharma” companies are part of the Bio-tech industry and will be using nanoparticles in medicine and who knows what in the future.

Another point is that while people are being paranoid about going out in the natural sunshine – something we have been doing since time began with no adverse effects – they are seldom told about the highly toxic ingredients in their suncreams that actually cause cancer! It really is disgusting what you get told all in the name of big business while simultaneously having the truth withheld from you, but that is the world we live in, it is a time when we all have to do our own research and think for ourselves. Of course the sun is healthy and beneficial and essential for our bodies to convert cholesterol into vitamin D3. There are an increasing number of natural sunscreens on the market now so there is no need to get burnt. It is repeatedly getting burnt that causes harmful changes to our skins – think about charcoaled foods and burnt toast – it is the process of burning something that changes its composition and makes it carcinogenic (that is just my observation). Add to this a whole load of chemicals applied from head to toe and baked on in the heat of the sun all day and its no wonder people have a higher rate of skin cancer than ever before. We need to get a little sun often so our skin gets used to it slowly and we don’t burn.

There has recently been changes to the labelling (finally) check out the new requirements:
And this:
I know about the dangers of suncreen from first hand experience of having severe allergies to them myself, doctors never realised it was the sunscreen and thought it was some sort of reaction to the sun, but when i stopped using it and switched to a natural one i have never had a problem since.

I think you are very naive if you don’t realise how much clout these companies have, pharmaceutical and biotech is a multi-billion £ industry and often people who have worked in such companies also have worked in government, for example at the FDA. If you look at you can see that both Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are more powerful even than Microsoft! Maybe this will put things into perspective.

beautifulwithbrains July 27, 2012 - 11:14 am

Oh please, let’s not start with these silly conspiracy theories now! Sorry for the outburst, but I’m really tired of people thinking big companies are out there to kill you. That’s simply ridiculous. Of course companies think about making a profit. How can they pay their employees and hire new ones if they don’t? How can they stay open and keep offering people their products if they don’t? How can they keep the economy going, if they don’t? If they use cheap ingredients, it is because expensive ones will increase the final cost of the product and not everyone can afford to pay a lot for a cleanser or a body wash. But that doesn’t mean that these ingredients cause cancer or are toxic. As we all know, companies want to make a profit. How the hell can they do that if they kill their customers off? Not to mention that if one of their products kills someone, they will be sued, and everyone will get scared and not buy their products anymore. In other words, it is not in their interest to put toxic stuff in cosmetics. It is simply ridiculous to believe otherwise.

But it is in the interest of natural companies and quacks like Mercola to make naive people believe they do. Natural ingredients are very often less effective and more expensive than natural ones, which is why they need to use scare tactics and tell you that SLS and other chemicals are bad to convince you to buy their own products. And that Mercola guy also sells a lot of stuff that’s organic, plus tanning beds. Of course he will tell you that the sun is good and SLS is bad, otherwise you wouldn’t buy his products, would you? I’m really tired of people believing big corporations are killers and natural companies are angels interested in saving people’s lives. They are just as interested in selling their products with any means necessary as everyone else is and if you believe otherwise then you are the naive one.

Yes, SLS can cause irritation. All surfactants do. Their purpose is to remove dirt from the skin and that can cause irritation. But just because something is irritating, it doesn’t mean that it is toxic or causes cancer. SLS has never been linked to cancer. No study so far has found even the remotest proof that it can cause cancer. SLS, AMS and other similar ingredients have been used for decades in beauty products. If they really were toxic, people would be dying left, right and center and instead no one has ever been ill in any way after using them. No one is dying because of what’s in personal care products.The air we breathe and the food we eat are much more dangerous.

Of course if skin is damaged, things gets inside the body more easily, but skin shouldn’t be damaged in the first place. If it is, exercise caution when you apply or touch something. If it also written on the labels of cosmetics products that you shouldn’t apply them on damaged skin. Some ingredients can enhance penetrability but if that bothers you, avoid the products that contain them. Besides, ingredients in rinse off products don’t really penetrate the skin because they are rinsed away. And yes, it is the dose that makes the poison. Minuscule amounts aren’t dangerous and most of the chemicals we put on our bodies can’t penetrate inside and thus can’t accumulate. And if they don’t accumulate, they’re not dangerous.

There is absolutely nothing in your sunscreen that causes cancer. The sun causes cancer. If there are a lot more people suffering from cancer now is because people live longer. In the past, people were lucky if they lived till they were 50. They didn’t have the time to get cancer. Something else killed them before this awful disease had time to develop. And a lot of people avoided the sun. People wore protective clothes, not skimpy ones like we do today. The sun is good in small doses. Unprotected sun exposure for 15/30 minutes a week is enough to get all the Vitamin D you need. If anyone tells you to spend more time in the sun unprotected or to use tanning beds, they are simply putting your health at risk. Period.

Not all scientists work for big companies. Lots of studies are performed by independent scientists that don’t have any interest one way or the other. You’ll find them on pubmed. And when you read them, please take into consideration how they were performed. A lot of studies that claim something is toxic were done on animals so they can’t be applied to humans, or used concentrations that are way higher than any you’ll ever found in cosmetics, so again their findings can’t be applied to humans, or the ingredients were taken orally so again their findings can’t be applied to humans as we don’t eat our cosmetics.

I agree that people have to do their own research but this research has to be based on science not pseudo-science. You believe big corporations are biased? Fine, but even natural companies are. You can never trust anyone who’s trying to sell you something, doesn’t matter how natural or safe they claim it is. If you don’t believe the one, you shouldn’t believe the other either. You should believe the studies conducted by independent scientists. Then you’ll find that quacks like Mercola are putting your life at risk and making you spend a lot more money on products that don’t work that well and aren’t any safer than synthetic ones.

Ecopunk July 30, 2012 - 4:55 pm


Yes I am sure some companies that call themselves “natural” mislead customers into thinking they are more green/ethical/healthy etc … there has been a big problem with companies jumping on the band wagon and “green washing” their products to appeal to people more. This is why is important to read the ingredients and not just be taken in by the name or packaging. However, generally speaking natural is safest as plants and herbs have been used for many thousands of years and we know well which ones are safe and what they all do, as opposed to synthetic ingredients that have only been around in the last century.

I have to ask you this – I see you have made some blanket statements such as, “there are no harmful ingredients used in cosmetics at all” and “people get cancer more now because we live longer” which makes me wonder what the point of your website is, particulary the pages on ingredients? What the point in examining them at all if they are ALL perfectly good for us? I didn’t want this to seem like an attack on you, I do think its great that anyone would take the time to consider these things at all and do any research of themselves, so nice one for that 🙂

For what its worth, I don’t like any of these conspiracy things either, and I’m not saying that these companies WANT to purposely kill us all off! What seems to be the case though is that they are prepared to risk our health if it puts up their profit margins. And they also sell the medicines that are supposed to make us well again should we become ill.

As for cancer, lots of children and young people sadly get cancer these days so it is not an age thing. Cancer is a mutation of a healthy, normal cell which is regulated by the body and serves a purpose to a cell that does not respond but continues to grow at an abnormal rate and does not function properly. It has changed from its original true nature. The amount of unnatural things these days, not only cosmetics but all manner of things, surely has an effect and we can limit this as much as possible by sticking to what has worked for hundreds of years – the more we tamper with nature, the further away from its original form we get, the more it is likely to have an unpredictable and undesirable effect. It makes sense. There are many substances allowed in skin creams etc that are thought to be endocrine disruptors, which means they alter the glands that produce hormones. This is not only sex hormones, e.g. oestrogen, but also effect other glands like the pituitary & hypothalamus (master glands in the brain which regulate all other glands and body systems including metabolism & sleep patterns) Adrenal glands (which produce adrenaline /stress hormones) thyroid, pancreas (involved in insulin production and therefore diabetes). So they have the ability to disrupt the control centre in our brains making them send out signals to other parts of the body to produce cells at an abnormal rate (i.e. causing rapid cell growth – tumours) . Some countries in the EU are encouraging companies to phase these out although L’Oreal said they would not be phasing them out. Most people would like a ban on anything suspected to be an endocrine disruptor, and I agree that if we CAN avoid any potentially harmful substances then why wouldn’t we?

If something is an irritant then it is our body giving us a signal that it is harming us – it is saying “no more of that please!” it is trying to save us from any more damage which is why it is important to listen to our bodies. There are other options so why would we want to use known irritants that strip the skin of its natural protective oils if we can use something more gentle? We should also consider the vast quantites of these products getting washed down the plug hole and polluting our rivers and seas.

And lastly, if the sun is the cause of cancer then why have out ancestors lived and worked out in the sun all day ever since time began without developing cancer? Why is it such a modern phenomenon?

You clearly are very keen on your make up and cosmetics and very protective over them, but there is a wide range of really awesome make up and nail varnish available these days that is more healthy and ethical so it doesn’t mean going without.

I will leave you with this video which is an interview with a guy that worked for Glaxosmithkline – one of the biggest pharmaceuticals companies in the world – chances are they made your toothpaste, shower gel etc and most of the things in your medicine cabinet. I found this very interesting to hear first hand about their company ethics, hope you will too even if you only watch the first 15 mins…

beautifulwithbrains July 30, 2012 - 9:50 pm

Ecopunk, I agree that it is very important to read the ingredients and not just be taken in by the name or packaging. But I don’t believe that natural ingredients are safer at all. There are lots of natural substances that are poisonous and toxic and, even those that are safe are usually contaminated with resins, pollen and other impurities that can cause irritations and allergies. For instance that are people who are allergic to natural beeswax but can use synthetic beeswax with no problems because the latter has been purified or syntethetically made in a lab and doesn’t contain any impurities. Synthetic ingredients are also made in labs under sterilized conditions and usually contain only 3 or 4 substances, whether natural ones are made up of hundreds of compounds, some of which are harmful.

Water for instance contains lead, arsenic and mercury. Apples contain small amounts of cyanide. Pretty much any veg and fruit contains small amounts of toxic substances, including those who can disrupt hormones. If we had to follow the precautionary principle and stay away from anything that contains something toxic, we wouldn’t be able to eat anything. Instead, we can eat them safely because these toxic substances are present in such small concentrations that our kidneys can get rid of them easily. It is the same re cosmetics. Actually, most cosmetics don’t even penetrate the skin and never enter into the blood stream. Skin does a much better job that most people think at keeping stuff, including cosmetic ingredients, out of the body. There are substances that can enhance their penetration, but these aren’t many. And even if they should get in, the amount of toxins is so minuscule that our bodies will be easily able to get rid of them.

I didn’t feel attacked or offended at all, don’t worry. These are important issues and should be freely discussed. The point of the blog is to set the record straight about cosmetic ingredients. There are lots of ingredients that are unfairly maligned, others that are harmless but just don’t do much and are used in cosmetics only as “fillers” to entice consumers to buy them (these are mostly natural substances) and others which, although aren’t toxic, are irritating or not suitable for certain skin types. I believe that by knowing exactly what products contain, everyone will be able to buy those with ingredients that best target their concerns, instead than wasting money on those not suited for their skin type that won’t therefore work well for them.

I didn’t mean to say that only the sun causes cancer and that only old people get it. I know that cancer is a mutation of a healthy cell and that anyone can get it, but no one has as yet demonstrated that you can get it by using a cosmetic. The sun has been proven to cause cancer, as has smoking, pollution, a bad diet and I could go on and on because it seems that pretty much anything causes cancer these days. Cancer is not a modern illness. People got cancer in the past too, only that they called it by other names or just didn’t know exactly what it was. Medical science has progressed a lot in the past couple of centuries but for thousands of years medical knowledge has been pretty limited. It is also true that, although even kids can sadly get cancer, it is mostly an old people’s disease, which is why doctors recommend people to do screening tests regularly after a certain age. You can get it even if you’re young, but after a certain age your chances of developing it increase. In the past, people died sooner, which is why fewer people had cancer. Pollution, smoking and a bad diet, which are mostly modern things, have also contributed to it, but not cosmetics. If that were the case, we would know by now. Most ingredients have been used in cosmetics for decades, if someone had died because of them we would have known.

While I agree that if something is dangerous we should avoid it, if we had to ban anything that’s potentially harmful than most plants and natural ingredients couldn’t be used in products anymore as they too can disrupt hormones and contain small amounts of toxic ingredients. I believe that ingredients that have been proven to be harmful should be banned, but we can’t ban anything that’s potentially dangerous or we would just have to ban everything. There are even people allergic to water, are we gonna ban that too? Whether a substance is harmful or not depends on its concentration and the way it is used. Applying a minuscule quantity of synthetic ingredients on the skin, knowing that they won’t be able to get inside is not dangerous. No one has ever proven otherwise.

If you can prove to me that someone has died or fallen ill because of a cosmetic ingredient, you can rest assured that I will stop using it and warn everyone else to do the same. But I’m not about to stop using something that is safe because of a potential danger. If I did that, I would never be able to drive or cross the street or just do anything because anything can be dangerous.

I agree that we should avoid irritating ingredients, but just because something irritates my skin, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will irritate yours. Same will allergies. Everything could potentially cause an allergy or irritation to someone, but if it doesn’t cause it to you, I don’t see why you should avoid that particular substance. We should avoid what irritates our skin and use what doesn’t, and that differs for everyone of us. I take the environmental concerns instead, a lot more seriously. If something has been proven to pollute the environment, then it would be better to avoid it, but unfortunately there is so much misinformation on this topic that you don’t always know what harms it and what doesn’t.

I watched the interview and I’m not surprised to see that are companies with very poor ethics. But I don’t think it is fair to generalize. There are bad guys in every field that will put profits before anything else, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is doing it. There are also honest people. There are scientists and doctors that can be bribed and others who can’t. There are lots of dermatologists for instance that give crappy advice to sell the products they are paid to promote, but there are also lots of serious professionals who would never compromise their integrity for money, which is why it is important to do your own research, so that you know when they are lying to you and who you can and can’t trust.

I also believe that it is mostly advertisers and marketing people that are lying to us, blowing the positive effects of a product out of all proportions and ignoring its negative aspects. For instance, they may ignore the fact a gloss lasts five minutes on the lips and instead rave about its color payoff, but that doesn’t mean that it contains anything that’s toxic. Also, it is usually cosmetic chemists that decide what to include in a product, not the big corporate bosses as I doubt they know what cosmetic ingredients do and what they need to use to formulate a body wash or a lipstick. You may find this information about it interesting:

Vicky August 18, 2012 - 4:03 pm

I agree with you ecopunk. I have been researching too on the same and found them to be harmful. I have stopped using them myself. When one finds out that a particular ingredient is harmful one should stop using it, instead of waiting for things to happen plus this would also eliminate the companies from using it in future someday.
Hope people understand.

beautifulwithbrains August 18, 2012 - 8:55 pm

Vicky, I agree with you that if an ingredient is harmful it shouldn’t be used, but so far I haven’t seen any convincing proof that this particular ingredient is indeed dangerous. While I do think it is a wonderful thing that people do their own research, the internet is also full of misinformation, making it difficult to figure out what’s bad and what’s safe.

A lot of the sites claiming ALS and other surfactants are bad use as proof studies that are flawed because they are performed by using very high concentrations of these substances, or study their effects when taken orally or injected into the body. Therefore, their findings don’t apply to these ingredients when used in cosmetics.

If instead, you have found proof that these surfactants, in the concentrations used in cosmetics, are harmful, please show it to me and I will change my mind. But until then, I’ll keep using them.

Olga January 20, 2014 - 1:27 pm

@Ecopunk, looks like you’ve done your research. Any recommendations for shampoos, conditioners and creams that are safe to use. I will be very grateful for the list.

Vicky August 19, 2012 - 10:55 am

Let me put this straight I am not here to prove it to u or anybody else.
I had mentioned that hope people understand some day but your day has clearly not come.
U use it or u dont, it’s upto u but stop misguiding people. Let them judge on their own.
And I do not expect a reply from u either.

beautifulwithbrains August 19, 2012 - 11:31 am

Vicky, I don’t mean to offend, but why are you here then? You have clearly stated that you believe this ingredient to be harmful and accused me of misguiding people (which is a very serious accusation), yet you refuse to provide any proof to back these statements up? Why should I believe anything you say then?

I have always been taught to think critically, do my research, question any statement and draw up my own conclusions based on proof. Yet you expect me to believe what you, a perfect stranger, has told me, without giving me any further explanation or proof? I don’t believe you are a liar, but not knowing you and your research, I have no way of knowing if your conclusion is right or wrong. Therefore, until I see some proof, I won’t believe it.

Michelle October 13, 2012 - 12:30 am

Well, beautifulwithbrains, whether your right or wrong,
Well said! 😀

beautifulwithbrains October 14, 2012 - 9:32 pm

Michelle, thank you.

SusieD February 5, 2013 - 11:58 am

Dear Beautiful with Braijns,
Hmm, after reading the latest banter I am feeling more confused than ever. I am training to be an aromatherapist, and wanting to sell Neals Yard Organic Remedies, as I am thinking to myself that at least no one can slate their organic, fairtrade, eco-friendly products. Am I right? I have to say that I feel that I can trust you to the degree that you do seem to take on board all the proper scientific info available, and I don’t think that anyone should run you down unless they are also able to do likewise. This should be a debating site, not a slating site. SusieD

beautifulwithbrains February 17, 2013 - 10:56 pm

SusieD, thank you so much for your kind words. It’s very appreciated. Sorry for my late reply. I’ve researched the company as I haven’t tried anything from them yet and it seems like a good and solid line. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible to sell a line that will avoid criticism because you never know what ingredients may be accused of being harmful next, and besides, everyone has their own definition of organic, so for some, this line may not be pure enough. Having said that, although the company uses the occasional synthetic substance, most of the ingredients are organic. In this, it is actually one of the best lines, as too often companies that claim to be organic rely too heavily on synthetic ingredients.

And I wish you all the best in your future career.

SusieD February 18, 2013 - 9:40 am

Dear Beautiful with Brains

Thank you very much for your reply about Neal’s Yard. Another company that I am very interested in for it’s principles and use of bio-farmed ingredients is Dr. Hauschka. I don’t doubt their integrity, but do you think that their products really are superior, and have more efficacy than some others? I would really appreciate your views on this.


beautifulwithbrains February 18, 2013 - 1:02 pm

SusieD, Dr. Hauschka line is one of the purest too. But whether it’s one of the most effective is another matter entirely. The problem with organic ingredients and plant extracts is that, although they have their benefits and can moisturize skin, they very often don’t work as well as synthetic ingredients at treating more serious skin conditions like hyperpigmentation for instance. Plus, Dr Hauscka also doesn’t make any sunscreens, which are the most effective treatments at preventing premature aging.

Of course the same considerations apply to Neal Yard’s. In a nutshell, there are ingredients that work better than others regardless of their origin, and when you decide to use only a type of them (in this case only organic one), you’ll also miss out on a lot of good substances that can address specific problems. Organic products have their limitations, but they can still, when properly formulated, work very well for people without serous skincare concerns. Hope this helps.

SusieD February 22, 2013 - 10:53 am

Dear beautifulwithbrains

Thank you for taking the time out answer my second question to you about Dr Hauschka.

As you know, I am training to be an Aromatherapist and I have always been interested in natural and organic solutions to nutrition, health and skincare. I too have read up quite a lot of bumph over the years. I have to say that a lot of synthetic products used on the skin can actually cause more problems in the long term than they resolve. Recently I treated my stepfather for Rosacea. He has suffered with this for years, and no one was able to provide him with a remedial skin cream that actually worked – until I came up with a skincare regime as follows: Clean night and morning with gentle Chamomile Cleanser (organic – Neals Yard), then, at night-time, apply an organic oil mix (almond oil, wheatgerm oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, with 1% myrrh, 1% roman blue chamomile, and 0,5% frankincense essential oils. In the morning, after cleansing, applying Neals Yard organic Wild Rose Day cream, and if going out in the sun, also applying Neals Yard organic SPF 15 Lemongrass cream (reapplying every 2 hours). The dryness of the skin began to improve literally overnight, and only 2 weeks later his skin has reduced in redness so much, that you wouldn’t actually guess that he has rosacea now. After years of trying different things, none of us could truly believe the results. We are going to carry on with this regime for 3 months to ensure efficacy of the treatment long term.

I do appreciate that you are giving up your time to answer people’s questions on the internet, but I do also think that you should really study natural and organic approaches to skincare, including organic healthy nutrition – afterall we are what we eat. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised how natural is best – it has to be if you think about it – because that is what we are made of – natural stuff. If you start patching up the body with unnatural stuff, you just end up with cancer, inevitably. It is just a question of finding the right organic stuff. You need to make sure that the company you buy from has integrity, and that organic means organic (soil association accredited), and not just 1 or 2% organic added to natural or otherwise main ingredients (such as I discovered with Dr Organics! – bit naughty with a name like that!). You will also find that a lot of remedies, even prescription ones are largely based on natural remedies – such as some cancer treatments, and also for example treatment for IBS – strong peppermint capsules. I am not saying that sometimes we don’t need to take allopathic medicines to save our lives – because we do – ie anti-biotics being a perfect example – but even that was discovered due to natural mould, and, if we all lived more organically and naturally and weren’t exposed to petrochemicals via car fumes and pesticides etc, we would be generally much more healthy anyway, and less likely to develop cancers and other nasties. Florence Nightingale is a perfect example – she advocated hand washing so as not to spread infection, and discovered that putting neat lavender oil directly onto burns was the best way to prevent infection developing in them, and to heal them.

I am also a fitness instructor, and can say with confidence, that moderate exercise and a healthy, balanced diet (including the avoidance of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine) is the best thing in the world to treat depression (you will find huge amounts of clinical evidence to support this), and also to stave off most diseases such as diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease etc etc – the list is endless, and the more wholegrain and organic you can go – the more likely you are to stay in tip top health. The skin being the largest organ in the body is also included in this. So, following the above advice is the best way to achieve healthy skin, plus then only applying natural, organic substances from the outside in.

This is absolutely not meant to be a criticism of you in any way – I am just trying to get the message across to as many people as possible that the only way for a truly Good Life is organic and natural, rather than an unhealthy, synthetic life, which is then patched up with more unhealthy, synthetic choices – it just can’t work without problems cropping up.

All the best,


beautifulwithbrains February 22, 2013 - 5:35 pm

SusieD, you’re welcome. And thank you for your long comment. I agree with almost everything you said.

I know that I can sometimes sound like I prefer synthetic ingredients to natural ones, but that’s not true. I prefer ingredients that work to those that don’t, regardless of their origin. I love shea butter to moisturize my body, olive oil to remove makeup and tea tree oil for zits for example. If I sound, at times, sceptical of natural ingredients is because a lot of them haven’t been properly studied yet, and so there is very little, if any, scientific evidence to support the cosmetic claims they make. Of course in the future science may confirm they work as well as they promise to, but in the meantime I’m hesitant to tell my readers to buy something that has only anecdotal evidence to support its claims, especially if it is expensive, when there are other scientifically-proven-to-work options.

In addition, even those natural ingredients that are proven to work are very often used in such small concentrations that they don’t really do anything for the skin. If you want to go down the organic route, you definitely have to research every company and product carefully to find something that really works and is not just hyped up. On that, I completely agree with you.

Another important thing to consider is that, as you justly said, a lot of synthetic stuff is derived from natural substances and that, in my opinion, often makes it safer. Plant extracts are often made up of tens of compounds, some of which are good, and others not so much and can, for instance, cause irritation. When you use plant extracts, you slather both the good and the bad components on your skin, while the synthetic compound contains only the good components extracted from the plant. Of course you can never generalize. There are plants that are good, don’t contain irritants and are very beneficial for the skin, which is why it’s important to do your research so you’ll be able to use products that contain only the best, safest, most effective natural ingredients. Your stepfather’s experience with Neal Yard products (thanks for sharing it with us and I’m glad he has found something that works for him) proves that sometimes natural is best than synthetic. So my point is, that there’s no synthetic=bad, natural=good, but it just depends on the ingredient. Each one is different, has different pros and cons, and we should use the ones that work best for us. The only way to do that is to do your research and sadly so far not enough studies on natural plants have been done. At least not on how they work in skincare.

I completely agree with you that we should lead as healthy a life as possible (balanced diet, exercise, no alcohol, no smoking etc), but I don’t think we should worry about synthetic cosmetic ingredients giving us cancer. When it comes to food, plenty of fruits and vegs rather than processed food are way better for you, but what we put on our skin rarely penetrates inside. It simply stays on the surface so it won’t really harm us.

I also wish you all the best in your career. You are a very committed lady and your clients will be lucky to have someone who does so much research on this topic.

Sue Adlam October 15, 2013 - 7:52 pm

Hi Susie
Did you join NYRO? I too am training to be an aromatherapist and I’ve now been a consultant for almost 2 years.
Would be great to get in touch to find out how you’re doing.
[email protected]

SusieD February 23, 2013 - 8:50 am

Dear Beautiful with Brains,

Many thanks once again for your full response. I think that it is very healthy to have such debates on such an open forum as yours. I have to say, however, that I do stick by my thoughts that synthetic is bad for you, and that the “average” woman ingests (through her skin) approximately 4lbs of products through her skin each year. Do you remember that everyone used to eat margerine as it was hailed as this low-saturated fat aid to slimming and health, and it is now proven that these broken chain fatty acids do actually cause cancer, because these weak fat chains go on to form cell membranes, which in turn are weaker, and more prone to mutation, leading to cancer cells developing. I can’t see that it is any different for skin. I do understand that the top layer of skin is dead, squamous epithelia, but it is not totally impervious to products, otherwise such things as topical pain relief wouldn’t work when rubbed into the affected area. Apart from the immediate danger to human health, there is also the argument that organic and bio-farmed products are better for the fields they are grown in, and better for the water course that they are then washed away into. Also, anything with soil association accreditation is assured to be ethically sourced, and with thought to the local environment and it’s inhabitants.

Honestly, I am not after an argument here, but I just think so deeply about human health and the impact that we are making on our planet, for our present, and for the future.

Thank you for you kind comments about me as a therapist. That was very generous of you. I just feel that integrity is the key word.

Best wishes


beautifulwithbrains February 24, 2013 - 10:36 pm

SusieD, you’re welcome and I agree that it’s important to debate important issues such as this.

However, I don’t believe that synthetic cosmetic ingredients are harmful when topically applied because they very rarely penetrate the skin. The purpose of the skin is to keep things out of the body after all and it does a great job at that. It’s true that some ingredients can still penetrate inside. You made a great example with topical pain relief treatments, but have you noticed how few medicines can be taken topically? In most cases, you have to swallow a pill, drink a syrup or have an injection to treat illness and that’s because very few substances can actually penetrate skin. If a cream worked just as well, don’t you think they would have replaced injections?

Most cosmetic ingredients have molecules that are too big to penetrate the skin and remain on the surface. There are some that can get inside the body but these are very strictly regulated. The real concern with synthetic ingredients, and the best reason to switch to organic is, imo, that we don’t know how they impact the environment. These ingredients may remain on the surface of the skin, but when you cleanse it, they end up down the drain and into the environment. And unfortunately not many studies have been done on the effects they have on the water supply, the soil etc. Some of these substances may not pose a threat even then, but others might.

Unfortunately, switching to organic is not easy for a lot of women. Most companies that claim to be organic aren’t, and those that are may be too expensive for many women or not easily available in their area. I do hope, though, that in the future these issues will be addressed, that scientists will study this subject more throughoutly, and that companies will come out with products that are safe not just for us, but also for the environment, as it is in that way that ultimately synthetic stuff could have bad effects on our health.

SusieD February 25, 2013 - 10:02 am

Dear Beautiful with Brains,

Thank you so much for your reply. It seems as though we are singing from the same hymnsheet afterall! You obviously do know your stuff. Yes, “organic” can be misleading, I absolutely agree with you. I am setting up a retail business alongside my aromatherapy, in which I will only sell Soil Association Certified products, which are also only 100% organic. Thus, doing the homework for everyone. It is a minefield out there, trying to buy 100% organic products for body, skin, and household cleaning without having to scour the internet endlessly, and spending a lot of p&p on different websites. I will let you know my webname(company name) when set up!

Thank you for all of your debating, and I do have respect for you as a well-read individual.

All the best.


beautifulwithbrains March 1, 2013 - 6:46 pm


I think so too. Personally, I don’t mind much about the origin of ingredients, whether they are natural or synthetic, but I do care that what we use is safe both for us and for the environment. And I hope that this recent organic craze will lead scientists to study not just the impact ingredients have on our bodies, but also on the environment, and that companies will put those findings to good use to make safer products.

And I wish you all the best with your business endeavours. I think it’s wonderful that you are creating a company that sells only certified products. It’s not an easy task but with your dedication and determination I’m sure you will succeed. And yes, please, let me know when the business is set up so that I can share it with my readers.

Debbie Allen March 6, 2013 - 5:47 am

How’s your take on Yves Rocher? scale of 1 to 10……..10 being best? Btw I quite reading the novel above lol…..How do you do it girl?????????

beautifulwithbrains March 6, 2013 - 10:54 pm

Debbie, it’s difficult to give it a rating because I find Yves Rocher is one of those brands that is very hit and miss. Also, while some of their products are completely natural, others contain quite a few synthetic ingredients. This doesn’t necessarily compromise the efficacy of the products, but if you’re into organic skincare, you may want to read the ingredient lists carefully to avoid those that contain synthetic substances.

All about skin care July 12, 2013 - 12:34 am

Dear BWB,
I just brought Image Skin Care into my studio and I’m wondering about the quality compared to some of the other great lines such as Environ or skincueticals.
You’re only as beautiful as the products applied to your skin.

beautifulwithbrains July 13, 2013 - 6:38 pm

All about skin care, I had never heard of this line before. Judging from what I’ve seen on their website, their products seem good. I like for instance, that the Vitamin C serum contains 15% L-ascorbic acid. So many Vitamin C products contain amounts that are too small to work. But I wish they paid more attention to the packaging. Some of their antiaging products are packed in jars which will reduce the effectiveness of the antioxidants overtime. This brand doesn’t really offer anything that other brands like skinceuticals aren’t offering either though, so in the end the main deciding factor may be the price. I don’t know how much Image Skin Care products cost, but Skinceuticals’ ones, though effective, are often overpriced.

ali October 9, 2013 - 1:33 pm

it seams to be that shampoos contains “ALES” are better than they have “SLES”…
is it real? why?

beautifulwithbrains October 10, 2013 - 9:46 pm

Ali, there really isn’t much difference between Ammonium Laureth Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate. They work pretty much the same. It’s Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate that should be avoided because they are much harsher.

Dearne November 20, 2013 - 2:57 am

hi beautifulwithbrains,
I have been skimming through all these comments and I wonder what your thoughts are on Nu Skin? The Galvanic Spa which is a hand held device with mild currents to carry the cleanser and moisturiser deep to the dermis. It is definitely not natural but scientifically proven for anti-aging results/rosecea and sun damage. I wonder if you have heard of it?

beautifulwithbrains November 29, 2013 - 9:16 pm

Dearne, hi. Honestly, I’m not a fan of this product. I’ve seen some rave reviews online, so it may work for some people but the gels, which you need to repurchase every month, just contain a bunch of ingredients that create a film on your skin and plant extracts that don’t do much. Besides, this type of product could easily irritate sensitive skin. Frankly, I’d just rather invest in a good moisturizer chock full of retinoids and antioxidants than this.

Dearne December 1, 2013 - 10:59 pm

thanks for your feedback

beautifulwithbrains December 4, 2013 - 3:19 pm

Dearne, you’re welcome.

Alice Cawood June 13, 2014 - 8:25 am

I am 60. I wash my hair with vinegar only, and when visiting a hard-water area I use bottled water. I have thick long shiny hair. From the age of 12, my hair was lustreless, frizzy and was prone to falling out. By age 50 I hardly had any hair. Then I thought it was bad genes exacerbated by the menopause, but the problem had started in my 20s. I don’t need to read any scientific investigations to know that detergent was ruining my hair. This effect is not experienced by everybody.

Gio June 13, 2014 - 10:53 am

Alice, I’m sorry to hear you had such awful problems when using detergents. Most shampoos are much gentler these days, but I’m glad that you’ve found something that works well for you.

Alice Cawood June 13, 2014 - 5:17 pm

Hi again,
Yes, I was going to try some shampoo again, after not using it since 2011, and that’s how I came across your blog as I was googling Aluminium Laureth Sulphate. My hair, although ‘all there’ at the moment, is very fine in individual strands (I also have fine skin pores, which give me the appearance of v. smooth skin – a boon in this case!) and maybe that’s why it couldn’t stand up to the detergent. I also brush it a lot now with a fine-bristle brush, and it’s astonishing as it really is as if I’ve been given a scalp-transplant! Anyone reading this who doesn’t have a falling-hair problem at the moment, I’d just say keep an eye on it, as if you do have a problem in the future the ‘no shampoo/sprayed-on vinegar solution onto dry hair’ method is worth trying. All our forbears relied on such remedies in the past, and conditioners are a fairly recent invention. The glossy ads are so hard to resist though – but I will carry on resisting. However, to wean yourself off regular shampoo takes about 6 weeks, as the scalp produces extra oil due to the detergent effect, and regular brushing plus dunking in water/vinegar is vital, unless you’re living on a remote island with no one to observe. It only works with soft water though – otherwise you’ll have a helmet of greasy cardboard! But what I feel sad about, is for myself before I discovered all this, and the women I see around who have hair like mine used to be, who don’t realise. But if I tell people, they look at me as if I’m mad. I’m really into fashion/appearance (not a witch – honestly!) but sometimes I think we’re like stressed animals over-grooming, and I wish all this energy was going into other things. I don’t want to start an argument though – many people use sulphates all their lives and for them they’re safe. Thanks for doing this blog Gio, giving people a place to compare experiences. Oh and also – since using hand soap that’s sulphate-free, I have smooth hands however much gardening I do.

Susie June 20, 2014 - 3:58 am

From what I have learned, e
verything we put on our skin is absorbed through our blood stream, and it bypasses the liver, so anything we put on our skin we should be able to eat.

Gio June 20, 2014 - 7:45 am

Susie, luckily, that’s not true at all. The purpose of the skin is to keep stuff OUT of the body, and, unless broken, it does a terrific job at that. Think about it. If everything we apply on our skin is able to penetrate it, then why do most medicines need to be injected or taken orally? When you have a shower, or cook, or something, the water and other liquids and substances remain on your skin or roll off it until you wipe them off. They don’t penetrate inside. There are a few substances that can penetrate the skin and reach the bloodstream, but these are few and strictly regulated. That way, the amount that gets inside is so minuscule that our kidneys can easily get rid of them.

Gio June 24, 2014 - 8:02 pm

Alice, you’re welcome, and thank you for sharing your experience and your tips. We are all different and what works for one person may not work for another. I believe that some homemade concoctions are great for you while others do more harm than good, and the same can be said for shampoos and other products you can buy in store. Sometimes, you just have to experiment to find what’s good for you. And I do agree about overgrooming. I love all things beauty, but we don’t need to spend a lot of money to buy a gazillion of products. It’s all about finding the right products to take care of your real needs, not those invented by cosmetic companies.

tazreen June 22, 2014 - 9:10 am

i want to know about it good for shampoo? i’m facing trouble with my hair. i want to switch on to tresemme deep cleansing shampoo. is it good for hair as it contains ALES? again i’ve seen that als or ales cause cancer. is it true?? pls reply in details.

Gio June 22, 2014 - 8:38 pm

Tazreen, ALES is a gentle surfactant that’s safe to use and doesn’t cause cancer. It’s Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate that you should avoid. They don’t cause cancer either, but are quite harsh and can irritate skin. Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, on the other hand, causes irritation only to people with very sensitive skin. The thing is, these ingredients need to remove dirt from the skin and hair so, if they are too gentle, they won’t work. But if they are too harsh, they will also remove the natural oils that keep hair moisturized. ALES instead is effective but gentle and works well for most people.

sajani June 27, 2014 - 4:22 am

hi mam,
m using a shampoo, containing SLES, named as Nyle herbal shampoo, nd m suffering with hair fall nd dandruff, please suggest me a good shampoo, which helps me to control my hair fall, , before I had consulted to doc, she had suggested X-gain shampoo, it contains sodium lauryl ether sulfate, nd does not give much soapy nature to remove oil, so changed to Nyle shampoo, please suggest me

Gio July 11, 2014 - 4:07 pm

Sajani, sorry for my late reply. I’m also sorry to hear about your problem. Shampoo doesn’t usually contribute to hair fall, so any gentle one for dandruff will do. Instead, if the hair fall is severe, you may want to consult another doctor or start using a product with minoxidil.

tree July 16, 2014 - 3:55 am

I would like to get in touch with Susie D. who is researching Soil Association Certified products. Can you put me in touch with her?

And like you said in one of your posts …..And I hope that this recent organic craze will lead scientists to study not just the impact ingredients have on our bodies, but also on the environment, and that companies will put those findings to good use to make safer products.

I want hair care products that are also good for the soil.

Gio July 16, 2014 - 11:27 am

Tree, unfortunately I don’t know Susie, so I cannot help you there. Sorry!

But I agree with you and I hope that more scientists will soon start researching how cosmetic ingredients impact the environment. After all, a polluted environment is very dangerous for our health.

YM July 25, 2014 - 2:33 am

Wow, you started this back in 2009! I found this page while doing a search on ammonium-laureth-sulfate. I’m allergic to coconut and I have eczema on my scalp so finding a non-irritating shampoo has been a challenge.
I didn’t know what to believe anymore, so much conflicting information about the health factors of Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. I found a gentle shampoo that has this ingredient and so far so good, no irritation. I will continue to use it. Appreciate the information on your site.

Gio July 25, 2014 - 7:53 pm

YM, I’m glad you enjoy my blog. Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is a lot more gentle than many people think. Unfortunately, some people misinterpret studies or take their findings out of context (for instance, they see a study claiming that a substance ingested by rats at high doses is toxic and believe that it is dangerous even when topically applied in minuscule amounts on human skin) and, in good faith, spread information, causing a lot of confusion.

Steven November 1, 2014 - 5:04 am

can sodium dodecyl sulfate replaces ammonium lauryl sulfate?

Gio November 1, 2014 - 6:23 am

Steven, I believe it can, but I wouldn’t recommend it because sodium dodecyl sulfate is quite harsh.

My cheat sheet on Sulfates… | Unboxing Beauty May 13, 2015 - 9:34 pm

[…] Ammonium Laureth Sulfate~ is the ammonium salt of sulfated ethoxylated lauryl alcohol. It can be derived from coconut. Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is an effective cleansing agent that remove oils and dirt from hair and skin. It produces a lot of foam and softens the skin.  Ammonium Laureth Sulfate is considered to be gentle. However, like all surfactants, in can cause irritation to people with sensitive skin.  (source) […]

Jaded hippie July 10, 2015 - 11:56 pm

Great blog. I learned the hard way that when it comes to personal care products or even medicine in general, that nature doesn’t always know best, in fact she can be a total b*atch when she wants to be!

Since puberty I’ve suffered with itchy seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp and after learning I was sensitive to SLS I leapt on the “no poo” bandwagon with all the reverie and enthusiasm of a flower power teenager on LSD. I tried: soap nuts, rhassoul clay as well as diluted bicarbonate of soda, borax or Castille soap as “shampoo” followed by apple cider vinegar or Citric acid rinse as “conditioner.” As well as being a total faff (British for pain in the *ss), I found that I was also allergic to many of these “natural” ingredients, and even those I wasn’t allergic to caused me problems because their PH levels were too extreme (alkaline/acidic).

I knew the skin had an acid mantle and that the scalp was meant to be left slightly acidic, what I didn’t know was that by stripping it off with a highly alkaline substance like bicarb in order to “cleanse” it, I was doing irreparable damage even when following up with the acidic rinses…(it was a homer Simpson “doh!” moment…).

Of course the evil “big pharma” people tried to warn me about the pitfalls of my strange hair antics but their warnings fell on deaf ears. After all, in my eyes they were nothing more than synthetic satan worshippers out to kill me for a quick buck… I still have a lot of beef with commercial personal care products (get those hair coating silicones and endocrine disrupting parabens AWAY from me!) but I now have beef with the “Eco” ranges too…namely for their heavy hand with essential oils which are known irritants, highly volatile and dangerous to gut health when inhaled in a diffuser or steamy shower (renowned herbalist Susun weed calls them “new age snake oil’).

Also cosmetics cop Paula Beguin rightly points out that “fragrance” synthetic or otherwise is utterly pointless in hair and skin care and can be harmful. Like the author, she also distinguishes between the different kinds of sulphates (lauryl is the bad guy, laureth the good guy).

I still have one last no poo recipe with coconut milk and aloe Vera left to try, its the right PH, but I think I might just be too jaded now! LOL! Time to sell my soul.. What’s more for these primal methods to even half work, soft water is imperative and not always available. My granny used to wash her hair once a week with rainwater. A water filter/softener makes a huge difference.

So the wisened me gives a wry smile at all the “crunchy” beauty bloggers who adamantly maintain that they use personal care products with no “chemicals” in them, (obviously blissfully unaware that water IS a chemical…) and after two years of trial and error I’m going back to (gasp!) shampoo with my hippie tail between my legs. The fragrance free shampoo by faith in nature is what I’m looking at as it uses the gentler sulphate described here. It’s feels a bit like a radical communist might feel settling for socialism…

However, here’s how the hippe lives on: sea salt in water sprayed on the scalp is great for the itchies as are diluted apple cider vinegar rinses. Sebum is your friend even if you have nasty yeasts gorging themselves on it! It is the best hair conditioner on this planet and a boar bristle brush to distribute these oils down the hair shaft is a great investment and helps you go longer between shampoos. Even with seb derm a cheeky water only wash can get rid of flakes between shampoos without stripping your hair just make sure you either have soft water or use bottled/filtered water as your final rinse.

Sorry for the essay. I just thought some of this might be helpful..

One day we will all find our way back to hair Eden and live happily ever after 🙂

Gio July 11, 2015 - 9:00 am

Jaded hippie, I love your long essay! Such a helpful, thoughtful comment. Sorry you had to learn that nature isn’t always good the hard way. Big pharma companies and organic brands aren’t that different at all, are they? They both want your money and will tell you all kinds of crap to convince you to part with it. Finding out what works requires a lot of research and a lot of trial and error. *sighs*

Barbara August 16, 2015 - 4:42 pm

What a great Sunday morning read! I’m so glad I stumbled upon this discussion. I commend all who participated. Gio, you are a stellar role model in the handling of this difficult subject matter. I love the way you kept calmly repeating your key points. And you totally nailed it in re Dr. Mercola. I will probably be quoting you in the future! I am a kindred, science-minded, spirit in the pet grooming industry. The natural movement has found its way into the pet care marketplace along with all the misinformation and fear mongering that has worked so well in the selling of human cosmetics. I am particularly amazed at how many people are eager to return to 19th century cleaning technology. If soap was so effective at cleaning hair tresses, detergent surfactant shampoos would never have been successful.

Gio August 23, 2015 - 12:01 pm

Barbara, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. And sorry to hear this nonsense has invaded the pet grooming industry too. It’s awful how fast misinformation spreads, isn’t it? We all want safe products, both for us and our pets, but there’s no need to return to the past for that. Modern products are much safer and gentler, and more effective too, than all those soaps used back then!

Chris July 10, 2017 - 9:58 pm

When I use a shampoo containing sodium laureth sulfate I get terrible dandruff. Is it very likely I will have the same result if I try a shampoo or soap containing AMMONIUM LAURETH SULFATE ammonium laureth sulfate or ammonium lauryl sulfate?

Gio July 15, 2017 - 8:56 am

Chris, are you sure it is dandruff and not dry scalp? The symptoms are similar. If sodium laureth sulfate is too harsh for you, then the ingredients you mentioned will likely give you the same problem. Try opting for a sulfate-free shampoo and see how that goes.

Georgi December 22, 2017 - 2:14 am

I want to avoid SLS in shampoos but my hair is oily and when i try sls-free product it can’t be washed so good.Can you give me an advice,what kind of ingredient to look in shampoos that is less harmful than sls and can handle with oily hair.
I would be grateful if you help me!
Thank you in advance!

Gio December 23, 2017 - 6:53 pm

Georgi, I hear ya! I have oily hair too and sulphate-free shampoos don’t work for me either. I avoid the harshest sulphates like sodium lauryl sulphate but still use the gentlest ones like sodium laureth sulphate. I also like cocamidopropyl betaine.

Confidence December 26, 2017 - 10:56 am

Hi Gio
I found Ammonium laureth sulfate in my body lotion. Is it safe? Because have been reading it’s a foaming agent,so how come its in creams and lotions. Then in my apricot scrub,I found sodium lauryl sulphate but it doesn’t foam. Do u have any explanation for me? Thank you.

Gio December 31, 2017 - 8:52 am

Hi Confidence, it really does depend on the formula, the concentration used and what’s else is in it. Ammonium laureate sulphate is considered gentle and safe but I’d ditch the scrub. Apricot kernels are the worst method of exfoliation you can use because they have irregular edges that can tear and hurt skin. Adding Sodium Lauryl Sulphate just makes things worse.

Zun Pwint November 15, 2018 - 4:18 am

Can you please advise, which will be better for making shampoo ALS or ALES.
Thank you in advance.

Gio November 23, 2018 - 11:57 am

Zun, go with ALES. It’s gentler.

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