Are Sulfates Vegan? What Are Sulfates Made Of?

By Anett Rannamets. Updated: September 2022.
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Sulfates are foaming ingredients in skincare that clean deeply. As they are mostly made of petroleum or palm oil, sulfates are vegan.

Sulfates have been used in skincare and cleaning products for a very long time. However, they come with a bad side. Let’s learn now what are the good and bad sides of sulfates.

What Are Sulfates? What Are Sulfates Made Of?

Sulfates are salts and surfactants – substances that attract oil and water. The water-soluble ingredients are made of different oils. Plant-based or petroleum-based. 

When sulfates interact with water and oil, they act as a powerful foaming agent. This foam lifts oil molecules and leaves a spotless surface. Sulfates are very powerful and strip every type of oil and bacteria.

Sulfates are commonly used as primary foaming agents in household cleaning agents. Such as degreasers, dishwasher detergents, car washes, and others. They remove stains and all types of residue.

In addition, sulfates are widely used as a foaming agent in the skincare industry. The most common sulfates used in the cosmetics industry are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS).

SLS is derived from either petroleum, coconut, or palm oil. This is because these oils are rich in lauryl alcohol. When SLS reacts with sodium hydroxide it becomes SLES. And when it reacts with ammonia it becomes ALS.

These sulfates can be found in all kinds of cosmetic and personal care products: all kinds of liquid soaps, shower gels, shampoos, toothpaste, and mouthwash. As well as skin cleansers.

Why Are Sulfates Used In Skincare?

Sulfates are used in skincare because they foam and clean deeply. In addition, they are inexpensive and easily accessible.

Sulfates have a foaming cleaning effect and are particularly good at dissolving grease and dirt. That is why we might find sulfates in skincare products designed to cleanse.

Although sulfates are well tolerated by most people, they can still cause irritation and are therefore classified as skin allergens. Although sulfates do a great job at getting rid of make-up and impurities, they also get rid of essential elements on the skin.

Sulfates are often aggressive in removing dirt and oil. This means damaging the protective lipid layer of the skin and stripping away its natural oils. As a result, the skin might dry out and become irritated.

In addition, sulfates are quickly and easily absorbed through the skin and then remain in the body. Possible consequences, however, are still unclear.

FAQ About Sulfates

What are sulfates?

Sulfates are salts and surfactants – substances that attract oil and water. The water-soluble ingredients are made of different oils. When sulfates interact with water and oil, they act as a powerful foaming agent. This foam lifts oil molecules and leaves a spotless surface. Sulfates are very powerful and strip every type of oil and bacteria.

Why are sulfates used in skincare?

Sulfates are used in skincare because they foam and clean deeply. In addition, they are inexpensive and easily accessible.

Are sulfates vegan?

Yes. Sulfates are vegan.

Are sulfates harmful?

Sulfates are often aggressive in removing dirt and oil. This means damaging the protective lipid layer of the skin and stripping away its natural oils. As a result, the skin might dry out and become irritated. Sulfates are also classified as allergens.

Summary

Sulfates are salts obtained from sulfuric acid. They are soluble in water, have a cleaning effect and foam-forming properties. Therefore, in skincare, sulfates are mostly found in cleansing products.

Although sulfates are vegan, create a pleasant foam, and cleanse deeply, they are not the safest ingredients in skincare. This is because sulfates also get rid of everything essential for the skin. The skin could become red, dry, and irritated.

If you are looking for good quality vegan skincare, shop at vegan brands. They are conscious and often use alternatives to sulfates that are just as effective. We also recommend taking a look at our guide to the best vegan cleanser of 2022.

Anett is a passionate journalist, writer, and magazine editor with almost 7 years of experience. Through engaging articles, she brings kinder and more environmentally-friendly choices closer to everybody.