Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Vegan? What Is It Made Of?

By Anett Rannamets. Updated: September 2022.
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Sodium Lauryl Sulfate also known as SLS is a sulfate used in skin care as a cleaning agent and emulsifier. It is produced synthetically and from oils. Thus sodium lauryl sulfate is always vegan.

Even though it is a vegan ingredient, SLS comes with its downsides. Let’s take a closer look at it and find out more.

What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate? What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Made Of?

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a salt of sulfuric acid. It is chemically manufactured from lauryl alcohol by sulfonation or derived from different oils. 

The skin care ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate, most commonly known as SLS is mostly produced from petroleum. Safer sulfates, however, are obtained from coconut and other vegetable oils. Usually, the vegetable origin is also indicated on the package. 

SLS is often found in shampoos, detergents, shower gels, soaps, toothpaste, as well as skincare. As sodium lauryl sulfate is a very effective degreaser it was originally used to wash cars, various machines, and floors. SLS is often the reason why skin care products foam. 

Why Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Used In Skincare?

Sodium lauryl sulfate is used in skincare because it removes oil and sebum as well as dirt left on the skin. It also removes the residues of deposited beauty products and makes the products foam.

The chemically manufactured substance is used as a surfactant, cleaning agent, and emulsifier. SLS works as a surfactant and cleaning agent because it dissolves fat. In addition, it foams very well. So, it takes a lot of dirt with it and gets rid of everything unnecessary. 

In addition, Sodium lauryl sulfate is used as an emulsifier. It works as an emulsion stabilizer and prevents the separation of various immiscible liquids. 

Why Do People Avoid SLS?

People avoid SLS because it is a very effective fat remover. It gets rid of everything, including the natural protective layer of the skin. As well as essential sebum, causing irritation on the skin and mucous membranes.

SLS is very aggressive against oils and it removes away oils not just from the outer layer of the skin but also deeper. Once the skin is very clean, there is nothing to replace these essential oils for a while.

This leaves the skin more prone to damage, the skin loses water through evaporation and it is exposed to environmental irritants. This in turn can cause a range of reactions. Such as sebum overproducing, blemishes, and inflammation. 

Sodium lauryl sulfate is also toxic to aquatic life. As it is very inexpensive to produce, it is extremely popular with manufacturers. So, every year large amounts of SLS find their way into the sewage systems and then nature.

Moreover, SLS can interfere with the normal development of children’s eyes. As well as cause the development of cataracts in adults and slow down wound healing and hair growth.

When we apply SLS to our skin, a small amount enters our body and stays in our tissues for up to five days. And when mixed with other chemicals, it can also form carcinogenic compounds.

FAQ About Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

What is sodium lauryl sulfate?

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a salt of sulfuric acid. It is chemically manufactured from lauryl alcohol by sulfonation or derived from different oils. 

Why is sodium lauryl sulfate used in skincare?

Sodium lauryl sulfate is used in skincare because it removes oil and sebum as well as dirt left on the skin. It also removes the residues of deposited beauty products and makes the products foam.

Is sodium lauryl sulfate vegan?

Yes. Sodium lauryl sulfate is vegan.

Is sodium lauryl sulfate harmful?

Many studies show that it is not healthy to use sodium lauryl sulfate on the skin. It is a very harsh cleanser and gets rid of everything, including skin-protective compounds.

Summary

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is an inexpensive synthetic surfactant, cleaning agent, and emulsifier. It produces lots of foam and is usually added to products we are used to seeing foaming.

SLS is vegan. However, many studies show that it is not healthy to use it on the skin. It is a very harsh cleanser and gets rid of everything, including skin-protective compounds. Luckily, SLS can easily be replaced with natural soaps or other cleansing agents. 

We recommend shopping at vegan brands to always be sure of the product’s composition. When looking for vegan cleansers, check out our guide to the best vegan cleansers in 2022.

See also: Vegan Skincare: The Complete Guide 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.