Our site has a lot of information on Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), however we also get quite a few questions about the ingredient Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSA). In this article I’d like to clarify any differences between SLS and SLSA and tackle a few common misconceptions.
How Does it Compare to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
The two ingredients look and sound very similar. Often when people see SLSA on their shampoo label they cringe. They took all the precautions to avoid buying a shampoo containing Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and now they find that they have a shampoo with SLSA in it. Which to some sounds even worse, but there is good news. Unlike SLS, SLSA is completely safe for most skin types, including sensitive skin. It removes oils and bacteria without irritating the skin. What throws people off when they look at these two ingredients is the first two words being identical, and from there it’s assumed that they must be very similar.
SLS is known to be a harsh chemical that not only damages certain hair types, but can penetrate follicle and pore openings causing skin irritation and other health issues. Contrary to SLS, SLSA is known to be a much milder, natural cleanser that is hydrophilic- it dissolves much quicker with water and rinses faster.
There’s another question that readers ask, is SLSA bad for hair? The short answer is no. The fact is SLSA is beneficial for all hair types, it reacts favorably with most hair treatments, and as discussed won’t dry out or aggravate even the most sensitive of skin types.
Pros and Cons of SLSA
SLSA is a good substitute for the harsher, cheaper ingredient Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, but it’s not perfect. As discussed in the article, 4 Chemical Shampoo Free Brands You Should Try, we note there is some controversy over what’s considered “natural” and what’s “organic.” Some natural ingredients are harvested in fields where chemicals are used, and this obviously bothers some consumers. It’s not proven these situations actually translate into health issues, but consumers we listen to are becoming more and more concerned about the environmental effects of chemically fed fields.
Okay, the good news for those of us who suffer skin irritation is that SLSA is less harsh as a cleanser. You could even go so far as to say it’s skin friendly. It comes in powder form and is used in bubble baths, bath bombs, and shampoos. Consumers still like their lathery, foamy shampoos, so SLSA provides a rich lather without skin irritation. It’s quite easy to buy, Amazon sells SLSA in two-pound bags.
When starting this article we said SLSA was a gentler cleanser, but we didn’t say it was absolutely 100 percent non-irritating. If you add the word sulfate, then some people won’t even consider trying a shampoo containing SLSA under any circumstances. There are cases we have read where people did experience skin irritation using products containing SLSA. But was it specifically SLSA that was the cause, or was it a combination of other ingredients not mentioned?
The majority of people that purchased shampoos, who understood the difference between SLS and SLSA, were quite pleased with the results and reported no adverse affects concerning skin irritation.
What Does It All Mean?
Everything we discuss here is about education. Do we expect most people to know all there is to know about SLS and SLSA? Or even Diodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, another substitute for SLS? No. What we hope for is that consumers will read the labels, get familiar with certain ingredients, and become educated on the risks and marketing ploys of manufacturers.
You may notice that the labels don’t represent the percentage of each ingredients used, but manufacturers are required to list the ingredients, high to low, as far as a percentage used in their product. This means if water is the first ingredient on the label then water is the highest percentage ingredient used in the product.
SLS-Free products may cost a little more, but the long term health benefits is well worth the small investment in SLS-Free products.