What is Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate?

Our markets have been overwhelmed with chemical names that many of us don’t understand. Between the dangers of animal-tested and genetically manufactured products and the price of more natural ingredients, it has become a difficult task to decide what is good both for the body and the wallet.

With regard to cosmetic products, especially shampoos and skin cleansers, it’s important to know what is going into your pores and strands. Is it harmful or toxic? What is in the products that dry out your hair and irritate your skin? A simple understanding of the main ingredients used in cosmetics can help you make better choices.

Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, also known as MES, is a surfactant found in many different hair and skin products. You can even buy it on Amazon as a raw material. Quite simply, it’s a de-greasing, emulsifier, and foaming agent used in many shampoos and other cleaning products much like SLS and SLES. It’s organic because the molecule is based on carbon-carbon bonds, but it’s also not like other chemicals either.

Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate Chemical Structure

Is this substance dangerous or bad for you? Researchers say no. The molecules are larger and cannot penetrate the skin in the way other surfactants do. It’s considered very gentle on the skin, and it’s even suitable for more sensitive skin types. It’s manufactured as an added gentle foaming agent in a variety of shampoos, body washes, bubble baths, cleaning lotions, hand soaps, and creams. It’s highly water soluble and can be added to any formula with no reconstruction of the compounds. Since it’s not sulfated in production, it will be free of sulfates (the salt of sulfuric acid which is potentially harmful to the skin).

How it Compares to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

This substance is often incorrectly compared to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) because they are both used in cosmetic products as a foaming agent and emulsifier. SLS is another common chemical found in cosmetic products such as shampoos, scalp treatments, and body washes. The biggest difference between the two chemicals is that sodium lauryl sulfate is less chemically modified and contains smaller molecules that can penetrate and irritate the skin. Therefore Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is considered more hazardous to the skin.

Associated Health Problems

Both SLS and Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate are known as anionic surfactants. Anionic surfactants are not just used in cosmetic products, but also in industrial cleaners found in car washes, floor cleaners, and engine degreasers. It’s not considered a carcinogen by OSHA or IARC and has no chronic toxicity that has been reported. While it has gentler properties than its sister chemical, SLS, studies have shown that it can potentially irritate the skin in some people. Like all chemicals, it should not be ingested, and if it gets into your eyes then it should immediately be rinsed out with water.

Our Recommendation

Although most people don’t suffer irritation from MES, it’s still a surfactant so it’s possible that you could experience some minor irrigation. It’s not a dangerous chemical, but it’s best to avoid all surfactants. We recommend using natural products whenever possible. Below we have provided a table that displays some of the best natural options for the most common health/cosmetic products.

Christina Moss ShampooChristina Moss Shampoo8 oz.Buy Now Button
Jason Sea Fresh ToothpasteJason Sea Fresh Toothpaste6 oz. Buy Now Button
Molly Suds Natural Laundry PowderMolly Suds Natural Laundry Powder120 loadsBuy Now Button
Christina Moss Naturals MoisturizerChristina Moss Moisturizer1.5 oz. Buy Now Button