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Why is everyone in a lather about sulphates?

Over the past decade, sulphates have become a dirty word when it comes to skin and hair care.  Spurred on by media reports of sulphates’ harmful side effects, consumers have turned their backs on this common ingredient, yet most have little grasp on what sulphates are, what they do, and whether or not they should be avoiding them. 

Sulphates are a group of detergents or surfactants that are commonly used in personal care products – body washes, face washes, shampoos, etc. - to create the rich, foamy lather we’ve come to expect in our bathing experience.  The molecular structure of sulphates makes them unique in their ability to separate dirt and oil from skin and hair, while also allowing water to carry them away.  The most commonly used sulphates are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), the difference being that SLES tends to be the milder of the two.

The criticism of sulphates is that the heavy, thick lather they produce may be too good at its job, stripping skin and hair of its precious natural moisture and protective barriers.  With repeated, ongoing use, SLS in particular is thought to be too harsh on the cuticle of the hair, making it appear dull, dry and damaged. Body and face cleansers containing these detergents are believed to strip away the protective lipids (natural fats) that encase the skin. The squeaky clean feeling they produce is achieved by upsetting the natural moisture balance of the skin and unnecessarily drying it out.  This also creates the possibility for irritation, and can be of particular concern to those with extremely dry or sensitive skin.

So are sulphates dangerous?  There is little to no research supporting the idea that sulphates are dangerous to use.  However, some consumers may find them to be irritating and since skin care science has made great advancements in producing more gentle foaming agents, Serendipity Skincare has taken the proactive step of removing them from our product range. 

And one last note… Cream-based products such as hair conditioner and body lotion do not foam, therefore do not traditionally contain surfactants.  However, since some consumers do not understand the role that sulphates play in skin and hair care, we clearly state that those products in the Serendipity Skincare collection are also sulphate-free, just to give everyone a little peace of mind.  

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