When you see an ingredient in your shampoo with the word "Sulfate" on the end it means that the molecule has been combined with sulfate to make it more soluble. For instance, oils aren't soluble in water but if you sulfate an oil it becomes much more water soluble. Similarly, ammonium and sodium are much more soluble in water when they have been through sulfation. Sulfates are also skin irritants.
Of all the surfactants, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, SLS, is the most irritating to skin so it is normally combined with other surfactants to make it less irritating.
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) is less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).
As you know, I, like most other natural hair bloggers, don't recommend sulfate shampoos.
Although it is one of the most irritating surfactants SLS is widely used in shampoos because it is:
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) is less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) too. Just like SLS, SLeS thickens easily but it has the additional benefits of:
Ammonium Laureth Sulfate has all the benefits of Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) but is even less irritating to skin.
So if we were to rank these four sulfates from most irritating to least irritating we would have:
Note SLES is not the same thing as SLeS:
Overall, sulfates are effective at cleansing greasy hair but tend to make dry hair even drier.
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward