Most modern cleaning product manufacturers like to include many synthetic petroleum-derived ingredients in their formulas for supposed extra cleaning benefits. And if you scan the ingredient list of commercially produced shampoos, soaps, or face cleansers, you're likely to find sulfates.
But chances are you have also noticed a steady increase in products touting "sulfate-free" labels. So what is the deal with sulfates, and why should you avoid them and use traditional sulfate-free soap instead?
Sulfate in Soap
Sulfate is a group of mineral salts that act as a cleaning agent in commercially manufactured consumer products, such as soap, shampoos, shower gels, and facial cleansers, and make them foam and lather, giving a stronger impression of cleaning power. That makes sulfates appealing as ingredients in shampoo or shower gel.
And what about sulfate in soap? That's a tricky question because there's a difference between how we commonly use the word "soap" and what it actually means. Although some commercially manufactured liquid and solid body cleansers that contain sulfates are marketed as "soaps," they don't meet the requirements of the official definition of the soap made by the FDA and are actually synthetic detergents.
FDA defines true soap as a product that "consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids, and the product's detergent properties are due to the alkali-fatty acid compounds." True soaps like those that we offer here at Botanie Soap for private label use are produced from all-natural ingredients using the saponification process, and they don't contain any added chemicals.
For example, our Unscented Castile Soap is made with Botanie's 81% organic castile soap base recipe. It's perfect for skin, hair, or general all-purpose use. It's ready-to-use, but you can add essential oils to create your own scented castile soap. Check out other liquid soaps from our collection or order a sample set and see that they contain plant-based ingredients.
Are Sulfates That Bad?
The problem is that sulfates used in conventional cosmetic products are often the same synthetic detergents found in car cleansers and oven cleaners that are heavy chemicals. Sulfates are surfactants, which means they attract both oil and water and allow the oil and water molecules to bind together. This helps cleaning products lift, dissolve, and rinse oil, fat, grease, dirt, and other impurities away from the surface.
But although sulfates are effective in cleaning the skin of dirty buildup, they often take away some of the skin's natural moisturizing oils and proteins along the way and damage the skin barrier function. That's why their daily application on the skin can often lead to side effects and could negatively affect your health.
For example, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a common ingredient in personal care products, may leave your skin dry and irritated and cause allergies. And people with sensitive skin could develop skin inflammation from consumer products containing SLS or its alternative sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). That's especially true with long-term use.
There are also environmental concerns about using sulfates in personal care and cleaning products. Products with sulfates that get washed down the drain pollute our groundwater and may be toxic to fish and other aquatic animals. Furthermore, many manufacturers test their skin cleansing products containing sulfates on animals before bringing them to market. They do it to make sure that their cleansers won't cause too much irritation to human skin or eyes.
Sulfates are popular among manufacturers because they create a strong lathering effect, making commercial "soaps" and cleansers seem a little more powerful or better at cleaning. That's because many people associate a lot of lather with a lot of cleaning power. But it's just aesthetics because there's no evidence suggesting that sulfates are necessarily better at cleaning things.
Sulfate just makes soap foamier and can help dissolve grease or dirt in water (but soap already does it on its own, and it only needs lye and fats or oils to do its job). In fact, sulfates don't really add anything to soaps that soaps can't do just fine on their own. That means that they're essentially wasteful ingredients, and they do add potential health and environmental risks. And with a trend toward more organic and green products, many consumers look for personal care products without harmful chemicals and choose sulfate-free soap.
If you are looking to launch a soap line that meets all the criteria of the FDA definition of soap, Botanie Soap can help you develop custom soap solutions for your brand. We make traditional soap from all-natural ingredients and use a cold-process method that offers many possibilities for customization.
Soap without Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: What Are the Advantages?
Sulfates have developed a bad reputation due to their potential side effects and environmental concerns. But sodium lauryl sulfate (a known skin irritant) is currently the primary foaming agent found in commercially manufactured bath gels, shampoos, laundry detergents, bar "soaps," etc.
Considering the harmful effect of harsh chemicals in cosmetics, it's always better to opt for milder natural products. The safe, eco-friendly alternative is traditional sulfate-free soap that contains plant-based lathering ingredients and is really good for the most sensitive skin. If the soap without sodium lauryl sulfate is produced with natural ingredients like plant-oil base, lye, and essential oils, it's gentle on the skin and doesn't cause allergies.
Traditional cold-process bar soap and liquid soap that we make at Botanie Soap are effective cleansing agents. They remove dirt and impurities from the skin surface without over-drying because they retain all the natural glycerin. Our all-natural soaps will leave your skin soft, smooth, and clean.