Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Coco-sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate

These three chemicals are found in personal care products including toothpaste, but there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation (no news there) on their differences and safety. This post is designed to clear up the mystery for our goddesses.

Why are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), coco-sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) used?

All three of these chemicals are designed to give you suds. The suds fill your mouth when you brush your teeth, forms luxurious suds when you shampoo your hair, use bubble bath or apply sudsing cleansers to your face.

What’s the difference between sodium lauryl sulfate, coco-sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate?

Sodium lauryl sulfate and coco-sulfate are basically the same thing chemically. Coco-sulfate tends to be a bit gentler because the ingredients (usually coconut or palm kernel oils) are less purified.

Both SLS and SLES are derived from dodecyl alcohol (lauryl alcohol). However, that’s where they part ways.

Sodium laureth sulfate is a totally different animal from SLS in that it undergoes a process known as ethhyloxilation, a process where ethylene oxide is added to the alcohol to produce a surfactant. (A surfactant is an agent that reduces the surface tension of a liquid. Surfactants are used to allow water and oil to mix.)

Are there dangers in using sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate?

You will read that sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate can cause cancer. There is no evidence that either of these chemicals cause cancer. Quite the contrary, studies indicate they produced no cellular change whatsoever.

That said, it appears that sodium laureth sulfate can contain the contaminant 1,4-dioxane.  1,4-dioxane is considered a potential carcinogen. Unfortunately, the EPA and other government agencies involved with cosmetic safety have not required manufacturers to remove 1,4-dioxane from SLES). The reason is the amounts of 1,4-dioxane in SLES are miniscule and there were no incidences of cancer related to this chemical among workers manufacturing it.

Though neither of these chemicals is carcinogenic, both sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are known to be skin irritants with extended exposure and they are absorbed through the skin. Keep that in mind if you like to take long bubble bath soaks. You should definitely avoid getting either of these products in your eyes.

According to the Journal of the American Cole of Toxicology, SLS and SLES is accumulative in the heart, liver, lungs, and brain due to absorption through the skin. One has to wonder what the long term effects this might have on our bodies, particularly since SLS and SLES are in such a wide variety of products.


There goddesses, now you have the facts. We hope we have helped take the mystery out of sodium lauryl sulfate, coco-sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. Of these three chemicals, sodium laureth sulfate is our preference, particularly for skin and hair care products. This is particularly true for hair care products since SLS tends to be too drying and may actually strip hair color. In addition, damage to the hair follicle is possible and that could actually lead to hair loss. If you buy hair products with either SLS or SLES, make sure you rinse well.

A better bet is to buy all natural products or even better, make your own. When you make your own products, you have 100% control of what goes into them.

Now go have fun and relax.

Related articles:

Essential Oil Dangers

Sodium Benzoate Dangers

Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care – Houston We Have a Problem

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – A Giant No No

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