Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

[ˈSō-dē-əm, ˈLor-əl, ˈSəl-fāt]

Emulsifiers, Surfactants

Sodium Lauryl Sulfates Skin Care Benefits:

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is an anionic surface active agent commonly used in cosmetics. It is well-known for causing skin discomfort, which can lead to altered skin barrier function and water-loss. For this reason, the FDA recommends using less than 1% in personal care products. However, when used appropriately, sodium lauryl sulfate can also provide certain skin benefitting properties. 1

In cosmetics, sodium lauryl sulfate is most often used as an emulsifier or surfactant. As an emulsifier, sodium lauryl sulfate helps to stabilize and thicken solutions with ingredients of differing solubility. This allows products to achieve a more uniform texture for easier, and smoother application. Furthermore, the effect of sodium lauryl sulfate on surface tension is applicable to not only product formulations but also skin composition. It possesses great capacity for altering the surface tension of the stratum corneum. Consequently, topical application of sodium lauryl sulfate solutions can make the skin more permeable, thus allowing for better absorption of skin-enhancing molecules with less than ideal polarity and size. Additional applications of sodium lauryl sulfate include functioning as an effective cleansing agent (e.g. soaps and body wash.) 1

It is important to note that due to sodium lauryl sulfate’s skin-discomfort quality, the use of sodium lauryl sulfate should be coupled with ceramides. Ceramides are major lipid components in the stratum corneum. They play an important role in maintaining barrier function and permeability. Studies have shown coupling sodium lauryl sulfate and ceramides in skin treatments helps to replenish and address skin dryness and barrier disruption. With its role in rebuilding the skin’s surface, sodium lauryl sulfate may be considered a useful method for bolstering overall skin quality and appearance. 2, 3, 4

  1. Lee, C. and Maibach, H. The sodium lauryl sulfate model: an overview. Contact dermatitis 33.1, 1-7 (1995)
  2. Ribaud, C. et al. Organization of stratum corneum lipids in relation to permeability: influence of sodium lauryl sulfate and preheating. Pharmaceutical research 11.10, 1414-1418 (1994)
  3. Huang, H. and Chang, T. Ceramide 1 and ceramide 3 act synergistically on skin hydration and the transepidermal water loss of sodium lauryl sulfate‐irritated skin. International journal of dermatology 47.8, 812-819 (2008)
  4. Törmä, H. Skin barrier disruption by sodium lauryl sulfate-exposure alters the expressions of involucrin, transglutaminase 1, profilaggrin, and kallikreins during the repair phase in human skin in vivo. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 128.5, 1212-1219 (2008)
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