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Sulfates: Ingredient Decoder

Captain Planet would disapprove, but there’s nothing I love more than taking an extra-long shower before bed. Since I treasure my shower ritual so much, I’ve started to rethink which products I use to lather up. For the past year or so, I’ve relied on the same body wash, a creamy formula found in most drugstores that claims to moisturize skin. The other night, I decided to check the ingredients list. There it was, squeezed between two other chemical-sounding names: sodium lauryl sulfate. This foaming agent is found in many soaps, shampoos, and even toothpastes, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Learn why after the jump!

Sulfates get a lot of flack from eco-friendly skincare lines, and in many ways the negative attention is justified: they’re known for being irritating. Two of the most common are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, which both help shower products turn into rich lathers but can also strip your skin of its natural oils. Although there isn’t conclusive evidence to support or refute the claims, there are many who believe that sulfates also contribute to health issues including cancer. 

My advice? Take a look at the ingredient list on your products so you can make an informed decision. There are so many great options out there that don’t have sulfates, it’s not hard to find one you love. I’m making the switch to Lavanila’s The Healthy Body Wash in Vanilla Grapefruit. This sulfate-free formula purifies with willow bark extracts, while natural coconut oil keeps skin moisturized. 

Other sulfate-free products we love:

—Mai

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