How Cleansing Damages Your Skin
Cleansing is the most damaging thing you do to your skin on a daily basis, but unfortunately its necessary to get rid of all the dirt, makeup, oil and sunscreen youve accumulated on your skin over the course of the day. These unwanted substances wont come off with water though! Thats why cleansers usually contain surfactants, magical chemicals which can help the grime dissolve in water and wash away.
Surfactants are the key ingredients in pretty much every single cleanser: foaming cleansers, soaps, body washes, cleansing balms, cleansing oils and micellar water. In fact, the only common surfactant-free cleansing methods I can think of are oil cleansing and using a cloth with just water. .
As amazing and useful as surfactants are at lifting grime, theyre not always good for your skin. The outer layer of your skin consists of dead, protein-rich skin cells filled with water-binding chemicals , surrounded by carefully arranged oily lipids . It looks a lot like a brick wall, with skin cell bricks and lipid mortar. Together, these form a barrier against water evaporating from the skin into the environment, and against external irritants entering your skin.
When the SCs structure is disturbed, skin becomes dry, itchy, flaky, red and irritated. Luckily, the SC is pretty hardy and holds up well against most things but unfortunately, surfactants are VERY good at messing things up! Heres what a harsh cleanser does:
Artificial Perfume And Fragrance
Ever wondered how many real roses are in your fave floral face wash? Our guess is a big zero. Yep, the reality is that artificial perfume and fragrance can contain ingredients that are irritating to your skin. Be on the look-out for fragrance-free unscented products if youre prone to irritation from fragrances.
Dove Beauty Cream Bar
My other favourite body cleanser is Doves Beauty Cream Bar. Its 1/4 cream, with lots of oily moisturising ingredients like stearic acid and lauric acid, which are good at sticking to skin and wont rinse off. It does have a bunch of soaps in the ingredients list , but since the pH of the bar is 7, theyve probably been converted back into the fatty acids which will moisturise rather than strip skin. The other main surfactants are well known for being gentle. I found that my skin felt more moisturised than with QV Gentle Wash, but since Im pretty clumsy, I kept dropping it and knocking it out of my soap dish.
- No parabens
- Can feel a little heavy
- pH is a bit high
- Bar is less hygienic than liquid
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Palmitate, Lauric Acid, Aqua, Sodium Isethionate, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Glycerin, Parfum, Sodium Chloride, Zinc Oxide, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Alumina, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Benzyl Alcohol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Coumarin, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool, CI 77891.
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Resist Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser
Paula’s Choice Face Wash for Daily Cleansing
Paulas Choice Resist Optimal Results Hydrating Cleanser
This skin-softening cleanser is an excellent choice for those with drier skin, because it effectively cleanses without leaving the skin feeling tight or dry.
Everyone needs to cleanse their skin daily, but it can be difficult for those with dry skin to find a cleanser that doesnt leave the skin feeling drier. This Paulas Choice cleanser contains skin-restoring ingredients that maintain the skins barrier so that it feels soft, hydrated, and clean.
- May not be suitable for acne-prone skin
The hydrating and soothing ingredients in this gentle cleanser include green tea extract, matricaria flower extract, and glycerin.
Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride , Decyl Glucoside , Glycerin , PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate , PPG-20 Methyl Glucose Ether , Methyl Gluceth-20 ,Glyceryl Stearate , Stearyl Alcohol , Polyacrylamide , Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract , Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract , Sapindus Mukurossi Peel Extract , Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate , C13-14 Isoparaffin , Laureth-7 , Xanthan Gum , Disodium EDTA , Citric Acid , Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol , Ethylhexylglycerin.
But First: What Are Sulfates
Not to be confused with “sulfites” , “sulfates” refers to a family of cheap detergents used in soaps and other personal products as a grease cutting or lathering agent. Sulfates are commonly found in shampoo, toothpaste, face wash, and liquid soaps as “sodium lauryl sulfate” or “sodium laureth sulfate,” often shortened to SLS or SLES. They are what give these products that bubbly feel.
Sulfate Free Shampoos, Facial Cleansers, Toothpaste, Body Wash, and Hand Soap
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Uses For Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
All the soaps and cleaning products that you use are a mix of water and oil. But they donât mix together on their own.
Instead, surfactants bring them together. Soap’s cleaning power comes from the bonded oil and water molecules rubbing against dirt and grease.
That is why so many products have surfactants in them. They blend the ingredients that make cleaning happen.â
Sodium lauryl sulfate is very easy and inexpensive to make, and it works well in many situations. You’ll see it listed as an ingredient in common products found in the home and in the workplace. â
Personal Products. These include things like:
SLS is also a foaming agent. Many of these products use SLS to give a foaming action during the cleaning process. If you have a foaming face wash or are working up a good lather with your shampoo, you’re probably using something with SLS.â
Cleaning Products. Sodium lauryl sulfateâs ability to break down oil and grease lends itself well to industrial products. You can find it in household cleaning products as well as engine cleaners and industrial-strength soaps. â
Food. You may see SLS used in certain foods you eat, within limits approved by the FDA. As a food additive, SLS can make marshmallows fluffier and dried egg products lighter. It helps mix citrus and other acidic liquids with water to make fruit drinks.
Is Sodium Laureth Sulfate Bad For Skin
Are sulfates as bad for your skin as they are made out to be? Whats the difference between SLS and SLES? Is Sodium Laureth Sulfate bad for skin? Should you be using sulfate-free cleansers?
In a world where people think all chemicals are toxic and misinformation is rife, how do you work out which ingredients are bad for your skin and which are just misunderstood? Are sulfates always bad for skin?
The short answer?
No, sulfates are not universally bad for the skin.
Lets have a look at why sulfates, such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate, get a bad reputation and why they may not be as bad for your skin as you think
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How To Choose A Sulfate
As sulfate is an irritant and also a common allergen, it is important to be aware of the best sulfate-free facial washes and cleansers available in the market.
What To Keep In Mind When Buying A Sulfate-free Facial Cleanser
- Know your skin type
Identify whether your skin type is oily, dry, combination, or sensitive to determine which cleanser or wash may best suit you. If you have sensitive skin and are prone to acne, you may want to choose a cleanser thats suitable for oily skin that is also non-comedogenic so that your skin doesnt break out from using the cleanser.
It is also important to know about the ingredients in the product you are considering. If you are looking for protection from free radicals, choosing a product enriched with antioxidants in its ingredient list will definitely help you.
- Purpose of the product
When choosing the best facial cleanser, think about what skin issues you face and what you would like to improve. If you are beginning to develop fine lines, wrinkles, and signs of photoaging, then perhaps you need a cleanser that also has skin brightening and tightening properties.
- Skin conditions
Omega+ Complex Cleansing Balm
Paula’s Choice Face Wash for Daily Cleansing
Paulas Choice Omega+ Complex Cleansing Balm
This hydrating cleansing balm contains a variety of ingredients that nourish and moisturize the skin to keep it hydrated and soft and it is being cleansed.
This fragrance-free cleansing balm is packed with effective ingredients that help ensure the skin stays hydrated and soft while cleansing. This includes omega-rich jojoba and meadowfoam seed oils.
- May not be suitable for acne-prone skin
This Paulas Choice cleansing balm contains additional ingredients that hydrate and nourish the skin, including vitamin E and rapeseed oil.
Ethylhexyl Palmitate , Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride , PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate , Diisooctyl Succinate , Olive Oil PEG-7 Esters , Trihydroxystearin , Glyceryl Stearate , Limnanthes Alba Seed Oil , Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil , Hydrogenated Rapeseed Oil , Tocopheryl Acetate
The Inkey List Face Wash for Daily Cleansing
The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm
This calming, gentle cleansing balm helps wash away makeup, sunscreen, and other impurities on the skin without causing irritation. Its the perfect product to use as the first step in a double cleansing routine.
- Some reviewers complain about the thicker consistency
- May not be suitable for acne-prone skin
In addition to the ingredients mentioned above, this gentle face wash contains additional oils that hydrate and nourish the skin, including sweet almond oil and sunflower seed oil.
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Five Cosmetic Ingredients You May Want To Avoid
There are several different varieties of phthalates based on the number and formation of the carbon molecules. Phthalates are very common in the cosmetic industry because they serve a variety of functions. Various forms of phthalates are used as a solubilizer to dissolve ingredients, a humectant to prevent products from drying out, an emollient to soften skin or as a plasticizer to increase the flexibility of plastics. Unfortunately,there are linksbetween high levels of exposure to certain types of phthalates and male reproductive health. Besides personal dangers, many water treatment plants are unable to entirely remove phthalates from drinking water.
Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are two related compounds which are found in a wide range of facial cleansers. These compounds are mostly used in the cosmetic industry to create a creamy foam but are also in synthetic detergents and surfactants. Although SLS and SLES are effective at removing dirt and oil from skin, they have a few adverse side effects. First, they strip your skin of beneficial oils. If you have ever noticed your skin squeaking after washing, your face soap probably has SLS or SLES ingredients. In additional to robbing your skin of oils, this compound can combine with other chemicals to formnitrosamines, known carcinogens which can cause breathing and kidney problems.
Are Foaming Cleansers Bad
Foam and lather arent necessary to clean your skin, teeth, or home. Yet foam is in so many of the products that do just that.
Shampoos without sodium laureth sulfate? This shampoo bar for sensitive scalp and skin gives you clean, shiny hair while caring for your skin microbiome.
Choosing non-foaming, sodium lauryl sulfate-free products helps you protect your skins natural barrier, lessen your chances of irritation, and avoid flare-ups of any potential pre-existing skin conditions like rosacea or eczema.
Foam may be fun, but were afraid its time to leave the bubbles behind.
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The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser
This fragrance-free, vegan and cruelty-free cleanser is perfect for readers who have had a poor experience with other cleansers, whether they caused them to break out or experience mild irritation, The Ordinarys Squalane Cleanser is hydrating and suitable for all skin types, with a balmy consistency and gentle feel on the skin, its a great everyday cleanser.
How To Use It
If you’re one of the ones left standing who doesn’t have an allergy, sensitive skin, or atopic dermatitis and loves the feel of a rich lather too much to give it up, heed the below advice when using products containing sodium lauryl sulfate to avoid irritation down the line.
To properly use a sodium lauryl sulfate cleaner, first, get your skin wet. Applying a surfactant to dry skin will likely only increase the risk of irritation, so dilute it with lukewarm water. Then, apply the body wash and rinse it off right away. Jaliman and Nazarian say that leaving the product on your skin for too long can also lead to irritation, so keep your showers brief. Nazarian says it’s okay to bathe and use a product containing sodium lauryl sulfate every day, but she adds that it’s important to only apply the product to the bacteria-harboring areas that actually need a deep clean and skip other areas, like your legs, to avoid stripping too much oil.
She also recommends skipping your face and opting for something gentler. “Sometimes the cleansers that we use for the face are a little bit more aggressive than they need to be,” Nazarian explains. “Youre much more likely to strip too much oil off of your face than you are your scalp or even your back.”
And lastly, because sodium lauryl sulfate can be drying or irritating, Jaliman suggests finishing with a moisturizer right after you get out of the shower to restore your skin.
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What Should I Do
As with any ingredient, from Glycolic Acid to Jojoba Oil, there is a possibility that the skin could take a dislike to it. As SLS helps a product to foam up on the skin, which is quite a dehydrating process, very sensitive skin can become inflamed, dry and tight when using products that contain it. By stripping the skin, the epidermal barrier can become impaired which does make it easier for bacteria to enter the skin and potentially cause problems but this isnt something unique to SLS.
The best thing to do is check your current cleansing products and see if they contain SLS. If they do and your skin hasnt reacted badly then continue using them if you wish. However, if your skin has become sore or incredibly sensitive and you are not sure why, then this ingredient could be the culprit so it would be wise to stop using anything that contains it. This goes for anyone with sensitive skin that doesnt react well to chemical ingredients.
Sulfate Free Face Wash
My first step into the world of sulfate-free products was via face wash. I had cast a side-eye on many of my other skincare products, from acne medications to sunscreen, long before I ever suspected my “sensitive skin” or “acne” face washes could be irritating my skin. As it turns out, most mainstream face washes contain sulfates. I realized that I had been putting a known irritant directly onto irritated skin for over a decade.
So, I took to the Internet and researched all the SLS-free face washes out there. Let me tell you, there aren’t many of them. I almost gave up and shelled out big bugs for a fancy pants brand, when I came across an amazing article. This blogger was telling her readers that she knew of a big name, high end skincare brand that was partnering with a big grocery chain to create an inexpensive, but high quality face wash. A dermatologist had taken their brand’s $50-a-bottle face wash, and improved and repackaged it with a $6 price tag.
The grocery chain in question is none other than Trader Joes, the product is their All-In-One Facial Cleanser. I recommended this face wash to every woman with a face and ears. My best friend and I were both hooked.
Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s changed the formula the cleanser now contains sulfates. Although it’s still a high quality product, for a low price, if you’re sensitive to sulfates, it’s no longer a safe choice. I’ve tested about a dozen products since then, and nothing has worked.
A Word on Cetaphil
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Ingredients To Avoid In Your Face Wash
You’ve likely heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” And the same theory holds true for your skin: What you apply to your skin is absorbed directly into your body. Considering that the skin is your body’s largest organ, it’s crucial to know what you’re putting into your system.
But if you’ve ever turned over the packaging of your favorite facial cleanser, you noticed a long list of ingredients you didn’t recognize. From sulfates to parabens, the cosmetic industry uses all kinds of chemicals in its productssome are beneficial but others could be harmful. And many of them are not doing anything for your appearance and may even be making matters worse. Read on to get the dirt on five ingredients you should avoid in your face wash.
Effaclar Medicated Acne Face Wash
La Roche-Posay Face Wash for Acne and Daily Cleansing
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Acne Face Wash
The 2% concentration of salicylic acid in this medicated cleanser helps remove excess oil and clear current breakouts.
This cleanser contains a 2% concentration of the chemical exfoliator salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid . Salicylic acid is able to shed excess skin cells and decongest pores to fight current breakouts, as well as prevent future breakouts from happening.
- May be drying
This award-winning cleanser has been dermatologist tested, and is suitable for sensitive skin. It is also non-comedogenic, meaning it doesnt contain ingredients known to clog pores.
2% Salicylic Acid, water, sodium laureth sulfate, decyl glucoside, glycerin, sodium chloride, coco-betaine, PEG-150 pentaerythrityl tetrastearate, hexylene glycol, sodium hydroxide, PEG-6 caprylic/capric glycerides, zinc gluconate, tetrasodium EDTA, polyquaternium-47, menthol, capryloyl salicylic acid, citric acid.
National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Over-the-counter Acne Treatments”
Accessed Aug. 16, 2021.
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Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam
Hada Labo Face Wash for Daily Cleansing
Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam
This hydrating cleansing foam effectively cleanses the skin while maintaining moisture levels for balanced, supple skin.
The star ingredient in this Hada Labo cleanser is hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid pulls moisture to the skin, helping to increase hydration levels.
- May not be suitable for acne-prone skin
This cleanser contains additional ingredients that increase hydration , and is free of fragrance and color additives.
Water, PEG-8, Butylene Glycol, polyglyceryl-10 Laurate, TEA-Cocoyl Alaninate, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Glycerin, Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hyaluronate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Starch Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Succinic Acid
Cetaphil Face Wash for Daily Cleansing
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
This cult-favorite cleanser is known as one of the best Cetaphil products of all time. The creamy formula gently removes debris from the skin without stripping it of its natural oils.
This gentle cleanser is perfect for everyday use, and is appropriate for all skin types . It has been clinically proven to be gentle on sensitive skin, and leaves the skin feeling soft and moisturized, rather than tight and dry. This cleanser contains vitamins B3 and B5, as well as glycerin, which hydrate and nourish the skin.
- May not be effective enough for acne-prone skin
CeraVe Face Wash for Daily Cleansing
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser