Cleansing Agent, Emulsifier, Surfactant


Sodium laureth sulfate is a common surfactant. It is primarily used as a detergent cleansing agent in body wash, face wash, shampoo, and even in toothpaste. Can be derived from coconut.

Despite the name similarity, sodium laureth sulfate is NOT the same as sodium lauryl sulfate. The former is a milder cleansing agent due to a higher amount and different chemical structure of the fatty alcohols required to manufacture this cleansing agent.

It's not acutely toxic, but some people become sensitized to it over time, which means that some people develop an allergic reaction to it over time.

The major concern with sodium laureth sulfate is that it can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane. It goes through a process called ethoxylation (this is where the 'eth' suffix on 'laureth' comes from). A side reaction of ethoxylation is the production of small amount of 1,4 dioxane, a known carcinogen.

If you want to avoid the issues associated with 1,4 dioxane and sensitization to sodium laureth sulfate, find personal skincare products that contain surfactants from the alkyl polyglycosides. The most common is decyl glucoside. The head group is a sugar instead of a sulfate. They are much milder on the skin (and eyes) and the chemical process to make them doesn't produce any 1,4 dioxane.