Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate (SLL) vs Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Understanding the Difference

sll vs sls

Let’s clear something up right away: sodium lauroyl lactylate and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are not the same. While their names might look similar, they’re quite different in what they do and how they affect your hair and skin.

Sodium lauroyl lactylate is a gentle cleanser, great for sensitive skin and hair, coming from lauric and lactic acid. On the flip side, sodium lauryl sulfate is a strong foaming agent, commonly used in shampoos and body washes for that deep clean feeling. However, SLS can be a bit too harsh, sometimes leaving hair and skin dry.

In this post, we’ll break down these two ingredients, compare their uses, how they impact your hair, and which one might be safer.

What is Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate?

Sodium lauroyl lactylate might sound fancy, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. It’s made from lauric acid (which you can find in coconut oil) and lactic acid (yep, the stuff that makes your muscles sore after a workout). This combo makes it a mild, skin-friendly cleanser.

You’ll often find sodium lauroyl lactylate in products aimed at sensitive skin because it’s great at cleaning without stripping away all those natural oils. It also has antimicrobial properties, which help keep your skin clean and healthy.

Additionally, it has moisturizing qualities, making it a popular ingredient in conditioners and moisturizers. It helps mix oil and water, creating a nice, smooth texture in products.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)?

Sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, is a bit of a powerhouse in the cleansing world. It’s derived from either coconut oil or palm kernel oil and is known for its strong foaming action.

That rich lather you love in your shampoo? That’s SLS at work. It’s super effective at breaking down oils and dirt, which is why it’s in everything from shampoos and body washes to toothpaste and even some household cleaners.

However, its strength can be a double-edged sword, as it might leave your hair and skin feeling a bit too squeaky clean, potentially leading to dryness or irritation.

Now that we’ve got the basics down, let’s see how these ingredients stack up in your shampoo and on your hair.

How They Are Different

Let’s highlight the key differences between sodium lauroyl lactylate and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS):


  • Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate: Mild cleanser, great for sensitive skin and hair. It has antimicrobial and moisturizing properties, and also acts as an emulsifier, helping mix oil and water in products.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Strong foaming agent, effective at deep cleaning but can strip natural oils.

Drying and Irritating Effects:

  • Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate: Less likely to cause dryness or irritation, and it actually helps to moisturize the skin and hair.
  • SLS: More likely to cause dryness and irritation, especially with frequent use.

Common Uses:

  • Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate: Found in gentle cleansers, conditioners, and moisturizers.
  • SLS: Found in shampoos, body washes, toothpaste, and household cleaners for its powerful cleaning action.

Safety and Sensitivity:

  • Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate: Generally safer for sensitive skin, less likely to cause allergic reactions.
  • SLS: Safe in regulated amounts but higher potential for irritation, particularly for sensitive individuals.

Understanding these differences can help you choose the best products for your specific hair and skin needs.

How They Work in Shampoo and Affect Your Hair

Now, let’s look at how sodium lauroyl lactylate and SLS perform in shampoos and what they do to your hair.

What is Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate Doing in Shampoo?

  • Gentle Cleansing: Sodium lauroyl lactylate is great for a mild, gentle cleanse. It removes dirt and oil without stripping your hair of its natural moisture.
  • Smooth and Soft: Because it’s less harsh, it leaves your hair feeling smooth and soft, perfect for those with sensitive or dry hair.
  • Balanced Formula: It helps maintain the balance of oil and water, keeping your hair healthy and hydrated.

What About Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

  • Deep Cleaning: SLS is a powerful cleaner, perfect for getting rid of heavy build-up and oils.
  • Foamy Lather: It creates that rich, foamy lather that many people love in their shampoo.
  • Can Be Drying: The downside is that it can strip your hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness and potential irritation, especially with frequent use.

How Do They Compare for Your Hair?

When it comes to your hair, sodium lauroyl lactylate and SLS have different strengths. Sodium lauroyl lactylate is ideal for those with sensitive or dry hair, offering a gentle cleanse without causing dryness or irritation.

On the other hand, SLS is best for those needing a strong, deep clean. While it’s highly effective at removing build-up and oils, it can be too harsh for sensitive scalps and hair, often leading to dryness and potential irritation.

So, if your hair and scalp are on the sensitive side, sodium lauroyl lactylate might be the gentler choice, whereas SLS can deliver that robust clean if your hair can handle it.

Which One is Safer?

When it comes to safety, sodium lauroyl lactylate and SLS have distinct profiles.

Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate: This ingredient is generally safe for daily use unless you have a specific allergy to it or to lactic acid. According to dermatologist Dr. Kaveri Karhade, it’s a very low-risk ingredient. Cosmetic chemist Ginger King also notes that the amount of lactic acid in sodium lauroyl lactylate should not be a concern. It’s gentle and unlikely to cause irritation, making it ideal for sensitive skin.

SLS: While SLS is approved for use in cosmetics, it’s known to be more irritating, especially with frequent use. It can cause dryness and irritation, particularly for those with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema. While effective at deep cleaning, it’s harsher on the skin and hair compared to sodium lauroyl lactylate.

In summary, sodium lauroyl lactylate is generally the safer choice for sensitive skin, while SLS, though effective, can be too harsh for some users. Always consider your skin and hair type when choosing products containing these ingredients.

Wrapping It Up

When it comes to choosing between sodium lauroyl lactylate and SLS, it really depends on what your hair and skin need. If you’re all about gentle care, keeping things balanced, and avoiding any irritation, sodium lauroyl lactylate is your go-to. It’s perfect for daily use, even if you have sensitive skin.

But if you love that deep-clean feeling and don’t mind a bit of extra strength, SLS might be more your style. Just remember to balance it out with moisturizing products to keep dryness at bay.

In the end, it’s all about finding what works best for you. Your hair and skin are unique, so listen to them. Try different products, pay attention to how your hair and skin respond, and don’t be afraid to switch things up if needed.

Happy hair and skincare adventures! If you have any questions or need more tips, feel free to drop a comment below.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *