Decoding Ingredients: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate vs. Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate vs. Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

If you’ve ever taken a closer look at the ingredients list on your favorite shampoo or face wash, you might have come across names like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate. They sound similar, but they are not the same, and knowing the difference can be important for your skincare and haircare choices.

In this article, we’ll break down what makes Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate different. By the end, you’ll have a clear idea of which one might be better for your needs, whether it’s for keeping your skin healthy, your hair shiny, or even for maintaining good oral health. Let’s explore these common beauty ingredients together.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, often abbreviated as SLS, is a common ingredient found in many beauty and personal care products such as shampoos, body washes, toothpastes, and face cleansers.

It’s a type of surfactant, which means it helps to create a lathering effect, making products foam up nicely.

SLS is also known for its strong cleaning power. It’s a versatile ingredient used not only in cosmetics but also in food additives and pharmaceuticals.

Known Properties and Effects on Skin and Hair

While SLS effectively removes dirt, oil, and impurities, it can also strip away natural oils. This may lead to dryness and irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin or scalp. Some people may even experience redness, itching, or flakiness when using products with SLS.

SLS is classified as an anionic surfactant, meaning it has a negatively charged group that helps it dissolve in water. This property also allows it to penetrate the skin and enhance the penetration of other ingredients, which can sometimes lead to irritation.

Additionally, SLS has antimicrobial activity against certain bacteria and is used as a solubilizing agent in pharmaceuticals.

What is Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate?

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate is an ingredient found in many beauty and personal care products such as shampoos, body washes, and toothpastes. It’s a mild surfactant that helps to create a gentle lather and cleanse without being too harsh.

Known for being one of the gentlest surfactants, it rarely causes skin or eye irritation. Additionally, it’s environmentally friendly, which has led to its increasing use in medical and pharmaceutical products.

Is Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate a Sulfate?

No, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate is not a sulfate. Despite the similar-sounding name, it belongs to a different chemical family and is generally considered milder than sulfates like SLS.

Known Properties and Effects on Skin and Hair

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate is known for being gentle on the skin and hair. It cleanses effectively but is less likely to strip away natural oils, making it a better choice for people with sensitive or dry skin. It helps to maintain moisture and reduce the risk of irritation, redness, or itching.

Key Differences Between SLS and Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

Composition and Chemical Structure

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a sulfate-based surfactant. It’s made from lauryl alcohol, which is derived from either coconut oil or petroleum, combined with sulfuric acid and then neutralized with sodium carbonate. In simple terms, it’s a strong, synthetic detergent that creates a lot of foam.

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, on the other hand, is derived from sarcosine, which is an amino acid found naturally in the body and some foods. It’s made by reacting lauroyl chloride, which comes from coconut oil, with sodium sarcosinate. Because it’s based on amino acids, it’s much gentler on the skin and hair compared to SLS.

Impact on Skin and Hair

SLS is great at removing dirt, oil, and impurities, but it can also strip away the natural oils that keep your skin and hair moisturized. This can lead to dryness, irritation, and sensitivity, especially for those with dry or sensitive skin. It might cause redness, itching, or even flakiness.

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, however, is much milder. It cleanses without stripping away those natural oils, making it a better choice for people with sensitive or dry skin. It helps keep moisture in and reduces the risk of irritation, making it less likely to cause any adverse reactions.

Differences in Their Properties and Uses

Both SLS and Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate are used in products like shampoos, body washes, toothpastes, and facial cleansers. However, their properties lead to different experiences.

SLS is known for creating a rich, foamy lather and is often used in products designed for deep cleansing. It’s great for removing heavy build-up from hair or for use in products aimed at oily skin.

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate produces a milder lather and is often chosen for products designed for sensitive skin, baby care, and gentle facial cleansers. Its gentler nature makes it suitable for everyday use without the risk of over-drying or irritation.

Environmental Considerations

SLS can be problematic for the environment because it can contribute to water pollution and harm aquatic life. It doesn’t break down easily, so it can persist in the environment for a long time.

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate is generally considered to be more eco-friendly. It breaks down more easily and is less harmful to aquatic life, making it a better choice if you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact.

Knowing these key differences helps you make better choices for your skincare and haircare products, ensuring they match your personal needs and values.

Which is Better for Your Skin and Hair?

If you have oily skin or hair that tends to get greasy, products with SLS might be effective for you because they can thoroughly remove excess oil and build-up. However, if you have dry or sensitive skin, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate is a better choice because it cleanses without over-drying or irritating your skin.

Specific Recommendations for Different Skin and Hair Types

  • Oily Skin/Hair: Opt for products with SLS for a deeper clean that can manage excess oil.
  • Dry or Sensitive Skin/Hair: Choose products with Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate to avoid dryness and irritation.
  • Normal Skin/Hair: Both ingredients can work, but Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate may be better for maintaining moisture balance.

Choosing the Right Ingredient for Your Toothpaste

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate are both used in toothpastes, but they serve different needs. SLS creates a rich, foamy lather that helps spread toothpaste evenly and breaks down food particles and plaque. However, it can cause mouth irritation and contribute to canker sores for some people.

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, on the other hand, is gentler on the mouth’s sensitive tissues while still being effective at cleaning. It’s less likely to cause irritation or canker sores, making it a better choice for those with sensitive mouths.


  • If you have a sensitive mouth or are prone to canker sores, opt for toothpastes with Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate.
  • For a strong, thorough clean and if you don’t have sensitivity issues, SLS-based toothpastes can be very effective.
  • For general use, both ingredients can work well, but Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate is a gentler option.

Side Effects and How to Minimize Adverse Reactions

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS):

  • Dryness: SLS can strip away natural oils, leading to dry skin and hair.
  • Redness and Itching: These are common side effects, especially for those with sensitive skin.
  • Flakiness: Prolonged use can cause flakiness on the scalp or skin.
  • Eye Irritation: SLS can cause stinging or burning if it gets into the eyes.
  • Mouth Irritation: In toothpaste, SLS can cause irritation and contribute to canker sores.

How to Minimize SLS Side Effects:

  • Look for products with lower concentrations of SLS.
  • Alternate between SLS products and gentler options.
  • Use a good moisturizer after cleansing to restore hydration.
  • Rinse thoroughly to ensure no residue is left on the skin or hair.
  • For toothpaste, switch to a gentler alternative if you experience mouth irritation or canker sores.

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate:

  • Mild Irritation: Rare, but possible if you have very sensitive skin.
  • Contact Dermatitis: Though uncommon, some people may develop this condition.

How to Minimize Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate Side Effects:

  • Always patch test new products to see how your skin reacts.
  • Choose formulations designed for sensitive skin.
  • Rinse thoroughly to remove any residual product.


Choosing the right ingredients can significantly impact your skin, hair, and oral health. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a strong cleanser, ideal for oily skin and hair but can be harsh. Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate is gentler and better for sensitive or dry skin.

To make the best choices, always read ingredient labels carefully and patch test new products. Strive to balance your routine with both effective cleaning and gentle care. By doing so, you can maintain healthy skin, hair, and teeth.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

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