Sulphates in skincare: a controversial ingredient under the microscope

February 2024
The Derma Check AI

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  • Type of ingredient: Cleaning agent
  • Main advantages: Strong cleaning effect, produces foam
  • Ideal for: Oily skin types, but not recommended for sensitive or dry skin
  • Frequency of use: Depends on product type; frequently found in cleaning products
  • Combines well with: Skin care products without sulfates for sensitive skin
  • To be avoided with: Sensitive, dry skin and skin conditions such as eczema

Introduction: What are sulfates?

Sulphates, in particular sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium lauryl ether sulphate (SLES), are chemical substances contained in many skin care and cleansing products. They are known for their strong cleansing effect and their ability to produce a rich lather.

Benefits of sulphates in skin care products

Strong cleaning properties

Sulfates are effective at removing dirt and oil, making them a popular choice in cleaning products.

Foam formation

They create a rich lather that can enhance the cleansing experience.

Possible side effects of sulphates

Skin irritation and dehydration

Sulphates can lead to irritation and dehydration, especially on sensitive or dry skin.

Disruption of the skin microbiome

They can disrupt the skin’s natural balance and weaken the skin barrier.

Use of sulphates in skin care products

Correct application

  • Moderate use: Use sulfate-containing products in moderation, especially if you tend to have oily skin.
  • Economical dosage: A small amount is often sufficient to achieve effective cleaning.

How not to use them

  • Not for sensitive skin: Avoid sulfates if you have sensitive, dry skin or skin conditions such as eczema.
  • Do not use excessively: Excessive use can dry out and irritate the skin.


1. are sulfates harmful to the skin? Sulfates are not generally harmful, but can cause dryness and irritation on some skin types.

2. can I use products containing sulphates every day? Yes, but caution is advised, especially for sensitive or dry skin.

3. are there sulfate-free alternatives? Yes, there are many sulfate-free cleansing products that are gentler on the skin.


Sulfates are powerful cleansers, but should be used with caution, especially on sensitive or dry skin. While they effectively remove dirt and oil, they can dry out and irritate the skin. It is worth considering sulphate-free alternatives to minimize the risk of skin problems and promote skin health.

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The Derma Check AI
The Derma Check's AI has been trained with the help of numerous scientific studies. She specializes in cosmetic ingredients and their effects.