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The Top 10 Mildest Body Washes

QM29′s irritation inquiry: I’ve read about SLS and how it is a harsh cleanser that dry/sensitive skins should avoid. But there are plenty of variety in “cleanser components” in shower gels/shampoo/soaps. Which are the components to look for when you have dry skin and/or dry hair ? Which ones are to be avoided ? Are they the same for skin and hair ?

The Right Brain’s mildness missive:

There are many ingredients that are milder than SLS but rather than bore you with a litany of chemical names we’ll cut right to the chase: Based on several research studies (see references below from the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists), the mildest cleansing ingredient for hair and skin is: sodium cocoyl isethionate.

Why so serious (about mildness?)

Sodium Cocoyl Isthionate (or SCI for short) is thought to be milder than other surfactants for two reasons: It doesn’t strip as much natural oil from your skin and it doesn’t attach to protein as strongly as other cleansers so it rinses better and is therefore less irritating. So why doesn’t every cleansing product use this ingredient? Again, two reasons: it’s expensive and (by itself) it doesn’t produce the most aesthetically pleasing product. That’s why you’ll most commonly see it used as a secondary surfactant in products.

If you want to try this mild cleansing ingredient yourself, here is our top ten list of body washes that use it in significant quantities (i.e., SCI is the first or second ingredient after water as long as the first ingredient is not a lauryl or laureth sulfate.)

One important note: we’re only talking about the mildness of this ingredient. There is no way for us to know if any of these products will irritate you because of other ingredients, like the fragrance. But if you’re sensitive to sulfate-based products and you are looking for an alternative that is based on milder cleansing chemistry, you might want to give some of these a try.

Top 10 mild body washes

  1. Ahava Dermud Moisturizing Shower Cream
  2. Carol’s Daughter Goddess Flower Body Cleansing Cream
  3. Crabtree & Evelyn Crabtree & Evelyn India Hicks Spider Lily Body Polish
  4. Enkido Earthy Pleasures Body Wash
  5. I.C.O.N. One Soul Hair and Body Shampoo
  6. Moor Spa/Elixea Shower Gel
  7. Natural Magic Eco-Herbal Skin Care Herbal Cleansing Foam
  8. Nature’s Gate Papaya Velvet Moisture Body Wash
  9. Wildwood Naturals Citrus Sage Foaming Bath Butter
  10. Zia Natural Skincare Ultimate Cleansing Mousse

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References (JSCC):

Why is sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI) mild to the skin barrier?An in vitro investigation based on …2007, Vol 58

Review of properties of surfactants that determine their interactions with stratum corneum 1997, Vol 48

The use of fluorescein as a probe to monitor anionic surfactant rinsability from skin 1998, Vol 49

Have YOU ever tried a cleaning product with SCI? Leave a comment and share your experiences with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Conrad Zimmerman November 4, 2014, 12:19 am

    This is great article. I have oily skin and have longed to find a cleanser that doesnt strip as much as SLS or sodium laureth sulfate. I finally found cleanser that contained SCI as a secondary surfactant among the list of

    Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Lauryl Betaine, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Acrylates/ C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

    QV GENTLE WASH by EGO phamaceuticals

    I really wish that natural hippies or those with dry skin who use cleansing creams, milk and lotion cleansers would try surfact cleansers such as these that really are gentle. There is a fallacy out there that all gel/foam cleansers strip skin, damage proteins and remove necessary lipids. That is not the case, it is up to the cosmetic chemist to formulate gentle surfactants for these people. Cleansing lotions, milks and cold creams always leave a residue.