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How to pick a mild shampoo Episode 47

There are SO many cleansers used in shampoos, how can you tell which ones are the mildest? Tune in this week as Randy and I teach you how to find a gentle shampoo.

Show notes

Beauty Science News

Question of the week: How do you choose a mild shampoo?

Alexandra asks…I have been trying to find more delicate shampoo because my hair is baby fine and prone to breakage. I know laureth is better than lauryl but is it the best? What about coconut based detergents in natural products. I’d love to be able to tell how harsh a shampoo is just from the list of ingredients.

What does mildness mean?

“Mild” can mean different things to different people.

  • Does “mild” mean the product shouldn’t irritate skin? Then you will want classic gentle, ingredients.
  • Or does “mild” mean it won’t sting your eyes? In that case you need something that’s not only gentle to skin but that’s proven to be non-stinging to eyes, as in baby shampoos.
  • Or, as Alexandra asked, are you worried about fine hair which can break easily? Then you might need extra conditioning to provide mildness.
  • She also might want a shampoo that lathers as quickly and thoroughly as possible so she doesn’t have to spend a lot of time scrubbing her hair to get it cleaned which can cause more breakage. In that case a shampoo which produces lather very quickly maybe important to her.

As you can see depending on what you’re looking for in a “mild” shampoo may determine what type of product we would recommend.

So why don’t cosmetic chemists just make one type of formula that suits all these goals. Why not make it high foaming AND fast foaming, AND mild to skin AND to eyes AND very conditioning – why not just put all that together into one product? The answer is – it’s a little more complicated than you might think.

Why chemists pick one surfactant over another

As in the case with most cosmetics, it’s a question of trade offs. Yes some ingredients are milder than others – but there are always multiple goals you’re trying to achieve when you make any formulation. If your goal is to produce the mildest formula period, then yes of course you should use the gentlest ingredients. But what if your goal is to also make the shampoo foam really well? The mildest ingredients don’t always foam well – so that’s a problem. And you’ll also have cost constraints which limit which ingredients you can use. If your goal is to produce the cheapest formula, then no. So as chemists it’s our job to do the best we can in balancing all these parameters to deliver a product that meets the goals. Here are a few of things we measure when we formulate a mild shampoo:

  • Irritantcy
  • Foam height
  • Foam texture
  • Flash foam (speed of foaming)
  • Detergency – how well it cleans. A shampoo may be very gentle but if you have to wash your hair three times to remove styling residue the net result will be more damage to your hair.
  • Processing considerations – we tend to think of the consumer is driving all the important product attributes however this is not necessarily the case. I think you would be surprised to find out how much the manufacturing side of a company how much input they have on what goes into a formula.
  • Compatibility with other ingredients – strong anionics like sulfates don’t play well with conditioning agents. Sal acid needs low pH which some surfactants don’t like.
  • Color
  • Odor
  • Purity – trace amounts of things can that mess up the formula like too much salt.
    Natural considerations (sourcing/biodegradability etc)

So the point of all this is just to recognize that there is a lot more involved in picking a good surfactant beyond its mildness.

Lower cost cleansers that are more likely to irritate

These are the most commonly used surfactants because they clean well and they’re cheap. However, they are also more likely to irritate skin and strip hair.

  • Sulfates (regular): Sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium lauryl sulfate, TEA lauryl sulfate
    Excellent foamers and degreasers. However sulfates do tend to bind to skin protein which means they don’t rinse very well. This can lead to irritation for some people.
  • Ether Sulfates (ethoxylated): Sodium laureth sulfate, Ammonium laureth sulfate, Sodium trideceth sulfate
    Milder than regular sulfates but don’t foam as well.
  • Alpha Olefin Sulfonates: Sodium C12-14 Olefin Sulfonate, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
    One of the most commonly used surfactants in the world (not just in shampoos) because they’re low priced, high foaming, all purpose surfactants. In terms of mildness they about the same as the ether sulfates.

Mildness boosters (can be added to lower cost cleansers to reduce irritation)

This is the list of ingredients that can make an SLS or SLES based shampoo much more tolerable because these can mitigate irritation. They can “plus up” a cheap surfactant to give you a milder product

  • Amine oxides: Cocamidopropylamine oxide
    These have excellent oily soil removal properties. Are used as foam boosters. They not only improve the amount of foam but also the quality of its structure. They have the bonus feature of providing some conditioning to hair that persists after rinsing.
  • Betaines: Cocamidopropyl betaine
    Betaines are effective cleansers, they are also foam boosters and thickeners. They can also reduce irritation of other surfactants. Good value for the money.
  • Glutamates: Sodium lauroyl glutamate, sodium cocoyl glutamate
    Made glutamic acid. Very mild but don’t lather very well.
  • Glycinates: Sodium cocoyl glycinate,  potassium cocoyl glycinate.
    Glycinates are made from the amino acid glycine. These are mild because they have good skin compatibility. (Not irritate like SLS). They even show some hair conditioning properties. However they’re not stable in hard water so unless you have soft water you probably want to stay away from formulas containing glycinates.
  • Sarcosinates: Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate
    Sarcosinates are made from yet another amino acid called sarcosine which is also known an n-methyl glycine.  Similar mildness and foaming profile. However, some people have gotten contact dermatitis from hand soaps using this stuff.
  • Sulfoacetates: Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate
    Although it seems to be a “safer” alternative to sodium lauryl sulfate, it still does pose the risk of skin irritation. Additionally, it’s not an environmentally-friendly option, as it takes a long time to bio-degrade and does pollute aquatic ecosystems.
  • Sulfosuccinates: Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate,  CocamidMEA Sulfosuccinate
    This mildness booster gives high foam but it doesn’t do much to build viscosity. It is mild but has some restrictions around pH so this is another one that you can’t use in sal acid systems.
  • Sultaines: Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, lauramidopropyl hydroxysultaine
    Give great foam at low pH and can improve the mildness of harsher detergent systems. Also good for dispersing lime soap so if you have some bath rub ring, it will help with that whereas some surfactants will just make the problem worse.
  • Taurates: Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate
    Another amino acid based surfactant, this one based n-methyltaurine.

Higher cost/proven to be most mild

These are the premium cleansers that are the most mild and which are typically used in the most expensive products.

  • Amphoacetates (Amphoterics):Sodium Cocoamphoacetate
    At normal use levels amphoacetates are non-stinging to the eyes which is why they’re used in baby shampoos. While you may see this listed as the first surfactant, it’s typically not the only one. It still needs to be coupled with other surfactants to provide optimal performance. (for example, it doesn’t thicken easily.) Having said that, it does have good lather, it’s gentle, and it provides some conditioning to hair. It also biodegrades easily which is a bonus.
  • Glucosides: Decyl Glucoside
    These are formally known as Alky Polyglucosides. While these are certainly synthetic materials they are often considered natural because the alkyl part can be made from coconut oil the glucoside part is typically corn derived. It’s non-ionic (one of the reasons it’s mild) – the more glucose units it contains, the milder it is. It also has pretty decent foam. It’s typically used with a betaine to thicken and boost lather. Benefit is that it’s completely free from any kind of ethoxylation which can lead to dioxane contamination.
  • Isethionates: Sodium cocoyl isethionate, Sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate
    Our favorite mild surfactant – the isethionates. Multiple studies have shown them to be extremely mild to skin and it produces a really creamy lather. The “isethionate” part comes from isethionic acid which is a type of sulfonic acid – so this is related to the sulfonates we talked about earlier. It can be irritating to eyes at higher concentrations so you won’t see this used much in baby shampoos but other than that we consider it to be the gold standard for mild surfactants.

Four tips to pick a mild shampoo

  • Avoid anything with “sulfate” and “sulfonate”
  • Look for Isethionate or Glucoside as the first ingredient after water
  • Look for Mildness boosters such as sulfosuccinates, sultaines, amphodiacetates
    Look for conditioning ingredients like silicones, polyquaterniums, and “guar”

Finally keep in mind that fragrance can be irritating and that no matter how hard you look for a mild product that can be an issue that you can’t screen for by looking at the ingredients.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tamira Hamilton September 9, 2014, 11:27 am

    The chemistry is very interesting. I wonder how this applies to dry shampoos. There is a new dry shampoo by Fixx that is getting rave reviews. As an African American, I have never tried it, but I think I should. Now that I think about dry shampoo is perfect for black hair! No water! duh!

    • Randy Schueller September 9, 2014, 3:16 pm

      Dry shampoos (as a rule) are not surfactant based so most of the our analysis doesn’t apply. In theory, dry shampoos should be much less irritating (unless you have a reaction to the fragrance.)

  • Barbara Bird September 9, 2014, 7:09 pm

    Thanks, Guys! Great show. You can NOT get too technical for me. I eat this stuff like ice cream. I appreciate your clarity re surfactants, plus a bonus is I got good clues about pronounciation. When I speak to pet groomers about product ingredients and how they work, I encourage them to learn how to pronounce ingredient names (rather than not use anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce). I even have a little 4-part song where we sing out about Coco-mido-propyl-betaine. This was a great job of slicing and serving the surfactant “pie”. You Rock! PS. LOVED the Sultaines of Swing! Oh, and yes, I have two copies of the Beauty Brains book, plus I just ordered the Conditioning Agents for Hair & Skin book. You two are my heros!

    • Randy Schueller September 10, 2014, 10:06 am

      Wow, Barbara, you just made our day! (Not only because of the nice things you said about us but because you made up a SONG about surfactants! That’s awesomely hilarious.)

  • Kate John September 13, 2014, 4:16 pm

    Hi guys, I use a shampoo by the brand ShiKai that is supposed to be very mild. It says it uses an extract from an East Asian acacia tree and that is where the shampoo gets its gentle cleansing magic. It also contains olefin sulfonate and some coconut derived detergents. Does the extract really do anything? I would love to hear your thoughts on it!

    • Randy Schueller September 13, 2014, 6:20 pm

      Hey Kate. If you can send me a link to the complete ingredient list I’ll take a look at it but my guess is that the product uses olefin sulfonate as its primary surfactant and just adds a touch of the extract which doesn’t really do anything.

  • Pedro September 16, 2014, 11:11 pm

    Any opinion about Sodium Methyl 2-Sulfolaurate / Disodium 2-Sulfolaurate? It’s a Brazilian version of a Johnson’s Baby shampoo line, but subjectively speaking I’m not finding this shampoo extremely mild to my skin:

    Aqua, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Coco-glucoside, Sodium Methyl 2-Sulfolaurate / Disodium 2-Sulfolaurate, Polyquaternium-7, Sodium Benzoate, Glycerin, Cetyl Betaine, Citric Acid, Parfum, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tetrasodium EDTA, CI 42090, CI 17200.

  • MsTindigo September 23, 2014, 11:41 am

    Hi Guys, I just had the time to translate your article very-very properly. It is very nice, I understand much more how a shampoo work. 🙂 I have very sensitive skin everywhere. Can I apply your advice when I choose a shower gel? What do you think about sodium-coco-sulfate, lauryl glucoside and coco-glucoside? And why is sodium PCA in my shampoo? 🙂
    And what do you think about that panthenol makes you acne if it is in a shampoo or conditioner? Can it be true? As I have an acne-prone skin, should I find one without panthenol? (Sorry for my too many questions, but in Hungary the mildest, fragrance-free products are babyproducts, which always contains panthenol.) Here is the article where I read this: http://blog.reneerouleau.com/can-hair-conditioner-cause-my-skin-break-out/
    Thank you for this very useful article! My scalp is very-very sensitive, and I have never found a shampoo which does not make my scalp to itch at all, so I hope based on your article I will find a perfect one! 🙂

    • Randy Schueller September 23, 2014, 2:28 pm

      Hi MsTindigo! Yes, you can use this advice for body wash. Sodium-coco-sulfate is essential the same as sodium laury sulfate. Sodium PCA doesn’t do anything in a shampoo. The gucosides are good, we mentioned them in the podcast. I’ve never heard that panthenol causes acne.

      • MsTindigo September 26, 2014, 3:09 am

        Thank you, Randy! 🙂

      • stacey slotty February 24, 2017, 9:30 am

        I also have very touchy skin and break out from baby shampoo/other mild products. I was diagnosed with folliculitis, which feels very similar to acne. It is interesting to hear that panthenol could be at the root of this issue. My daughter has the same problem. Our genetics also predispose us to very oily skin and fine hair.
        I need to use a medicated shampoo to deal with the breakouts which really dries out my hair, unfortunately, so I’m trying to find a mild shampoo/conditioner with keratin that will assist with repair but not weigh it down.

  • Scott September 29, 2014, 6:44 pm

    Hi Guys

    Absolutely fantastic podcast and article! Thoroughly comprehensive and easy to understand which is great.
    Armed with this new information, I went ahead and purchased what I think is a mild formula. I shampooed my hair and then used the corresponding conditioner and I was very pleasantly surprised. I wanted a mild shampoo because standard SLS/SLES shampoo’s tend to make my hair feel like I’ve shampooed it with dishwashing liquid.

    Please can you take a close look at the ingredient list and share your professional opinion:

    Aqua/Water/Eau, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Sodium Cocoamphopropionate, Cocamide MEA, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Decyl Glucoside, PEG-150 Distearate, Parfum/Fragrance, PEG-55 Propylene Glycol Oleate, Propylene Glycol, Cocos Nucifera Oil/Coconut Oil, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Linalool, Sodium Benzoate, Hydroxypropyl Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil/Sunflower Seed Oil, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Coumarin, Methyl Cocoate, Helianthus Annuus Seed Extract/Sunflower Seed Extract, Sodium Cocoate, Lecithin, Geraniol, Sodium Hydroxide, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Citric Acid.

    • Randy Schueller September 30, 2014, 8:10 am

      Hey Scott. It looks like you did a good job at picking a mild detergent system. Remember, though, that the “dishwashing liquid” feeling you described may also be from lack of conditioning agents. This shampoo contains a guar which is a good conditioner but that’s about it. But the important thing is how much you like it!

      • Scott October 1, 2014, 12:16 pm

        Thanks Randy, appreciate the reply. Will this shampoo remove an overnight coconut oil soaking or should I buy a shampoo with stronger detergents for that? Thanks

        • Randy Schueller October 1, 2014, 4:12 pm

          Given how hydrophobic coconut oil is, I wouldn’t be surprised if you needed a sulfate based shampoo to get your hair clean. But I’d start with the mild product and see how that works first.

  • Alessandra October 14, 2014, 10:18 am

    First of all, thank you so much for this wonderful post. I realized that the most expensive shampoos I owned, like Kerastase, had the harshest formula (with sodium lauryl and alumini lauryl)…. Funnily enough, at $1.99, Suave only has the gentler sulfate (Sodium laureth). I switched to alternating between Klorane (chamomile shampoo or volumizing shampoo), and Trader Joe’s tingle, and my breakage stopped. However, your article is so detailed that I am almost confused…. Could you just give a few examples/names of gentle shampoos? For those like me with fine hair (and we are the ones who need gentle cleansers!) too many conditioning agents esp. Silicone-based, can make the hair greasy and limp. Also – can a shampoo be both volumizing AND gentle? (And again, could you give examples?). You are the best.

    • Randy Schueller October 14, 2014, 10:50 am

      Can a shampoo be both volumizing AND gentle? Yes at long as it doesn’t contain the harsher surfactants that we talked about.

      L’Oreal’s EverPure line is a specific example of product that uses mild cleansers.

  • Aine March 21, 2015, 6:33 am

    Hi guys, I bookmarked this article and refer to it in my endless search for shampoo to relieve severe itching.

    I have made some progress. I had great results with Phytoapaisant by Phyto. Unfortunately, it doesn’t agree with me for a couple of days before it makes me feel good enough to forget I have a scalp condition.

    Could you take a look at the ingredients and l tell me what could be working so I can replicate the results with something else; and what could be causing my discomfort so I can stop pouring money down the drain?

    Titlia Tomentosa Extract, Passiflora Incarnata Extract (Decoction Of Passionflower And Linden), Water/ Aqua, Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Coconut Oil Derivative), Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, Lauryl Glucoside (Coconut Oil And Corn Starch Derivative), Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate (Coconut Oil Derivative), Sodium Chloride, Inulin (Chicory Extract), Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Peg-15 Cocopolyamine, Potyulaca Oleracea Extract (Purslane Extract), Coco-Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Propylen Glycol, Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Flower/ Leaf/ Stem Extract, Zanthoxylum Alatum Fruit Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Fragrance/ Parfum, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Lactitol (Milk Derivative), Panthenol (Pro-Vitamin B5), Peg-150 Distearate, Xylitol (Oat, Straw And Wood Derivative), Piroctone Olamine, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Salicylate, Sorbic Acid, Tetrasodium Edta, Oleyl Alcohol, Tocopherol.

    Thank you.

    • Randy Schueller March 21, 2015, 7:30 am

      The Piroctone Olamine is an antidandruff active and that could be helping to control itch. (It’s interesting that they don’t even list this as one of their active ingredients even though it’s an approved drug!!) Maybe you should look for another shampoo with this active.

      The surfactants used appear to all be mild so they shouldn’t be a problem.

      There’s million extracts in here and I don’t know if they help or hurt or not.

      The fragrance is always a suspect when it comes to aggravating scalp conditions.

      I hope this helps!

  • chandu July 28, 2015, 12:29 pm

    Any one suggest me one mild sampoo..what ever the shampoos I am using now making my Hari dry..help me out

  • Jean King November 4, 2015, 8:36 am

    Hello. Thank you for the great article. Can you recommend a mild hair gel or thickening spray for thin hair? Thank you.

    • Randy Schueller November 4, 2015, 8:48 am

      Hi Jean. Hair gels and thickening sprays don’t have the same “mildness” issues as shampoos because they don’t contain surfactants (detergents) that can irritate your scalp.I guess if anything you should look for an alcohol free product because large amounts of alcohol can be drying to skin if left on your scalp.

  • Baloch January 21, 2016, 11:16 am

    Thanks for a wonderful informative article. I want to experiment a soap requiring sodium olefin sulfonate c14 c16, but it is not available in local market. Can you please guide for some alternative. I can get coco butane easily. Can it be used?

    • Baloch January 21, 2016, 11:18 am

      Can I use sulfonic acid in place of sodium olefin sulfonate c14 c16?

      • Randy Schueller January 21, 2016, 5:39 pm

        NO! One is an acid the other is a surfactant. If you need additional help formulating you might check out our sister site: http://www.chemistscorner.com

        • Baloch January 23, 2016, 7:23 am

          Thanks for your guidance. I shall check it from that site please.

        • Baloch January 23, 2016, 7:36 am

          I need to produce leather like shaving gel produces from transparent soap. I have tried coconut oil, caster oil and SLS, SLES , ETDA but not happy with the amount of leather and bubbles produced. Can you please guide me for suitable chemical for it.

  • Alison March 20, 2016, 10:30 am

    Your blog is so incredibly helpful. I have been experiencing contact dermatitis for awhile now (which I thought was just eczema). I got some patch testing done and came up as allergic to cocamidopropyl betaine. I’ve noticed it is in a ton of my natural and organic products from Whole Foods/Sephora. I actually don’t see it in my higher end products, but I do typically see coco glucoside. I read your post and see that glucosides are better. But do you know what the relationship between cocamidopropyl betaine and coco glucoside is? I don’t believe I have a coconut allergy. I eat coconut pretty often, and I read that the allergen to cocamidopropyl betaine is possibly related to contaminants. Do you think coco glucoside is safe to use?

    • Randy Schueller March 20, 2016, 5:17 pm

      Yes I believe so. Some people have shown sensitivity to betaines but I’ve never seen it glucosides.

      • Alison March 23, 2016, 8:59 pm

        Great! I’ll test out some with coco glucosides and see how it goes.

  • JCS March 22, 2016, 10:00 am

    This is fantastic! I’m looking for a gentle shampoo b/c I’m going through chemotherapy, but I’m using “cold capping” to save my hair. I have to be very gentle. I was told to avoid sulfates, parabens, and alcohol. I’m learning that avoiding sulfates isn’t as easy as I thought. So, what do you think about alcohol being in the shampoo? That’s drying, right? And harsh? If I have to choose one, should I go with a sulfonate (no SLS) or alcohol way down the list? Here is an example. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Shampoo — Water, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Decyl Glucoside, Glycol Distearate, Octafluoropentyl Methacrylate (OFPMA), PCA Glyceryl Oleate, Behenyl Alcohol, PEG-150 Pentaerythrityl Tetrastearate, IPDI/PEG-15 Soyamine Copolymer Dimer Dilinoleate, PEG-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Dihydroxypropyl PEG-5 Linoleammonium Chloride, Polyquaternium-47, Laureth-4, Laureth-23, PEG-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Fragrance/Parfum, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Citronellol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Magnesium Nitrate, Magnesium Chloride.
    THANK YOU!!!

    • Randy Schueller March 22, 2016, 2:09 pm

      Are you talking about the behenyl alcohol? That’s a conditioning agent and is not drying at all.

  • chamane April 29, 2016, 1:53 pm

    in france, we have an excellent retailer of cosmetics ingredients ( the greatest choice in the world)
    on his site, you can find a notice for each product with the specifications and examples of formulation ( no buying is required)
    the adress: http://www.aroma-zone.com

  • Alessandra June 10, 2016, 11:46 am

    This was such an amazing post! Thank you!
    In the past year, I saw incredible improvement in the condition of my fine hair when I completely stopped using all types of silicones and sulfates. This completely stopped my breakage! However, the brand that works best, Rahua, costs a fortune. I don’t like the Loreal sulfate free shampoos. Can I use baby Johnsons shampoo as a sulfate free shampoo, or does higher ph (what makes it tear-free) make it more drying? I want the shampoo to be gentle/less stripping, but not too conditioning (I’d rather use a separate conditioner because I have an outlier scalp). Thanks!!!!

    • Randy Schueller June 10, 2016, 9:55 pm

      The pH of baby shampoo is close to 7 which is neutral. That will not make it more drying.

  • Alessandra June 10, 2016, 11:52 am

    Finally, I noticed that a French brand I tried because its shampoos are marketed as gentle and low-foaming actually has Alumum lauryl sulfate as the first ingredient in all shampoos. Isn’t that the harshest of all sulfates? The ingredient are listed under “details” if you click on the following link:

    • Randy Schueller June 10, 2016, 9:56 pm

      I don’t believe there is such a thing as “aluminum lauryl sulfate.” Do you mean ammonium lauryl sulfate? If you do, that has approximately the same effect as sodium lauryl sulfate.

      • Alessandra June 13, 2016, 7:31 am

        Yes, Ammonium lauryl, sorry about the typo!
        Is it accurate to say that it’s usually harsher than sodium laureth? And if so, isn’t it funny that several brands that advertise their shampoos at SLES-free have ammonium lauryl as the first ingredient? (See Organix and L. greyl).

        • Randy Schueller June 13, 2016, 2:05 pm

          No, there’s really not much difference. It’s the lauryl part that’s the issue not the counter ion.

          • Alessandra June 13, 2016, 7:35 pm

            You mean that sodium lauryl and ammonium lauryl are harsher than sodium laureth and ammonium laureth?

          • Randy Schueller June 14, 2016, 8:26 am

            Yes. The ethoxylation process makes the detergent milder (and a little less powerful as a cleanser.) Essentially that’s because it’s more water soluble.

  • Alessandra June 13, 2016, 6:04 pm

    Yes, I meant ammonium lauryl: isn’t it harsher than sodium laureth sulfate?

  • Sydney McHugh August 4, 2016, 2:53 pm

    I read an abstract for a paper setting that the reason sodium isethionate is much more mild than SLS is due to the size of the micelle with respect to the average size of pores in skin. I am curious if it is appropriate to assume that this physical interaction also applies to hair surface morphology. All of the explanations I have found about sodium isethionate being mild refer specifically to skin.

    Thank you for this excellent source of information!

    • Randy Schueller August 5, 2016, 9:09 am

      I don’t it affects hair the same way. Based on what I’ve read the effect on skin is based on an interaction with the skin protein which is different for hair.

  • Meidre Cleminson May 2, 2017, 2:44 am

    Help please! Are these shampoo ingredients safe for colour treated hair? sulphosuccinate; sodium methyl 2-sulfolaurette; disodium 2-sulf?olaurate; sodium lauryl sulfoacetate. I am utterly confused and looking for sulphate free shampoos to help very fine colour treated hair. I heard that Paul Mitchell has a new shampoo in the tea-tree range for thinning hair. The ingredients listed above are in this shampoo BUT it it really sulfate free?? Thank you so much for your help.

    • Randy Schueller May 2, 2017, 8:46 am

      Based on the ingredients this should be fine for your hair.

  • Susan Gauthier February 11, 2018, 10:45 pm

    I am allergic to cocomidopropyl betaine. Can you recommend a mild shampoo that does not contain this ingredient? I am also allergic to sulphur.

  • Katerina March 13, 2018, 10:48 pm

    Hi! I was reading all the info and was very helping, but I cant tell if John Frieda Flawlessly Straight was mild to the skin as it contains sodium lauryl sulphate, I see there was glycol distearate too, I understand that this makes milder the mix but i’m not sure because is so low in the ingredients list…Could you tell me by this list of ingredients? Thank you, i am on a budget and don’t know if i should buy it as somo shampoos with lauryl make my scalp itch.
    Aqua, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Dimethicone, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cetyl Alcohol, Betaine, Cocamide MEA, Glyceryl Oleate, Parfum, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Benzyl Alcohol, Sodium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Malic Acid, Laureth-23, Laureth-4, Glycine, Polyquaternium-7, Tocopheryl Acetate, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil, Hydrolyzed Keratin, PPG-9, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Sodium Hydroxide, Methylisothiazolinone, Linalool, Hexyl Cinnamal, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Limonene

    • Perry Romanowski April 3, 2018, 7:50 am

      It may or may not be mild to your skin. It looks like a pretty standard shampoo though so I don’t expect it to be any less mild than most other shampoos.

  • Ann Tagle November 30, 2018, 2:55 am

    thanks for this blog. I’m taking note of your tips on mild surfactant, since i’ve been a newbie in formulating my own product line =)

  • Andrzej S. October 19, 2019, 6:10 pm

    I’ve got a question about Amphoacetates. You wrote that it has conditioning properties to hair. What about skin – does it bind to proteins in it?