Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate





Chemical Formula: CH3(CH2)10CH2OSO3NH4

Ammonium lauryl sulfate is an anionic surfactant. This means it lowers the surface tension of water, making the water spread more easily. Surfactants are also called wetting agents, and are said (somewhat paradoxically) to make water "wetter". Ammonium lauryl sulfate is added to products as a foaming agent, and as a detergent. Notice in the structural formula that one end of the molecule is a long chain of carbon and hydrogen, while the other end is a salt of sulfuric acid and ammonia. The long chain is hydrophobic, and the salt is hydrophilic, making this a good detergent and surfactant. Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is used in many shampoos, toothpastes, and skin cleansers.

When ammonium lauryl sulfate is reacted with ethylene oxide, the result is the larger molecule ammonium laureth sulfate. This larger molecule has the same detergent and surfactant qualities, but is larger, so it does not penetrate the skin and hair as easily. The term "laureth" is actually a contraction. The full name is "ammonium lauryl ether sulfate". Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the same compound and has the same uses, but the ammonium group has been replaced with a sodium atom.

AMMONIUM LAURETH SULFATE is found in these product types: Shampoo, Body Wash/Cleanser, Facial Cleanser, Personal Cleansing, Dandruff/Scalp Treatment, Exfoliant/Scrub, Relaxer, Bubble Bath, Styling Gel/Lotion, Hair Color and Bleaching

Summary - Health information

Cancer hazard     Reproductive/developmental toxicity yes
Unsafe for use in cosmetics     Illegal ingredients (EU) yes
Illegal ingredients (US)     Unsafe in infant products yes
Potential for harmful impurities     Ingredient(s) not disclosed on label yes
Sunburn/skin cancer risk     Estrogenic chemicals and other endocrine disruptors yes
Irritants - eye, skin, or lungs     Fragrance yes
Persistent/bioaccumulative     Immune system toxicants (allergies, sensitization) yes
Penetration enhancers     Safety limits on use/purity/manufacturing yes
Classified as toxic     Potential for infectious disease risk yes
Hazards for occupational exposures     Industry safety warnings yes
Illegal for use in food     Illegal for use in drugs yes
Insufficient safety data     Wildlife/environmental toxicity yes
Ingredient(s) not assessed for safety     No safety information in 37 regulatory/toxicity data sources yes

AMMONIUM LAURYL SULFATE is found in these product types: Shampoo, Body Wash/Cleanser, Facial Cleanser, Liquid Hand Soap, Acne Treatment, Hair Color and Bleaching, Relaxer, Exfoliant/Scrub, Dandruff/Scalp Treatment, Bubble Bath, Foot Treatment, Shaving Cream (Men's), Anti-aging

Summary - Health Information

Cancer hazard yes   Reproductive/developmental toxicity yes
Unsafe for use in cosmetics yes   Illegal ingredients (EU) yes
Illegal ingredients (US) yes   Unsafe in infant products yes
Potential for harmful impurities yes   Ingredient(s) not disclosed on label yes
Sunburn/skin cancer risk yes   Estrogenic chemicals and other endocrine disruptors yes
Irritants - eye, skin, or lungs yes   Fragrance yes
Persistent/bioaccumulative yes   Immune system toxicants (allergies, sensitization) yes
Penetration enhancers yes   Safety limits on use/purity/manufacturing  
Classified as toxic yes   Potential for infectious disease risk yes
Hazards for occupational exposures yes   Industry safety warnings yes
Illegal for use in food yes   Illegal for use in drugs yes
Insufficient safety data yes   Wildlife/environmental toxicity yes
Ingredient(s) not assessed for safety yes   No safety information in 37 regulatory/toxicity data sources yes

 

This website is a collaborative group project by Stefanie Skyes-Allen, Asako Suzuki and Neha Shah to promote consumer and general awareness about cosmetics. As a final project for their Fall 2006 course 'Race, Gender and Environment', the goal is to understand and create awareness on this issue as one that takes on many dimensions. For comments or further information, contact wewantsafecosmetics@gmail.com