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So you don’t want sulfates in your skin care products?

You’d better rethink that. Sulfate is just one of the ways that life forms, including us, take sulfur from the environment.

You may have a bad feeling about sulfur if you live near a volcano which emits sulfur smelling  gases. If you also believe in the existence of the devil and the underworld, you may associate the smell of sulfur to bad stuff or the Holemouth of Buffy . On the other hand, if you work in a laboratory that has drain problems (old Michigan State Biochem lab!) then the smell of hydrogen sulfide may warn you that you have to pay attention to the drains (hint: keep sinks wet).

Where is sulfur? Everywhere in your body. In your hair, in your cells, in your skin. And that’s good. In the order of abundance, sulfur is the fifth element on earth, and we use it a lot. In Skin Actives products you will finds some proteins that, working in harmony with glutathione, are involved in keeping our cells in working order: thioredoxin, glutaredoxin, and MSRA and MSRB. You will also find sulfates in the complex formulations that we designed to keep your skin and scalp healthy.

So how come some companies advertise “sulfate free” in their claims? It does not make sense to me, because we need sulfur in one way or another, to stay alive.

As usual in the industry, old stories become scaremongering material and a way to sell you products that don’t contain X or Y, even if the people who sell you those products have no idea where the story originated. From what I read, it seems that long ago there was one (of a million) chemical that had sulfate in its names that was associated with a health risk. From then on, people who don’t  understand chemical nomenclature decided that anything that had sulfate in their name was bad for you.

So, when somebody wants to sell you a sulfate-free anything, ask them why that is good for you. If they tell you that it is because sulfate containing shampoos are bad for you, tell them that it is not the sulfate that is problematic but the lauryl (dodecyl) bit that makes sodium lauryl sulfate a strong detergent.It is still great to wash dishes or make bubbles.  And let them know that they (the people trying to sell you stuff) are full of sulfates!