Skin Care 101: Surfactants In Skin and Hair Care Products

Surfactants In Skin and Hair Care Products

Skin Care 101: Surfactants In Skin and Hair Care Products

Taking a stroll down memory lane when playing with bubble foam in a bath time was your favorite fun activity. However, certain things do not change even if we grow older like your love for foaming products.  Truth be told, skin and hair care formulation comprising too much lather are not very friendly to your skin and hair. A research study published in European Journal of Dermatology has mentioned the detergency effects of surfactants may disturb the barrier functions of skin. Whereas, another research study has elaborated that frequent use of hair care products containing Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) may lead to dehydrated, damaged, and breakage-prone hair. Hence, improving your knowledge about the types and role of surfactants present in your personal care products will be only a healthy approach to maintain healthy hair and skin.


Surfactants or surface-active compounds reduce the surface tension at the interface between oil and water molecules.  Basically, they are designed to remove the dirt, grease, and impurities from your skin surface.  Surfactants are used in cleansing formulations like face cleansers, body wash, shampoos, and soaps.

Commonly used surfactants 

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Cocamphocarboxyglycinate
  • Cocoamidopropyl betaine
  • Ammonium laureth sulfate
  • Disodium lauryl sulfosuccinate
  • Alpha-Olefin sulfonate


  1. Anionic surfactants
  2. Cationic surfactants
  3. Non-ionic surfactants
  4. Amphoteric surfactants

1. Anionic surfactants

Anionic surfactants are used as the major detergent ingredient in cosmetic products because they work effectively to remove dirt and oil impurities.  When dissolved in water, these negatively charged molecules bind to positively charged contaminants. However, numerous research studies have identified that anionic surfactants may bring skin irritations and allergies.

2. Cationic surfactants

These positively charged surfactant molecules are not considered as good cleansing agents. Instead of this, they are used as a conditioning agent in hair care products. Damaged hair carry more negative charge, which is why cationic surfactants get easily absorbed on your hair surface and form a smooth coating around the hair cuticle. They help to keep your hair frizz-free, soft, and smooth. Frequent use of cationic surfactant can be detrimental to both your skin and hair.

3. Non-ionic surfactants

These types of surfactants do not carry any charge. The use of non-ionic detergents is not only limited to personal care products but they are used in the agrochemical industry. Since non-ionic surfactants have no negative charge, making them better oily soil emulsifiers. In addition, the low foaming properties of nonionic surfactants make them a preferred choice in the variety of products.

4. Amphoteric surfactants

Amphoteric surfactants have both  negative charge and  positive charge.  Such surfactants have low toxicity, wonderful anti - bactericidal action, and superb resistance to hard water. The major advantage of amphoteric surfactants is that they are less irritating to the skin and eyes.  Such surfactants are extensively used to make baby products and gentle cleansers for sensitive skin because of their mildness.


Skin Care 101: Surfactants In Skin and Hair Care Products


Surfactants are an integral part of almost all cosmetic formulations. However, the use of certain surfactants have been found to cause long-term damage to your hair and skin. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth ether sulfate are common surfactants in skin and hair products. Frequent use of such cleansing agents strips away natural oils from your skin which increases the risk of early aging and skin allergies. Skin care experts strictly advise using sulphate free cleanser for people having acne-prone or sensitive skin as they might worsen the existing skin issues. To add to this, sulphate based shampoos have damaging effects on your hair structure. Whereas, another research study has elaborated the negative impact of certain surfactants on marine life and surroundings. Above all, choosing an ideal surfactant seems like an insurmountable task for you but it’s worth to preserve the charm of your skin and hair. 

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