|What is it?||Sodium Laureth Sulfate (sodium lauryl ether sulfate/SLeS) is an anionic surfactant made from coconuts. It should not be confused with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)—SLeS is much milder.|
|INCI||Sodium Laureth Sulfate|
|Appearance||Clear, viscous liquid or a smooth, thick paste—it is available at different concentrations and more concentrated versions are thicker.|
|Usage rate||The CIR has not noted a maximum usage rate. Let the desired total active surfactant matter of your end product be your guide.|
|Active Surfactant Matter||26–70% (this varies with format; confirm with your supplier)|
|pH||7.5 (10% solution)|
|Why do we use it in formulations?||Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) is an excellent lathering surfactant and is a great choice for a primary surfactant in any kind of foaming/cleansing product. It is also a fairly decent solubilizer.|
|Do you need it?||No|
|Refined or unrefined?||Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) only exists as a refined product.|
|Strengths||Fantastic lather, great cleansing.|
|Weaknesses||It is still a sulfate, which some people prefer to avoid due to possible irritation or colour-treated hair. It also tends to get confused with SLS, which isn’t really a weakness of the product itself.|
|Alternatives & Substitution||Generally speaking, you’d hope to replace any surfactant with one that is the same format and has the same charge. A similar pH and ASM would be nice, but those differences can be accommodated in the formulation. It is also nice if the surfactant has a similar feel and produces similar lather.
If you need a substitute for Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS), Sodium coco sulfate is another sulfate you may have on hand, though you will likely need to dissolve it in some water to create a liquid solution with a similar concentration to use it in place of SLeS. You can try Sodium C14-16 Alpha Olefin Sulfonate (Bio-Terge AS40) as an alternative liquid anionic non-sulfate surfactant, or even Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, though it is non-ionic and does not have the same high-foam properties.
|How to Work with It||Include it in the water phase of your formulations; it can be hot or cold processed.|
|Storage & Shelf Life||Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLeS) should last at least two years.|
|Tips, Tricks, and Quirks||There is quite a lot of misinformation about the safety of SLeS. I recommend giving this a read. Neither SLS or SLeS are carcinogens.|
|Recommended starter amount||250g (0.5lbs) (solid surfactant bars and bath bombs will use lots!)|
|Where to Buy it||Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier.|
Want to compare different surfactants?
Check out my super useful surfactants table!