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When a Sulfate Isn't a Sulfate, Pt. IV

When a Sulfate Isn't a Sulfate, Pt. IV

Posted by Michele Zagorski on 8th Aug 2015

Unfortunately, now manufacturers are afraid to put anything with the word 'sulfate' on its ingredients list. They know a big 'SULFATE-FREE' on the front of their label will help it sell. But, we as consumers are paying a price for their shiftless marketing tactics. The big companies that jumped on the 'SULFATE-FREE' bandwagon created this mess, but who's going to remedy it?  (Read Part IPart II, and Part III first)

Bill Murray meme

Occasionally, large companies do pay for the confusion they created. For instance, there was a kerfluffle due to WEN having a product marketed as 'sulfate-free', but with an ingredient with the word sulfate on the back label...they were called hypocrites, got bad press, and lost customers and trust, even though the 'sulfate' ingredient was a plant-based, very mild conditioner that was ECO-CERT certified, and NOT petroleum-based, harsh, contaminated, or even any kind of surfactant.  It was actually a great ingredient, and I use it in my own shampoo. (There are other issues with WEN, but this case wasn't a valid complaint.)

It may be hard to fathom, but good companies are feeling pressured to choose less safe, less pure ingredients to the detriment of their products and their customers' health, to avoid the word 'sulfate' at all costs...rather than simply educating their customers. 'Sulfate-free' has become a runaway train.

That's a real shame, because it's hurting you and me, and them.

For example, here is the ingredients list of a very good, reputable company that is committed to natural, Fair Trade, sustainability, etc...all very commendable. I'm not going to name the company because I don't want to come across as bashing them, and I would love to see more companies with these values, but check this out:

Looks wonderful, right? You'd probably want to buy it after reading that beautiful ingredients list.

Look at that 3rd ingredient, BEHENTRIMONIUM CHLORIDE. That's a conditioning agent. This is what Truth In Aging has to say about it:

"Behentrimonium chloride is a toxic compound, and concentrations of .1% and higher have been shown to damage the eyes by causing tissue death of the mucous membranes. It's also highly flammable, and irritating to the skin."

Let that sink in for a moment...

Here's the kicker: there exists a much safer and gentler alternative called BEHENTRIMONIUM METHOSULFATE.

Here is how Truth In Aging describes the sulfate version:

"A very mild yet effective ingredient known for its de-tangling and hair thickening properties...gentle enough to be used in baby products that are left on the skin. The EWG Cosmetic Database rates behentrimonium methosulfate as a low hazard ingredient."

So, why in the world would this natural, conscious company choose the CHLORIDE version rather than the much safer and gentler SULFATE when they both do the same thing? Was it an honest mistake? I doubt it. Large companies employ a whole staff of specialized chemists who have been trained to formulate bodycare products, and are very well-versed in ingredient choices.

Could it be because everyone 'knows' sulfates are bad(the kinder, gentler methosulfate version was the same ingredient that caused the ruckus at WEN), and they were afraid that single word could lead to decreased sales numbers and lost faith in the goodness of the company? 

Do you see the irony? Instead of choosing to trust and respect their customers by simply educating them about this ingredient choice, they chose a harmful ingredient because they were afraid their customers would think they were choosing harmful chemicals and lose their trust and good reputation.  Is your head spinning yet?  They assumed their customers wouldn't know the difference. 

Well, you know better. Count yourself as an informed consumer! 

I will not put 'sulfate-free' or any other misleading information on my labels to make them better sellers.  I will inform you about my ingredient choices and trust you as I hope you will trust me.

My website now has an INGREDIENTS tab, and eventually, every ingredient in every one of my products will be listed there so that you may look up anything you have a question about.

Thank you for being my customer!