Article by: Underground Formulator

In our continuing series examining the Whole Foods banned ingredient list, this article is going to focus on the dreaded “sulfates” category (and I’ll include sulfonates and sulfosuccinates as well). Here are the ingredients on their unacceptable list that I’ll discuss.

  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Ammonium Xylene Sulfonate
  • C12-14 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate
  • Disodium Oleamido Sulfosuccinate
  • Myristyl Ether Sulfate
  • Sodium Cetearyl Sulfate
  • Sodium Coco Sulfate
  • Sodium Cocoyl Sulfate
  • Sodium Dodecylbenzene Sulfonate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Myreth Sulfate
  • Sodium Trideceth Sulfate
  • TEA-Lauryl Sulfate
  • Olefin Sulfonate
  • Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
  • Laureth Sulfosuccinate
  • Sulfosuccinates

Sulfosuccinates

Here are the sulfosuccinates they chose to include on the list:

  • Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate
  • Disodium Oleamido Sulfosuccinate
  • Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate
  • Laureth Sulfosuccinate

Based on what we now know about how the list was created, it looks like they had few suppliers using the ingredients in their products, and most likely for a good reason. They tend to hydrolyze over time so products made with them have limited stability. I’m not saying you can’t make a stable product with them, but it’s more difficult.

Now let’s get to the problems with the list.

A whopping three out of the four products aren’t proper INCI designations. Disodium Oleamido MEA Sulfosuccinate and Disodium Oleamido MIPA Sulfosuccinate and Disodium Oleamido PEG-2 Sulfosuccinate are all proper INCI names. The ones on their list are not. It’s also funny to note that they said Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate isn’t a proper INCI, but it is.  Maybe they just put the message next to the wrong ingredient. They appear on the list one after the other. Could just be a clerical error.

Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate should be Diethylhexyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate. The INCI designation changed on that product years ago. This could be a little nit-picky, but it should be changed.

Laureth Sulfosuccinate apparently doesn’t need a counterion. Again, it is an improper INCI and should be removed from the list. Or they can keep listing all the ways you can screw this one up too.

Bottom line with these is if you want to formulate with a sulfosuccinate, then go ahead and use any of the several dozen not on the list, which include things like Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate and Ammonium Laureth Sulfosuccinate. Just changing out the counterion, fatty portion, and ethoxylation you can come up with a whole host of ones to use. Also, there are several amido types available.

Sulfonates

Here’s the list of sulfonates.

  • Ammonium Xylene Sulfonate
  • C12-14 Olefin Sulfonate
  • Sodium Dodecylbenzene Sulfonate
  • Olefin Sulfonate
  • Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate

They did better than 25% of proper INCI designation here vs. the sulfosuccinates. Only two are incorrect. C12-14 Olefin Sulfonate is missing the counterion, a common problem with the list overall. Olefin Sulfonate is missing the above, plus any indication of the carbon chain lengths.

To get around these restrictions, I suppose you could use the proper INCI name that they got wrong in Sodium C12-14 Olefin Sulfonate, or use a different chain like Sodium C14-18 Olefin Sulfonate.

Sulfates

  • Ammonium Laureth Sulfate
  • Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Myristyl Ether Sulfate
  • Sodium Cetearyl Sulfate
  • Sodium Coco Sulfate
  • Sodium Cocoyl Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Myreth Sulfate
  • Sodium Trideceth Sulfate
  • TEA-Lauryl Sulfate

They missed another counterion with Myristyl Ether Sulfate. Also it’s technically the same as Sodium Myreth Sulfate assuming the counterion of the first one is sodium.

As far as the rest of the list, they pretty thoroughly eliminated any form of this type of chemistry. I’m sure you could get creative and look for a Sodium Decyl Sulfate, or maybe Ammonium Coco Sulfate. The former probably won’t foam real well, and both will be difficult to find a source. This is where you really need to have a nice base formulation that is sulfate-free. Usually it will contain a variety of secondary surfactants and can also contain a rheology modifier to help make the system thicken better. There are a plethora of choices available for each category not restricted by this list.

I’ll be back with some more discrepancies next week. I found a few unapproved ingredients that are by-products of a lot of surfactants. I might discuss just to show they are allowing products to be sold in premium body care that contain them, even when they aren’t on the LOI.

–The Underground Formulator

For the rest of the series start here:  Whole Foods Banned ingredient list

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