Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium cocoamphoacetate are both compounds that come from the coconut. They are surfactants, or cleansing agents, used in hair care, skin care and personal hygiene products. While they serve very similar functions in similar products, they are different from each other in several aspects.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
SLS is also used as a detergent and industrial cleaner in higher concentrations. It allows water to combine with dirt and oil so that it can be rinsed away. It is a common ingredient due to the fact it is an effective, yet inexpensive, cleansing ingredient.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled SLS safe. However, SLS has been shown to cause skin and eye irritation in concentrations much lower than those found in a large number of products.
SLS is also found as Sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulfate. These are common in consumer products as well and are extremely similar, though sodium laureth sulfate is considered milder and causes less irritation.
Sodium cocoamphoacetate is less commonly used as a main ingredient in beauty products, though it is common in shampoo and conditioner due to its ability to condition as well as cleanse. It also enhances the foaming action of products like shaving cream, foaming soaps and mousse.
The Personal Care Products Council, an industry trade association, found that sodium cocoamphoacetate was less of a skin irritant than SLS, even in larger doses than found in most consumer products. It was found to not irritate the eyes even in concentrations of 28.1 percent, like those found in shampoo.