What Is Laureth-7?
Laureth-7 is a synthetic ingredient that helps to improve the texture and feel of skincare and cosmetic products. It mainly functions as an emulsifier and surfactant in formulations.
Laureth ingredients are synthesized through a process known as ethoxylation, a chemical reaction in which ethylene oxide is added to a substrate. In this case, the substrate is lauryl alcohol. Lauryl alcohol is obtained from lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid with a 12-carbon atom chain. It is obtained from palm kernel oil or coconut oil. The number associated with the laureth-7 indicates the average number of repeating ethylene oxide units in the molecule. Laureth-7 exists in the form of a clear, colorless liquid.
the good:Laureth-7 improves the texture and stability of skincare and cosmetic formulations.
the not so good:It doesn’t provide any specific benefits to the condition of the skin.
Who is it for?All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.
Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients
Keep an eye on:As laureth-7 is produced through ethoxylation there is some controversy over its safety. However, laureth-7 is considered to be safe if it is used in the guidelines. More on this later.
Why Is Laureth-7 Used?
Laureth-7 functions as an emulsifier and surfactant in many different cosmetics and personal care products, including cream rinses, conditioners, bath oils, creams, lotions, deodorants, and shaving products.
Surfactants are ingredinets that lower the surface tension between two substances, such as two liquids or a liquid and a solid. In skin care products, surfactants work to degrease and emulsify oils and fats and suspend soil, allowing them to be washed away. This is possible because while one end of the surfactant molecule is attracted to water, the other end is attracted to oil. Thus, surfactants attract the oil, dirt, and other impurities that have accumulated on your skin during the day and wash them away. Due to these properties, laureth-7 can be found in many different cleansers and body washes.
Laureth-7 also functions as an emulsifier. An emulsifier is needed for products that contain both water and oil-based ingredients. When water and oil-based ingredients are mixed together they often will separate and split. To address this problem, an emulsifier can be added to the system, which helps to produce a stable emulsion.
Is Laureth-7 Safe?
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, a group responsible for evaluating the safety of skincare and cosmetic ingredients. The Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that the laureth ingredients were safe as used in cosmetic products only when formulated to be non-irritating. This is because the laureth ingredients have the potential to irritate the skin.
Despite the approval of laureth-7 by the CIR Expert Panel, there are concerns about the presence of ethylene oxide in this ingredient. This is because the process of ethoxylation may lead to contamination with 1,4-dioxane, a potentially dangerous by-product. In fact, 1,4-dioxane is a known animal carcinogen that penetrates readily into the skin. This ingredient has also been linked with skin allergies. However, manufacturing and purifying processes and guidelines ensure the safety of ingredients that are produced via ethoxylation.
References:Sulfate and Related Salts of Sulfated Ethoxylated Alcohols’, International Journal of Toxicology.