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What Is Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate in Shampoo? | A Guide

If you read the list of ingredients on the back of your shampoo bottle, you’ll see all kinds of chemicals. There has been a lot of talk about them in recent years, as people are trying to make sure that they are using shampoos that make their hair look better while cleaning it.

If you have heard about shampoo ingredients, you may want to know, “What is ammonium lauryl sulfate in shampoo?” You’re in the right place  — we’ll show you what this chemical is and when to avoid it.

What Is Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate in Shampoo?

What is Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate in shampoo graphic

Ammonium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant (aka a cleansing agent) in shampoo. It helps your shampoo foam and lather, and it lifts dirt and oils from your hair so the water can rinse it all away.

Although it is similar to sodium lauryl sulfate, it has a different molecular structure. It doesn’t penetrate the skin as easily, so it is considered less irritating. You may want to know more and understand these chemicals so that you can decide which one is best for your hair.

Many people ask questions, including the following:

  • How does ammonium lauryl sulfate work in shampoo?
  • How is it different from sodium lauryl sulfate?
  • What are the benefits of using it?
  • What are the risks?

We wanted to find the answers, so we did the research. Continue reading to learn what you need to know about ammonium lauryl sulfate in shampoo.

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How Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate Works

Woman using ammonium lauryl sulfate in shampoo to get a good lather

Blackday/Shutterstock

The primary goal of ammonium lauryl sulfate is to clean your hair. It’s a sulfate that allows your shampoo to lather. This chemical compound attracts both water and oil, meaning it’s able to lift dirt, oils, and more from your hair and allowing it to be easily rinsed away. 

When you use shampoo that is formulated with this ingredient, you will finish your shower with your hair feeling soft and clean.

Ammonium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant, which means that it disrupts the surface tension of substances. In this case, it releases dirt, pollution, product buildup, oils, dead skin cells, and more from your hair to leave it clean. 

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate vs. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Ammonium lauryl sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate are both sulfates that allow shampoo to foam and lather. They both lift dirt and oils from your hair and scalp so that you feel clean after you finish using them. 

Ammonium lauryl sulfate is different because it’s a more complex molecule that’s larger and has a heavier molecular mass. This makes it more difficult for the ALS molecules to penetrate the outer layers of skin. As a result, it causes less irritation than sodium lauryl sulfate. 

Benefits of Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate in Shampoo

The main benefit of using a shampoo with ammonium lauryl sulfate is that it allows you to lather the shampoo to lift dirt and oils from your hair.

The sebum that is made naturally by your scalp binds with pollutants, dirt, dead skin cells, product residue, and more, and this ingredient is what allows the shampoo to lift these items out of your hair and leave your hair clean. 

It is milder than sodium lauryl sulfate, and it is a larger molecule. This means that it has trouble entering your skin. It is less irritating than other sulfates, but you still finish your shower feeling clean.

It is also an inexpensive ingredient for manufacturers to use, which means that you pay less for shampoo. It has been found safe for people to use, unless you have an allergy or skin sensitivity.

Downsides of Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate in Shampoo

The primary risk is that ammonium lauryl sulfate is a strong chemical, and it can cause irritation. This is especially true if you wash your hair daily or leave the shampoo in your hair for a while.

It is a detergent that is very effective for cleaning because it is able to attract both water and oil. This means that you can use it in shampoo and it’ll attract the dirt away from your scalp. However, it’ll also remove the natural oil from your scalp, leaving it dry.

In addition, some people experience irritation if the shampoo gets in their eyes. It can also cause skin irritation for people who have sensitive skin.

Finally, it does such a thorough job of cleansing your hair that it can strip the natural oils and leave your hair brittle or dry. This can also lead to some frizzing. The best way to handle this is to follow shampoo with a conditioner to hydrate your hair. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to use shampoo with ammonium lauryl sulfate?

It is safe to use this ingredient, but it is important to wash your hair by lathering, and then rinse right away. If you leave the shampoo in your hair too long, it can strip natural oils and leave your hair brittle and dry.

Is ammonium lauryl sulfate better than other sulfates?

Ammonium lauryl sulfate is formulated as a larger, denser molecule, and it doesn’t penetrate your scalp or your hairs the way that other sulfates might. As a result, it is milder and will lift dirt and oil without causing the same kind of damage. It is also considered less irritating than other sulfates.

Does ammonium lauryl sulfate cause hair loss?

It does not cause hair loss directly, but it can lead to hair loss if it is overused. Sulfates are known to draw the natural moisture out of your hair, so it is important to hydrate your hair with a conditioner. Otherwise, your hair may become dry and brittle, which increases the chances of breakage.

So, What Is Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate in Shampoo?

Ammonium lauryl sulfate is the cleansing agent in some shampoos. It is formulated to be milder than other sulfates, and it helps lift dirt and other pollutants from your hair. It is safe to use as long as you follow up with a conditioner to rehydrate your hair.