Earlier today, The Wall Street Journal published a disappointing article about our company that included many factual inaccuracies and misleading statements, especially regarding our laundry detergent. The Journal clearly had the goal of harming the reputation and good will that we are so proud to have built here at Honest and we wanted to set the record straight.

Despite providing the Journal with evidence to the contrary, the Journal has falsely claimed our laundry detergent contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). At Honest, we use Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) in our detergent and multi-surface cleaner. In fact, the Journal never even tested for SCS.

While many name brand detergents use SLS to create suds, we have always chosen to use SCS at Honest. Independent studies have shown that SCS is less irritating and safer to use in products from skin care to cleaners. Safe and effective, just like we like it because we want nothing more than for you to feel good about using our products everyday.

We feel it’s important to share with you accurate information about the ingredients we choose to use in our products and why. We also want to dispel the myth that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS) are the same. They are not. So here we go.

All sulfates are blends of carbon links (chains of carbon in varying lengths). But that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. Table sugar and formaldehyde have the same building blocks (carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen), but as we all know, they are incredibly different, chemically speaking. The amount and arrangement of the elements, and the molecules they form, makes all the difference in the world.

In the case of SLS and SCS, even though both are derived from coconut oil, their molecular makeup is quite different. As the starting material, coconut oil is comprised of fatty acids that are carbon chains made up of links of eight carbon atoms (C8) to links made up of 20 carbon atoms (C20). More specifically, it’s primarily made up of caprylic acid (C8), decanoic acid (C10), lauric acid (C12), myristic acid (C14), palmitic acid (C16), and oleic acid (C18).

  • SLS is created by primarily isolating the C12 and C14 carbon chains from coconut oil through fractionation and distillation. Focusing on just these two carbon chains results in a molecule that is quite simple, quite strong, and has a small molecular mass – which means it easily penetrates the skin and can cause irritation.
  • SCS is less processed than SLS and contains a variety of the coconut oil fatty acids (carbon chains), not just C12 and C14, resulting in a more complex molecule with a larger molecular mass that prevents it from penetrating your skin – meaning far less irritancy potential. (Side note: the C12 and C14 carbon chains used to make SLS are a part of SCS, but that doesn’t mean SLS is in SCS. For example, lauric acid is also naturally present in breast milk and cow’s milk – not as a contaminant – it’s a natural building block of these compounds.)

Beyond the molecular makeup of these two ingredients, there are also some other facts that distinguish them from one another:

  • SCS can only be made from raw coconut oil, while SLS can be refined from many raw materials, including palm oil or petroleum.
  • The CAS number for SLS is 151-21-3 and the CAS number for SCS is 97375-27-4. What the heck is a CAS number? It’s the internationally recognized identification number for a chemical, which means the world’s authority for chemical information recognizes these are two distinct chemicals.

The science of chemistry is the foundation of making products so we live and breathe it every day at Honest. We want all of our consumers to always feel great about using our products so we hope this information helped clarify things a bit. Now back to our mission of creating safe and effective products for our family and yours.