Short description of the SCS
Sodium coco-sulfate, derived from natural coconut oil and palm kern oil. In the needle form, the product is free-flowing and disperses easily in water. Heat is required to fully dissolve the product. It provides good lather, thickening, and conditioning properties. This product is also a replacement for betaines and alkanolamides in personal cleansing products. A unique naturally derived anionic surfactant for the formulation of “natural type” personal cleansing products that are preservative-free.
Sodium coco sulfate is a surfactant. All surfactants are partly water-soluble and partly oil-soluble, allowing oil and water to become dispersed. Above a minimum concentration, the surfactant molecules become organised in a structure that can trap the oil-based dirt from the hair, allowing it to be rinsed away.
Sulfates became widely used in the 1930s, and they started the development of the modern shampoo industry. They leave the skin soft and clean and adds great shine to hair. Soap (which is one of the oldest surfactants) will clean the hair, but its alkalinity tends to cause roughening of the hair follicle’s cuticles, leading to a dull appearance.
Many different surfactants (detergents & foaming agents) are used in cosmetic and household products, many of which have names that sound similar to SLS but are very different in their irritancy to the skin. These can be made in similar ways and have similar names, but they vary massively in how harsh they are to the skin. Sodium Coco Sulphate, SLES, Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate (ALS), Sodium Myreth Sulphate, and Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate to name but a few.
If we specifically look at SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) versus SCS (sodium coco sulfate); both ingredients are made in the same way, by treating fatty acids with sulphuric acid and then neutralizing with an alkali. The difference between them is that SLS is made using purified and isolated Lauric acid, whereas SCS is made using whole Coconut oil.
The result of using these different starting materials is that SLS is a relatively simple molecule and has a small molecular mass enabling it to easily penetrate the outer layers of the skin and cause irritation to underlying living skin cells. On the other hand, SCS has a more complex molecular structure, which has a much greater molecular mass. This prevents it from penetrating the epidermis and means that it has far less irritancy as it cannot reach the living cells under the skin surface.
This difference is recognized by international authorities. These two molecules do have different CAS Numbers (Chemical Abstracts Service, which identifies all chemical compounds in an internationally approved database). The CAS Number for SLS is 151-21-3, but for SCS, it is 97375-27-4. This can be confirmed by checking the official EU Cosmetic Ingredient Name (CosIng) website.