I don’t really get why the marketing people at TRESemme decided to market the shampoo launched as part of its new Naturals range as “new lower sulfates!”. That’s like a sign at seaside resort afflicted by an oil disaster saying “come on in the water’s almost fine now” or Chernobyl trying to be a tourist destination by saying “visit us, now with lower radiation!”.

Yet, the selling proposition for TRESemme Naturals Shampoo Nourishing Moisture, With Aloe Vera and Avocado is – mark you, at a time when tout le monde  is boasting that they are sulfate free – we’ve dialed down the sulfates. Now sulfates – primarily cleansing agents – are not the devil incarnate, but are certainly best avoided, especially sodium lauryl sulfate. Although studies specifically cleared sodium lauryl sulfate of being carcinogenic, it has been established that it can cause severe epidermal changes to the area where it is applied that, theoretically, could increase the chances of cancer. If you have the suspicion that washing your face is making your skin dry, or that shampooing is giving you an itchy scalp or making your eyes sting, or that cleaning your teeth is giving you mouth ulcers, sodium lauryl sulfate is the likely culprit.

By ‘new lower sulfates’, TRESemme Naturals means that it has opted for SLS’s close chemical cousin, ammonium lauryl sulfate. This is classified as an irritant at concentrations of 2% or higher, and the longer the ingredient stays in contact with the skin, the greater the chance of irritation. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel has assessed this ingredient as safe to use in cosmetics, but only in formulations designed for brief use and followed by a thorough rinsing of the skin. Gentler, but still a potential irritant is ammonium laureth sulfate, as is sodium cocoyl isethionate.

Aside from sulfates, there are other ingredients that TRESemme might want to add to future dial down initiatives. Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate is listed in many places as a toxin. However, it should be noted that there is only reason to be concerned about this product if it has become contaminated with nitrosamines. Propylene Glycol is classified as an irritant by the National Library of Medicine, and the Material Safety Data Sheet lists it as a sensitizer that is slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant, permeator) or eye contact. It can also enhance penetration of other ingredients, chemicals and toxins into the dermis as an absorption enhancer, increasing the potential for irritation.

Still, the aloe and avocado that are mixed in there somewhere are USDA certified organic.


Water (Aqua), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Lauryl Glucoside, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Sodium Lauroamphoacetate, Fragrance (Parfum), Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Ammonium Chloride, Propylene Glycol, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Dipropylene Glycol, DMDM Hydantoin, Citric Acid, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Sodium Xylenesulfonate, Quaternium-80, Bisamino PEG/PPG-41/3 Aminoethyl PG-Propyl Dimethicone, Disodium EDTA, Alcohol, PEG-18 Glyceryl Oleate/Cocoate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Polyquaternium-7. USDA Certified Organic Extracts: Aloe Vera, Sweet Orange, and Avocado