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What is a surfactant?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatology
Every cleanser contains a surfactant, which emulsifies and washes debris and oil from the skin. This may seem obvious, but their names are not. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a stronger detergent and sodium cocyl isethionate is mild. We've always heard that the more cleanser foams, the more drying it will be, and that's partially true, primarily because it likely contains a larger quantity of detergent. It's not just the surfactant that makes a cleanser extra-drying, it's also the other active and inactive ingredients in the vehicle. And often there may be more than one kind of surfactant in a single cleanser. So keep in mind that a cleanser containing a gentle cleansing agent may still dry out your skin if it also includes salicylic acid or alcohol. 
Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.