I have finally done a bit of research to help us with this. :)
According to one site Sodium Coco Sulfate and the SL Sulfates are the same thing. They are not. Some make this claim, saying the two chemicals have the same CAS Registry Number. (To explain CAS Numbers simply, that's just the number assigned to chemicals that's used by chemists instead of using all the many names they have.) The problem with this is that they don't have the same CAS Registry Number--meaning they're not the same chemical!
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate has the assigned CAS Registry Number of 151-21-3. Sodium Coco Sulfate's number is 61789-31-9.
Yeah... those aren't the same numbers at all...
(If you'd like to run it for yourself, there is a searchable database of CAS Registry Numbers. You can also do web searches for "Coco Sulfate CAS Number" and "Sodium Lauryl Sulfate CAS Number" and find sites that sell chemicals. They also show the two as having different numbers.)
Now that all that craziness is solved, we are still left wondering what is this Coco Sulfate stuff? I was able to find a very good definition at the Essential Wholesale (a company that sells SCS) website.
"Sodium Coco Sulfate is a naturally derived alternative to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in flake form. Sodium Coco Sulfate is derived from pure coconut oil. It can be used in a wide variety of personal care applications in which viscosity building and foam characteristics are of importance. The product formulates similar to synthetic alkyl sulfates, but is less defatting to the hair and skin. SCS being less soluble than synthetic alkyl sulfates leaves the skin and hair with a conditioned feel. It can be incorporated into shampoos, hand soaps, bath products, shaving creams and medicated ointments. It is especially useful for opaque, pearlescent, or cream products."But aren't SL Sulfates derived from coconuts too? Yes, but according to Livestrong.com, SLS "is contaminated with a toxic byproduct during the manufacturing process". For more information about SLS from Livestrong.com, you can go here.
Let's look at another thing that sets these ingredients apart. If you visit the Environmental Working Group's website, Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, you can search to see how harmful these chemicals are on a scale of 0-10 and also see what problems are associated with each. Having looked up both the Coco Sulfate and the SL Sulfates, I have found that their safety ratings are quite different as well.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate = 3
Sodium Laureth Sulfate = 4
Sodium Coco Sulfate? A big, fat zero.
Admittedly, there is still research being done on Coco Sulfates, so that rating might change, but so far everything I've read--aside from that one misguided website--shows that Coco Sulfate is a safer alternative to the SL Sulfates.
I will no longer be worried about using products with SCS in them, but...
Yes, I said "but"...
I am still annoyed by the products that call themselves "sulfate free" and still list SCS on their ingredients list. (Organix, for example.) It's still a sulfate, just a safer one. I wish these companies would stop doing weird stuff like that to try and win over consumers. And trust me, those weird things will come up again in another post soon! :)
(This article was originally posted on my old blog, Glamoursaurus Goes Natural, which is now defunct.)