Surfactant Good Cleansing Agent No known benefits Surfactant description Short term for surface active agent. Surfactants degrease and emulsify oils and fats and suspend soil, allowing them to be washed away. Surfactants are used in most forms of cleansers and many are considered gentle and effective for most skin types. There are several types of surfactants that can be drying and sensitising for skin. When those are the main ingredients in a facial cleanser, body wash, or shampoo, they should be avoided; the most common among drying, sensitising surfactants is sodium lauryl sulfate. The similar-sounding ingredient sodium laureth sulfate is fine.