On average, women add more than 200 chemicals to their skin daily, and more than a0% of these chemicals get absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Combine this with chemicals found in hair care and dental hygiene products, such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate, and itʼs no wonder why more people are searching for a natural solution.

There are many products labeled as ‘naturalʼ or ‘organicʼ that still contain sulfates.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (commonly known as SLS) is a widely used and inexpensive chemical found in many mainstream personal hygiene products such as shampoos, toothpaste, mouthwashes, body scrubs, soaps, detergents and body wash ,along with Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS).

SLS is a detergent and surfactant which essentially means that it breaks surface tension and separates molecules in order to allow better interaction between the product and your hair. This in turn creates a lather which makes products such as shampoo and toothpaste more effective cleaners. Itʼs very effective and inexpensive and therefore itʼs found in a number of industrial cleaning agents such as engine degreaser and industrial strength detergents. Itʼs also widely used as a skin irritant when testing products used to heal skin conditions.

Is SLS Dangerous?

There are conflicting reports published over the years and as a result a lot of unsubstantiated claims have been made. Most concerning are reports of links between Cancer and SLS.

A Cause of Cancer?

At this point in time there is no scientific evidence that links the use of SLS to Cancer.

There is healthy debate surrounding the topic of SLS and Cancer, however at this point in time there is no scientific evidence that links the two. This has also been backed up by the American Cancer Council along with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP).

So while any links to Cancer are unsubstantiated there certainly are reports of side effects that have been published. For example, a 1983 report published by The American College of Toxicology (ACT) found that even relatively low concentrations, less than one-half percent, might result in harmful skin irritation.

Higher concentrations were responsible for severe irritation and even corrosion of the skin. The International Journal of Toxicology also provides a safety assessment of SLS and recommends concentration levels of no more than 1% in products with prolonged use. This is disturbing when you consider a number of cleaning products have levels of SLS as high as between 10-20% and in extreme cases over 30%.

In short, SLS can cause irritation of the scalp, gums and skin at just 1% and in some people the reaction will be quite strong. We recommend in this case to use a SLS free alternative.

What’s the Concern Over SLS?

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) is also a concern as in some circumstances it can become contaminated with Dioxane. This largely depends on the manufacturing process. Dioxane is a suspected carcinogen and lasts much longer in our bodies, primarily because the liver cannot metabolize it effectively. While itʼs considered less of a skin irritant when compared to SLS, there are underlying concerns over its continued use in beauty products.

More Than Just A Skin Irritant?

In addition to skin irritation, there are studies that point to residual levels of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in the brain, lungs, liver, and heart. These levels follow the use of SLS used externally on the scalp and skin, and in the mouth as an ingredient in toothpaste. There are some findings that link the ingredient to a hormone imbalance. Symptoms such as PMS and PMT and menopausal symptoms are tied to hormone levels. There has been a lower rate of male fertility reported in some cases, particularly in western countries however this is still unsubstantiated. Because SLS mimics estrogen, itʼs possible that it may play a role in these types of health issues. The concern here is while itʼs generally considered safe to use at 1%, over time the amount absorbed by the bloodstream can mean residual levels in your body are much higher.

Chemical Structure

For those interested in the science behind the speculation, a condition known as protein denaturing is another result of exposure to SLS. The chemical structure forms a bridge between the fat and water soluble portions at the cellular level.

This reduces or eliminates the cellʼs ability to heal itself. Over time, the destruction of cellular tissue is irreversible. New protein is affected during the construction process and existing protein is damaged. When the protein is damaged, the body has to expend extra energy to try to heal the distressed cells.

SLS and Children

In children, SLS has been linked to eye irritation and poor eye development. Even at very low levels, the product may be absorbed through the skin and cause issues with eye health. It would seem that childrenʼs products should be scrutinized more closely, but often they are not. A number of studies have indicated that SLS will remain in a personʼs system (Brain, Heart & Liver) for up to 4-5 days which means if you are using a non SLS free product at the same volume and same rate of application then Sodium Lauryl Sulfate will remain a constant in your body.

Which Household Products Contain SLS?

The National Institute of Health publication “Household Products Directory” lists Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as a chemical ingredient in more than 80 products! Some household soaps have a concentration measurement as high as 30 percent. This level is considered unsafe and a likely cause of skin irritation. SLS is also found in toothpaste, mouthwash, makeup, body wash and shampoos.

SLS is one of the common ingredients used in shampoos. This makes shampoo a frequently reported product to the Food and Drug Administration. Some of the typical reports and complaints include split or fuzzy hair, swelling of the arms, face or hands, irritation of the scalp and irritation of the eyes. The good news is that these bad effects and other dangers can be completely eliminated by using natural and safe cosmetic products.