SLS (Sodium Laurel Sulfate / Sodium Laureth Sulfate)
There are a lot of rumors out there about Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate. Is it really a carcinogen? What about an endocrine disruptor and skin irritant? What’s truth and what’s myth? We’ve put together this article to clear up the confusion about the debated chemical. There’s no need to spread lies…the truth is scary enough. To make it easy we’re going to refer to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its even more evil twin, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) from this point forward as SLS.
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. In studies, there are “significant correlations” (in the words of one) between SLS and contact dermatitis. The Journal of the American College of Toxicology says that it has “a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties”. The Journal adds that “high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration.
Here are our top ten reasons you should not use anything containing SLS.
1. It is a known skin irritant. When cosmetic companies need to test the healing properties of a lotion, they need toirritate the skin first. What do they use to do this? SLS, of course. If you have dandruff, dermatitis, canker sores, or other irritated tissues or skin, it could be due to SLS.
2. It pollutes our groundwater. It is toxic to fish and other aquatic animals and has the potential for bioaccumulation (meaning it accumulates in the bodies of the fish.) It also is undetected in many municipal water filters, getting into the tap water that you drink.
3. It is actually a pesticide and herbicide. It is commonly used to kill plants and insects. Makers of SLS recently petitioned to have SLS listed as an approved pesticide for organic farming. The application was denied because of its polluting properties and environmental damage.
4. It emits toxic fumes when heated. Toxic Sodium Oxides and Sulfur Oxides are released when SLS is heated. Makes a hot shower with an SLS shampoo seem not quite as nice…
5. It has corrosive properties. According to the American College of Toxicity, this includes corrosion of the fats and protiens that make up skin and muscle. SLS can be found in garage floor cleanrs, engine degreasers, and car wash soaps.
6. Long-term permeation of the body’s tissues. A study from the University of Georgia Medicine showed that SLS had the power to permeate the eyes, brain, heart, and liver.
7. It’s an eye irritant. It was shown to cause cataracts in adults, and is proven to inhibit the proper formation of eyes in small children.
8. Nitrate and other solvent contamination. Toxic solvents, including carcinogenic nitrates are used in the manufacturing of SLS, traces of which can remain in the product.
9. Manufacturing process is highly polluting, emitting cancer-causing volatile organic compounds, sulfur compounds, and air particulates.
10. It helps other chemicals get into your body. SLS is a penetration enhancer, meaning that its molecules are so small they’re able to cross the membranes of your body’s cells. Once cells are compromised, they become more vulnerable to other toxic chemicals that may be with the SLS.
Does it cause cancer?
SLS is not a recognized carcinogen itself, but there is some truth behind those internet rumors. When SLS is mixed with triethanolamine (or T.E.A) carcinogenic substances called nitrosames can form and be released.
Products commonly found to contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLES
Washing-up liquid / dish soap
Childrens soaps / shampoos
Moisture lotion / Moisturiser
Unfortunately, there are over 150 different names by which it is known. Many products that are SLS-free will say it on the packaging, however it is wise to always study the ingredients.