Sodium Laureth Sulfate: probably the most harmful cosmetic ingredient


   Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is a detergent commonly found in shampoos, hair conditioners, toothpaste, body washes bubble baths etc.  It is perhaps the most harmful ingredient in personal-care products.

   SLS is used in the stuff that degreases car engines, cleans garage floorsSLS cleans by corrosion. It is used in labs deliberately to irritate the skin so that the effects of other substances can be tested.  SLS is a health risk. Do you want that in your soap, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste?

So why is SLS in our bath and beauty products ?

  • Because it is cheap. Better and gentler cleansing ingredients means that the company must put more money into the products, and less into it's pockets.
  • Because it foams prettily, and most people think that foam means that the shampoo is working(not true !)
  • Because most consumers don't know about its risks, and believe that "if it is being sold, it must be safe !"
  • Because of the SLS-silicone cycle: certain silicones can only be removed by sulphates.

Reasons to choose cosmetics without SLS:

  • SLS removes the oils and moisture from your skin so powerfully that it corrodes the protective layers, 
  • allowing environmental contaminants easier access to the lower, sensitive layers of the skin. It is a powerful skin irritant, it causes the skin to get rough and to flake. 
  • It damages hair follicles, slowing down hair growth.  
  • It tangles and splits hair. 
  • SLS penetrates children's eyes and prevents them from developing properly, and causes cataracts in adults.
  • Alarmingly, Sodium Laureth Sulfate is easily absorbed by the skin, and stored in the body.
  • It mimics the action of Oestrogen, which may lead to PMS, infertility, and certain types of cancer.
  • SLS reacts with many types of ingredients used in skin products and forms nitrosomines (nitrates). Nitrates are potential cancer-causing carcinogens.
Many consumer products contain more than 20% of SLS. There are plenty of other cleansing agents which are much better for your skin, hair and the environment. So, consider making the switch to sulfate-free products.

♥  Remember though that after you start using milder shampoos and cleansers, you hair, scalp and sometimes even skin go through an adjustment phase. This means that for a while your hair might feel oilier, but soon the oil glands will calm down and you will notice the good effects !


variation of SLS is Sodium LAURETH Sulfate (Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate- SLES). It exhibits many of the same characteristics and is a higher-foaming variation of SLS.
Photo by I. Anton

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