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Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS ) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).
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Both Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to "foam up". Both chemicals are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants.

SLS and SLES are esters of Sulphuric acid - SLS is also known as "Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt", however there are over 150 different names by which it is known - see them here. In fact, SLES is commonly contaminated with dioxane, a known carcinogen.

Although SLES is somewhat less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, it cannot be metabolised by the liver and its effects are therefore much longer-lasting.

A report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation. National Institutes of Health "Household Products Directory" of chemical ingredients lists over 80 products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the ACT report called "highly irritating and dangerous".

Shampoos are among the most frequently reported products to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms and split and fuzzy hair. The main cause of these problems is sodium lauryl sulfate.

Click here to learn of the possible health effects of SLS/SLES

So why is a dangerous chemical like sodium lauryl sulfate used in our soaps and shampoos?

The answer is simple - it is cheap. The sodium lauryl sulfate found in our soaps is exactly the same as you would find in a car wash or even a garage, where it is used to degrease car engines.

In the same way as it dissolves the grease on car engines, sodium lauryl sulfate also dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause a drying effect. It is also well documented that it denatures skin proteins, which causes not only irritation, but also allows environmental contaminants easier access to the lower, sensitive layers of the skin.

Perhaps most worryingly, SLS is also absorbed into the body from skin application. Once it has been absorbed, one of the main effects of sodium lauryl sulfate is to mimic the activity of the hormone Oestrogen. This has many health implications and may be responsible for a variety of health problems from PMS and Menopausal symptoms to dropping male fertility and increasing female cancers such as breast cancer, where oestrogen levels are known to be involved.

Products commonly found to contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLES

Soaps
Shampoos
Bubble-baths
Tooth paste
Washing-up liquid / dish soap
Laundry detergent
Childrens soaps / shampoos
Stain Remover
Carpet Cleaner
Fabric glue
Body wash
Shave cream
Mascara
Mouthwash
Skin cleanser
Moisture lotion / Moisturiser
Sun Cream

To find hair, personal and household products without ANY SLS or other harmful chemicals, please click this link - SLS-free products.

(We are aware there are some display issues with the products below and are working to fix this :-)

Want to find products that don't contain SLS or other nasties - check out our recommended range of SLS-free products

Soaps

Natural Soap

Shampoos

Natural Shampoo

Hair Coloring

Natural Hair Coloring

Bubble-baths

Natural Bath products

Cosmetics

Natural Cosmetics

Cleansers and skin care

Natural Skin Care

Shave Cream (His n Hers!)

Natural Shaving Products

Mouth Care / Oral Care

Natural Toothpaste and Mouthwash

Have a question about natural remedies or an ailment? Our free Ask Our Experts service can help!

Home  >  Harmful Chemicals  > Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Related Links

Possible Effects of SLS on Health
Journal of the American College of Toxicology Report on SLS

Non SLS-containing hair care, personal care and household products

Forbidden Medicine The medical breakthroughs you're not supposed to hear about.

Politics in healing How your health is not necessarily at the top of the agenda, even with your healthcare provider.

Transforming your health in 90 day or less

Natural Health Information Centre


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