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Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS ) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). The Killers in your bathroom?

Both Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulphate (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 "Sulphuric 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, the main ingredient of Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant used in the Vietnam war, and a known carcinogen. World levels of dioxane are now so high that several Governments advise on limiting fish consumption from affected waters, such as British coastal waters.

Although SLES is somewhat less irritating than SLS, 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 SLS. 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.

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

So why is a dangerous chemical like this used in our soaps and shampoos?

The answer is simple - it is cheap. The SLS 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, SLS 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 SLS 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.

SLS-free products shampoo image

Frustratingly, all this is just not necessary. There have been SLS-free hair care, personal care and household products available for years, that cost no more than their poisonous alternatives.

Products commonly found to contains SLS or SLES

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

SLS-free products and Recommended product for each category
SLS-Free Soaps Natural Soap
SLS-free Shampoos Herbal shampoo 100% natural
SLS-Free Hair Colouring Natural hair colouring
SLS-free Bubble-baths Aromatherapy bath crystals
SLS-free Tooth paste Natural Toothpaste
SLS-free Laundry detergent (we are currently searching for a provider of chemical-free detergents - if you know one, please let us know)
SLS-free Childrens soaps / shampoos Natural shampoo
SLS-free Body wash Natural body wash
SLS-free Shave cream His and hers shave soap
SLS-free Cosmetics Chemical-free cosmetics(Select "mineral makeup" from the top menu to see the fantastic range)
SLS-free Mouthwash (coming soon)
SLS-free Skin cleanser Natural Cleanser
SLS-free Moisture lotion / Moisturiser Natural Hand and body cream
SLS-free Sun Cream

Do not believe that just because a product is labelled as "natural" it is free from SLS or SLES. Most common brands of "Natural" or "Herbal" shampoos and cleansers still use these harmful chemicals as their main active ingredient - check your labels!

That is not to say that you can't get sodium laureth sulphate-free shampoos, soaps, detergents and toothpastes. Some highly reputable companies have been producing such products for years. These products not only contains no sodium laureth sulphate, they are also free of other harmful chemical colorings, preservatives and even flavourings.

After assessing many such products, we believe that the ones offered here represent not only the best quality but also the safest and most economical products available.

We hope you agree!

Whatever products you use, it is important to make sure that when you stop using sodium laureth sulphate (and SLS) you do so for good and completely. Many people change their shampoo, but not their washing detergent, toothpaste, dish soap or soap / shower gel.

Others forget to take supplies on vacation or business trips. Take our advice and make sure you replace the products in your wash-kit as well as your bathroom. You will be very grateful you did.

The potential effects of SLS on health are discussed here and the NLM's data on the subject is available here.

Back from Sodium Lauryl Sulphate to Harmful Chemicals

Related Links

Possible Effects of SLS on Health
Journal of the American College of Toxicology Report on SLS
Non SLS-containing personal and household products

Forbidden Medicine

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