What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

October 21, 2021 Published by Leave your thoughts

If you’ve ever taken the time to browse the ingredient list on your shampoo bottle, you may have noticed a chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Unless you’re a chemist, you’re probably wondering exactly what this chemical is and the effects it can have on your hair and body.

While unfounded rumors have linked this chemical to cancer, skin irritation and other unfavorable conditions, the truth about this chemical is fairly complex. Read on to discover what you need to know about sodium lauryl sulfate.

How does SLS work?

SLS is found in a variety of personal care and cleaning products, and it’s known as a “surfactant.” Sodium lauryl sulfate essentially lowers the surface tension between ingredients in a product, making it useful as a cleansing and foaming agent.

Typically, the ingredients in personal care products and household cleaners don’t go hand in hand. After all, simple logic suggests that if a chemical is strong enough to be used in cleaners that cut through dirt and grime, it may be too harsh to be used on the body. This is simply not the case with SLS, as outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

What products contain SLS?

In addition to several household cleaners, SLS can be found in a variety of personal care products. Note that all of these products are topical—in other words, they’re applied directly to the skin or body:

  • Hair products, including shampoo, conditioner and styling gel.
  • Grooming products, such as makeup remover, facial cleansers, lip balm, shaving cream and even liquid hand soap.
  • Bath products, such as bath oils, bath salts and bodywash.
  • Dental care products, including toothpaste, mouthwash and even some teeth whitening products.
  • Creams and lotions, including hand cream, hair-removal products, sunscreen and facial masks.

Is SLS safe?

According to the FDA, SLS is regarded as safe as a food additive. If used briefly and rinsed from the skin, as is the case with shampoos and soaps, sodium lauryl sulfate is generally safe. In special formulations for cosmetics and personal care products, the risks associated with SLS are minimal.

One thing to keep in mind is that SLS can be an irritant, but it is not a carcinogen. There is no scientific evidence to support the myth that SLS causes cancer.

The truth is, some surfactants like SLS are more irritating to our skin than others. In recent studies, nearly half of patients tested had an irritant reaction to sodium lauryl sulfate, and another study showed that the warmer the water used with SLS-containing products, the more irritating it can be. In other words, using shampoos and soaps containing SLS can pose a risk for skin irritation in a wide range of people.

In short, sodium lauryl sulfate may be safe for use in personal care products, but some people simply don’t want to press their luck. There are an increasing number of great SLS-free shampoos, soaps and other hygiene products on the market, and you can find them at Mother Nature’s Food, Inc. We’re your premier resource for all-natural products that improve your overall health and wellbeing. Come see us today to check out our selection.

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