Catastrophe in Your Shampoo Bottle. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS/SLES).


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, and it is very easy for manufacturers to hide the real ingredient name. 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 Product 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.

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

The answer is simple – it is very 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 is 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:

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

What is notable, both ingredients you can find in very expensive shampoos, produced by exclusive brands, but in fact, usually it is no difference between such “pearls” and cheapest shampoos or even engine degreasers.

What to use instead?

Fortunately, our world is at least trying to go a little more green, so now it is possible to find natural skin care cosmetics. I am not about brands, simply check eco-certificate label on the bottle of your shampoo – EcoSert, BDIH, Soil Association and others. Here are some bands: Jason, Sante, Florame, Madara


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2 responses to “Catastrophe in Your Shampoo Bottle. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS/SLES).

  1. Jean Vincent

    Excellent article, thank you.

    I was aware of #SLS in toothpaste and had to avoid it for years because it was one the causes that triggered very painful and long-lasting canker sores. At times it was so bad that I had to stop brushing my teeth until a dentist told me to find SLS-free toothpaste.

    With your excellent article I now understand better not only the reasons for such pain but more worryingly other serious adverse effects of this legal and ubiquitous poison.

    My first wife died from breast cancer a few years ago, there are many candidate causes for her disease and I can now add SLS to this long list.

    Next time I buy shampoo and soap, I’ll be looking for SLS and SLES.


  2. healthyposts

    Hello, I am so sorry for your wife.
    People usually say: “Oh, why to know what is inside our water, meal, cosmetics – we cannot do anything to protect oursel anyway…” – I think, WE CAN, we really can to learn to be carefull and to save our and others’ life! I am very strict chosing what to put on my skin, moth and hair. I really feel myself better already many years because of avoiding such hazardous ingredients, which has been noted as safe by authorities – the “ZeitGeist’s” story in all the institution 😦
    Have a nice day!


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