About Sodium Laurel Sulfate
Since we began searching for natural products for our daughter about 7
years ago, we've come
across all kinds of controversies and misinformation concerning many
ingredients. One of the biggest
controversies surrounds Sodium Laurel Sulfate. For those of you not
familiar, sodium laurel (&
laureth) or SLS is a surfactant used in shampoos, toothpastes and
liquid soaps. You'll often find SLS or
its derivatives even in "all natural" products. After all, SLS is
derived from a
natural source. And, as we have
stated in other places, natural is a relative term. Once you combine
any two ingredients, one could claim a
product is natural or not natural. SLS is derived from coconut. So, some
people consider it to be natural. It's just as natural as "grapefruit
seed extract". But, is that really the point? The question we think is
relevant is "Is SLS harmful?"
is a foaming and cleaning agent. Its
controversy stems from the belief by some that it is highly toxic,
irritating and carcinogenic. Some people have gone so far as to avoid
product with Sodium Laurel Sulfate or any of its chemical cousins.
Because of our personal concerns for our family and our position in the
industry, we have studied this issue, with great interest, and from
both sides. We realize that some manufacturers have a stake in
SLS and some have a stake (those who make "alternative" products) in
it. We don't want to be responsible for hype on either side of this
issue. We could offer either or both types of products. Unfortunately,
read anything on the subject, you must take into the consideration the
interests of the author. What will
he or she gain if you accept her position? While
there are some people who believe SLS is unsafe, there
are just as many who point to the fact that it has been used for
no proven serious health risks.
Here are the facts. SLS, in its pure form, is a skin irritant.
no one suggests you put pure SLS on your skin hour
after hour and leave it there. That's the way irritability
tests are performed. Pure SLS is placed on the skin and left for hours.
In that form it is deemed an irritant. However, in health and
beauty formulations, SLS is highly diluted by the other ingredients and
is usually rinsed off (in the case of shampoos or body washes) or
rinsed out- (in the case of toothpastes), minimizing or eliminating the
irritating effects. Only those with highly sensitive skin are adversely
harmed by the levels of SLS in most products and these effects are
usually just mild skin irritations (rash or dry skin).
the late 1990s a myth began making its way around the Internet that
This email myth
spread rapidly and was taken up by manufacturers of alternative
products. In searching for the truth about this
myth, we could not find one
unbiased, credible source to back it up. There
is strong evidence that a manufacturer of alternative products started
this myth. But, even without proof of this, what
we have found is no one can seem to find a credible source for this
belief. Like many Internet email myths it has taken on a life of its
own and has shown how if something is repeated often enough, it can
become accepted as indisputable truth by those who suddenly hear it
from multiple "credible" sources.
Our conclusion on SLS is this. It is
a potential irritant. For people with extremely
sensitive skin, it is possible they should avoid Sodium Laurel Sulfate.
But the studies for skin irritation
involve applying pure SLS to the shaved
skin of an albino rat,
hour after hour with no rinsing. (So, don't do that.) SLS is
used so commonly because it is a very good surfactant (agent that helps
water be more effective). Products without SLS simply will not foam as
well and many people don't like that. Many people want lots of foam
from their shampoos and body washes. SLS is a great way to get that
foam. Also, we believe that SLS is potentially drying to African
American hair and skin. For that reason, we prefer products that use
milder forms of surfactants (like the often confused SLES or Sodium
Laureth Sulfate) or products that use SLS in lower concentrations
(further down the ingredient list). Most salon grade shampoos
(including the ones we offer) use these alternative surfactants.
Our plan is to offer both products with SLS and those that are SLS
free. The SLS products tend to clean better, foam
better and are usually less expensive. For the vast majority of people,
we think they are fine.
We use them personally. However, for those who want to
avoid SLS (and its cousins) all together, we will continue to offer
Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are two alternatives
Sulfate. Unfortunately, the
controversy over these two compounds is just about as crazy as the
over SLS. Some manufacturers have
claimed they are milder and safer. Other manufacturers (who by the
way have decided not to use them) claim they are even harsher than SLS.
We'll keep this short.
have enough research to fill up about 20 pages. But, our job here is to
present you with the big
What should you do when you hear a rumor about an ingredient? First
of all, remain calm.
When you hear
a report of a dangerous ingredient, consider the source. In fact, first
out the source.
If a friend tells
you or you get an email, find out where the information originated.
Then, do your own research and try to
look at both sides.
responsible websites like the American Cancer Society and find out what
have to say.
you're interested in learning more:
to the American Cancer Society's website and do a search on Sodium
If this ingredient even possibly
caused cancer, wouldn't they report on it?