This inexpensive detergent is commonly used in cosmetic cleansers, hair shampoos, bath and shower gels, bubble baths and in the cleaning industry SLS is used in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers, car-wash soaps, etc.
Products without SLS simply will not foam as well and many people don’t like that. People want lots of foam from their shampoos and body washes. But SLS is very drying to the skin, especially to black/afro hair and skin.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is used throughout the world for clinical testing as a primary skin irritant. Laboratories use it to irritate skin on test animals and humans so that they may then test healing agents to see how effective they are on the irritated skin
A study at the University of Georgia Medical College, indicated that SLS penetrated into the eyes as well as brain, heart, liver, etc., and showed long-term retention in the tissues. The study also indicated that SLS penetrated young children’s eyes and prevented them from developing properly and caused cataracts to develop In adults.
- It may cause hair loss by attacking the follicle. Classified as a drug in bubble baths because it eats away skin protection and causes rashes and infection to occur.
- Cleans by corrosion. Dries skin by stripping the protective lipids from the surface so it can’t effectively regulate moisture.
Another extremely serious problem is the connection of SLS with nitrate contamination. SLS reacts with many types of ingredients used in skin products and forms nitrosomines (nitrates). Nitrates are potential cancer-causing carcinogenics.
Because of the alarming penetrating power of SLS, large amounts of these known carcinogens are absorbed through the skin into the body. A variation of SLS is SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate- SLES). It exhibits many of the same characteristics and is a higher-foaming variation of SLS.
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.
- 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
- 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
- Most Worryingly SLS is also absorbed into the body from skin application as it has a low molecular weight. 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.
Unfortunately, many of the gentler detergents that may be substituted for sodium lauryl sulfate pose their own health hazards. For example, many companies have begun to use ethoxylated detergents such as sodium laureth sulfate, cocamide DEA or lauramide DEA because they tend to be less irritating.
Consumers can recognize shampoo ingredients containing ethoxylated detergents and related ingredients by looking for the prefix, word, or syllable PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, eth (as in sodium laureth sulfate), or oxynol.
The federal government has documented ethoxylated alcohol compounds are frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which is carcinogenic and is listed by the federal government as a probable human carcinogen.
Ethoxylation: Ethoxylation is the process that makes degreasing agents such as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) less abrasive and gives them enhanced foaming properties. When SLS is ethoxylated, it forms Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), a compound used in many shampoos, toothpastes, bath gels, bubble baths, and industrial degreasants. The problem is, the extremely harmful compound 1,4-dioxane may be created during the ethoxylation process, contaminating the product. 1,4-dioxane was one of the principal components of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, used to great effect by the Americans during the Vietnam War to strip off the jungle canopy to reveal their enemy. 1,4-dioxane is a hormonal disrupter believed to be the chief agent implicated in the host of cancers suffered by Vietnam military personnel after the war. It is also an oestrogen mimic thought to increase the chances of breast cancer and endometrial cancer, stress related illnesses and lower sperm counts.
It is well worth investing in SLS free shampoos and body washes. The health risks posed by both Sodium Lauryl and Laureth sulfates are well documented.
It’s actually been very difficult to find a good alternative to these sulfates, which is quite surprising seeing as there are so many ‘natural’ and ‘SLS – free’ brands of shampoos out there. A lot of the alternatives seem to pose health risks of their own and can also be drying and irritating.
There are other factors to consider when purchasing shampoos that will also affect the way your hair feels after it’s been cleansed. One of these being pH balance.
The ideal pH range for our hair is between 4.5 and 5.5. This acidic pH range closes our cuticles and helps to hold moisture in our hair. This pH also prevents bacteria and fungi growth on our scalp.
- Castile soaps are said to be a good alternative because of the ingredients and the way it is made. However Castille soaps have a very high pH of between 9.5 and 10 which causes the the cuticles of the hair to swell, feel rough and appear dull as the hair’s natural pH is acidic at a range of 4.5 to 5.5
- Natural African Black Soap is also used as an alternative to harsh shampoos with good results. It’s pH range though, is between 7.0 and 8.0 making it slightly alkaline. It is deemed more acceptable for the hair than castile soaps
- Baking Soda is another alternative some employ to clarify the hair as an alternative to shampoo. But baking soda has a natural pH range of 8.3 to 9.0 making it’s effects similar to that of castile soap based products.
Alkaline solutions do the exact opposite of acid solutions on our hair and scalp causing the cuticles to lift or become rough. High pH also breaks disulfide bonds that give hair it’s shape (that’s how relaxers work, normally with a pH range of 8.0 to 14.0 depending on whether it’s mild or not).
- ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) is used to clarify the hair of product build and is acidic in nature with a pH of 3.0 which is slightly more acidic than hair and is considered acceptable when diluted with water
- Aloe Vera is also acidic in it’s pH range and can help with rebalancing the acidity of the hair and scalp. Shampoos containing this ingredient are generally very good.
The best thing is to try out some of the SLS-free shampoos out there and see for yourself which ones your hair prefers. Look for pH balanced shampoos as these are the best for our hair ranging between 4.5 and 7.0. As our hair is naturally curly we need the most moisturizing shampoo we can find which in turn means the least stripping.
Handmade Naturals – Recommended
The Healthy Persons Guide to Personal Care Ingredients