Sodium Lauryl Sulphate – foaming or fuming?
Do you know what makes your shampoo foam? All that foam and bubble – is this an entirely necessary effect? Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is the most common foaming agent used and in most cases it really isn’t necessary, nor is it ideal for skin health.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is widely used as a detergent in all types of foaming personal care products from liquid soap and shampoo to toothpaste.
As a detergent, SLS is used in cosmetic agents to break the surface tension of the skin which allows dirt and oil to wash away. All detergents act to dissolve the fats and oils from the skin but also strip it from the top layers of the skin. This can lead to thinning and permeability of the skin. The skin is a barrier to the outside world and by washing away the natural oils produced by the skin SLS reduces the effectiveness of this natural barrier.
The most common reaction seen to SLS containing products is a dry, flaky scalp. What many people think is dandruff can actually be a reaction to the stripping effects of SLS. Those at greatest risk of this effect are babies, those with any skin irritation such as in eczema, dermatitis, acne and psoriasis, those with thinning of the skin such as the elderly or those with dry skin. However, long term use will also affect those with “normal” skin.
A search of PubMed (an internationally recognised database of scientific papers) supported these claims. Numerous trials showed that SLS can cause skin irritation, particularly in those with atopic eczema or dermatitis, as well as increase trans-dermal water loss. Essentially this means that when applied topically SLS will irritate and dry out the skin.
Other research suggests that SLS can mimic the hormone oestrogen. Too much of this hormone in the body (or substances that mimic its effects) can have a disruptive effect on the reproductive system. There are a range of less harsh detergent agents such as Ammonium Laurel Sulphate that are promoted as SLS alternatives, but they may also be harmful for those at risk and still have a drying effect.
So what are the alternatives? One alternative is olive oil based soap. It can be safely used with babies, those with skin conditions, the elderly and those with sensitive or dry skin.
Natural Oil based cleansers are also seen as safer alternatives. Nature’s Symphony shampoo and conditioner are based on coconut based cleansers. Good products for all hair types, feedback from users of these products say the health of their hair and scalp improves with ongoing use.
Given the potential harmful effects of SLS, both known and suspected, it is one synthetic chemical that is best avoided particularly as there are good alternatives available.
BabylonTree.com offers wide range of SLS Free products. Herbal Palm Tree Oil based soaps are the best start to Your “Chemicals Free” Hygiene. Even BabylonTree bath bombs are made with generous doze of Shea Butter or even a Coconut Butter!
1. It is a known skin irritant. When cosmetic companies need to test the healing properties of a lotion, they need toirritate the skin first. What do they use to do this? SLS, of course. If you have dandruff, dermatitis, canker sores, or other irritated tissues or skin, it could be due to SLS.
2. It pollutes our groundwater. It is toxic to fish and other aquatic animals and has the potential for bioaccumulation (meaning it accumulates in the bodies of the fish.) It also is undetected in many municipal water filters, getting into the tap water that you drink.
3. It is actually a pesticide and herbicide. It is commonly used to kill plants and insects. Makers of SLS recently petitioned to have SLS listed as an approved pesticide for organic farming. The application was denied because of its polluting properties and environmental damage.
4. It emits toxic fumes when heated. Toxic Sodium Oxides and Sulfur Oxides are released when SLS is heated. Makes a hot shower with an SLS shampoo seem not quite as nice…
5. It has corrosive properties. According to the American College of Toxicity, this includes corrosion of the fats and protiens that make up skin and muscle. SLS can be found in garage floor cleanrs, engine degreasers, and car wash soaps.
6. Long-term permeation of the body’s tissues. A study from the University of Georgia Medicine showed that SLS had the power to permeate the eyes, brain, heart, and liver.
7. It’s an eye irritant. It was shown to cause cataracts in adults, and is proven to inhibit the proper formation of eyes in small children.
8. Nitrate and other solvent contamination. Toxic solvents, including carcinogenic nitrates are used in the manufacturing of SLS, traces of which can remain in the product.
9. Manufacturing process is highly polluting, emitting cancer-causing volatile organic compounds, sulfur compounds, and air particulates.
10. It helps other chemicals get into your body. SLS is a penetration enhancer, meaning that its molecules are so small they’re able to cross the membranes of your body’s cells. Once cells are compromised, they become more vulnerable to other toxic chemicals that may be with the SLS.
Does it cause cancer?
SLS is not a recognized carcinogen itself, but there is some truth behind those internet rumors. When SLS is mixed with triethanolamine (or T.E.A) carcinogenic substances called nitrosames can form and be released.
NewsTarget “Popular Shampoos Contain Toxic Chemicals Linked to Nerve Damage” Mike Adams, January 11, 2005
MSDS Data Sheet for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
MSDS Data Sheet for Sodium Laureth Sulfate
“OCA & Cancer Prevention Coalition Warn of Hidden Carcinogens in Baby Care” AScribe Newswire, Feb 28, 2007
“Technical Evaluation Report: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate” Compiled by ICF Consulting for the USDA National Organic Program, February 10, 2006