Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is a very inexpensive ingredient used in many conventional personal care products to make it foam and bubble. SLS is a detergent and surfactant, which essentially means that it breaks surface tension and separates molecules in order to allow better interaction between the product and your hair/body, it is synthesised and can be derived from either petroleum or plant based sources (coconut oil) . It’s commonly used in carpet cleaners, engine degreasers, car wash liquids, and machine wash detergents because it’s highly corrosive and can remove oil and grease. Ummm great, we can clean our cars with our shampoo and body wash! Because it is highly corrosive its actually very irritating on the skin and can cause drying and dermatitis.
Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) is similar to SLS however its gone through an extra processed called ethoxylation, this is designed to make the product more mild and less irritating, during ethoxylation the by-product 1,4-dioxane is created which is a KNOWN carcinogen, the manufacturer ‘vaccum strips’ the product to remove the 1,4-dioxane. Very worryingly the Organic Consumers Association released a study in 2008 that showed 47 out of 100 personal care products tested contained 1,4 dioxane. The Economic Working Group states it found 1,4 dioxane in 28% or personal care products tested, the worst offenders were baby bubble bath which came in at 55%, baby shampoo 57%, baby soaps 55% and baby lotion 43%. This data really boils my blood, there are so many parents out there just trying to do the right thing who trust the marketing but in actual fact are using products that potentially contain cancer causing toxins. This was one of the first things I learnt on my lot tox journey and really opened my eyes to how clever marketers are and how profit really is the driving factor of many companies who produce personal care products, not our health and wellbeing as they make it seem.
I personally avoid SLES in ALL products and SLS in my personal care products, I’m ok to use naturally derived SLS in cleaning products because it is a very effective cleaner. I always check labels for SLS and SLES, one mainstream shampoo I saw being sold in the supermarket, which claims to be natural, had BOTH. I also checked my ‘planet friendly’ dishwashing liquid and found SLES in there!
If you’ve just checked your products and have found SLS or SLES in there, don’t freak out! You don’t know what you don’t know, right? So now you know better you can do better. There are some great SLS/SLES free options for replacing your current products including Buddha Body Care Body Wash, Acure Shampoo, Dr Bronners toothpaste. And don’t forget about your pets, if your dog gets itchy irritated skin after a wash it might be because of the SLS/SLES in the dog shampoo. Dr Bronner’s Castile liquid soap would be awesome as a dog shampoo, it can also be used as a body wash, hand wash, dishwashing liquid, there are seriously lots of uses for this awesome soap (including my DIY carpet cleaner)
Now I’m off to hang up some washing, riveting stuff I know! I hope you have a lovely weekend!