What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (commonly known as SLS) is a widely used chemical in personal hygiene products, along with Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS).
SLS is essentially a foaming agent in products such as soaps, detergents, shampoos, toothpastes and body wash along with some industrial cleaning products such as engine degreaser, floor cleaning products and car wash. It is also widely used as a skin irritant when testing products used to heal skin irritations.
Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate A Danger?
There are conflicting reports published over the years and as a result a lot of unsubstantiated claims being made about the use of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Most concerning are reports of links between Cancer and SLS.
A Cause of Cancer?
There is healthy debate surrounding the topic of SLS and Cancer, however at this point in time there is no scientific evidence that links the two. This has also been backed up by the American Cancer Council along with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP).
For more information on SLS and Cancer you can read our article here.
So while any links to cancer are unsubstantiated there certainly are reports of side effects that have been published. For example, a 1983 report published by The American College of Toxicology (ACT) found that even relatively low concentrations, less than one-half percent, might result in skin irritation. Higher concentrations were responsible for severe irritation and even corrosion of the skin. The International Journal of Toxicology also provides a safety assessment of SLS and recommends concentration levels of no more than 1% in products with prolonged use. In short SLS can cause irritation of the scalp, gums and skin and in some people the reaction will be quite strong. We recommend in this case to use a SLS Free alternative such as those listed here.
More Than Just A Skin Irritant?
In addition to skin irritation, there are studies that point to residual levels of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in the brain, lungs, liver, and heart. These levels follow the use of SLS used externally on the scalp and skin, and in the mouth as an ingredient in toothpaste.
There are some findings that link the ingredient to a hormone imbalance. Symptoms such as PMS and PMT and menopausal symptoms are tied to hormone levels. There has been a lower rate of male fertility reported in some cases, particularly in western countries however this is as yet unsubstantiated. Because SLS mimics oestrogen, it is possible it may play a role in these types of health issues.
A condition known as protein denaturing is another result of SLS action. The chemical structure forms a bridge between the fat and water soluble portions at the cellular level. This reduces or eliminates the cell’s ability to heal itself. Over time, the destruction of cellular tissue is irreversible. New protein is affected during the construction process and existing protein is damaged. When the protein is damaged, the body has to expend extra energy to try to heal the distressed cells.
Which Household Products Contain SLS
The National Institute of Health publication “Household Products Directory” lists Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as a chemical ingredient in more than 80 products! Some household soaps have a concentration measurement as high as 30 percent. This level is considered unsafe and a likely cause of skin irritation. SLS is also found in Toothpaste, Mouthwash, Makeup, body wash and shampoos.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is one of the common ingredients used in shampoos. This makes shampoo a frequently reported product to the Food and Drug Administration. Some of the typical reports and complaints include split or fuzzy hair, swelling of the arms, face or hands, irritation of the scalp and irritation of the eyes.
SLS and Children
In children, SLS has been linked to eye irritation. Even at very low levels, the product may be absorbed through the skin and cause issues with eye health. It would seem that children’s products should be scrutinized more closely, but often they are not. A number of studies have indicated that SLS will remain in a person’s system (Brain, Heart & Liver) for up to 4-5 days which means if you are using a NON SLS free product at the same volume and same rate of application Sodium Lauryl Sulfate will remain a constant in your body.