More than half of adult women and a quarter of adult men struggle with acne. Some treatments are simple and can cure the problem within weeks, while other treatments can take much longer depending on the cause.
A lot of dermatologists put the blame on products we use for our hair, skin, and oral hygiene. One ingredient in particular is SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). SLS is a foaming agent found in most commercial shampoos, toothpastes, and mouthwashes.
When answering the question does Sodium Lauryl Sulfate cause acne? You want to be careful to qualify SLS as “the cause,” meaning the main cause, or “cause” as in one of the causes. This may sound overly technical, but people can focus in on one thing where as the cause can be a combination of a few things.
The Pros and Cons of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Acne
Since SLS is a detergent (even diluted), it stands to reason that people with sensitive skin do find SLS to be an irritant. This is evident when these same people change to products that don’t use SLS and discover reversals in their skin condition. (more on this here)
Does irritating the skin cause acne?
The stated cause of acne is a blockage of pore follicles that are intended to secrete oils and toxins. This blockage can be caused by either bacterial infection or excessive oil production- there is no mention of skin irritation. In many cases SLS is beneficial because the products we use are usually combined with mineralized water (hard water). To get the full effects and benefits from these products manufacturers found that SLS is the one ingredient that is both cost effective and gives the best results.
On the flip side SLS is known to perpetuate some health problems such as skin irritation and sores. Does this mean that it directly causes acne? None of the evidence seems to connect the dots conclusively. However it is well established that those with a history of skin irritation will often find moving to an SLS free product will quickly provide relief.
Other Causes of Acne
As mentioned, there’s not just one cause that science can point to that causes acne. In adolescence the change in hormonal balance is generally thought of as the major cause.
Here are a few more factors to consider:
- Toxins (air, water)
- Pillow Cases
- Oils from your hair
You see, there’s a long list of things that can get under your skin you may not even think about. How many objects do you touch on a daily basis and then unconsciously touch your face afterwards? Objects such as doorknobs, computer keyboards, counter tops, and any objects where bacteria can be innocently transferred to your face when you rub it.
The data seems to suggest that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is probably not the primary cause of most people’s acne conditions. There are just so many factors that can contribute to acne problems.
But it’s easy enough to switch products, so why not start with something SLS free and go from there- this would seem a logical and economical way to resolve acne problems.