Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) & Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
Yes, you read the title correct my friends. One of the most common ingredients in all of our soaps, body washes, shampoos and even in our toothpaste is actually used as a pesticide. This chemical is responsible for the amazing suds you get when you lather your shampoo, wash your hands or put bubble bath under the faucet and watch the bubbles grow.
SLS is a pesticide and herbicide, 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. Yet it remains a common ingredient in most our personal care products, absorbing into the skin, being inhaled into our lungs and washing down the drain in almost every American home.
Both chemicals are very effective surfactants and they are both dangerous chemicals and allergens. They can be highly irritating to the skin. If you ever get out of the shower and your scalp or skin is itchy, eyes burning, skin raw and red for no reason these two chemicals are likely the culprit of your issues.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is made from petroleum oil, from coconut oil and from palm oil. In all processes, fatty acids are extracted and converted to fatty alcohols, then sulfonated to become a crystalline salt. When SLS goes through a process called “ethoxylation” it becomes SLES. You will often see labels telling you that there SLS is derived from coconut oil to make you feel like it is a healthier choice, but it is not. It is still processed the same way.
Sodium laureth sulfate is an accepted contraction of sodium lauryl ether sulfate, is an anionic detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products. It’s derived from ethoxylated lauryl alcohol and used as a surfactant (Cleansing Agent; Surfactant-Emulsifying Agent). It is known to be less irritating than SLS; however, it cannot be metabolized by the liver and its effects can be long term.
Per the National Institutes of health “Household Products Directory” of chemical ingredients there are over 80 products that contain SLS and SLES. There are soaps on that list that contain up to 30% concentrations which ACT (The American College of Toxicology) report titles as “highly irritating and dangerous.”
SLS & SLES are both inexpensive ingredients found in most of your bathroom products: toothpaste, soaps, body wash, shaving cream, bubble bath and bath bombs. SLS emits toxic fumes when heated; toxic sodium oxides and sulfur oxides are released when SLS is heated. I don’t know many people that wash their hair in a cold shower or sit in a tub to soak in cold water so every time you use these products you are in the middle of a chemical overload and this is just the beginning of your day. SLES dissolves the oils on your skin, causing a drying effect. It has been documented that it denatures skin proteins which has been implicated in skin and other cancers. Our skins first job is to absorb, and this chemical mimic estrogen causing many health problems from female cancers (ovarian & breast), decreased male fertility, Pre-Menstrual Syndrome to Menopausal symptoms and more.
SLS has corrosive properties and can be found in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers, and car wash soaps. According to the Journal of the American College of Toxicity, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate has “a degenerative effect on the cell membrane because of its protein denaturing properties.” This includes corrosion of the fats and proteins that make up skin and muscle. The journal continues by saying, “high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration; it is a carcinogen, endocrine disruptor and skin irritant”.
Synonyms (look for in Ingredients list)
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) 1,4-dioxane
Alpha-sulfo-omega (dodecyloxy) Poly (oxy-1,2-Ethanediyl) Sodium Salt
Dodecyl Sodium Sulfate Lauryl Ether Sulfate Ether Sulfate
Lauryl Ether Sulfate Polyethylene Glycol (1-4) A-Sulfo-W (Dodecyloxy)
Sodium Polyoxethylene Lauryl Ether PEG-(1-4)
Sodium Polyoxyethylene Lauryl Sulfate
When trying to avoid this chemical it is not necessary to memorize all of the synonyms above start looking for “Sulfate Free” and/or “Paraben & Sulfate Free” shampoo, conditioner, soap and body wash. These products often have undesirable chemicals in them as well but it is a good place to start on your journey to a chemical free home. A product with a long list of ingredients that you cannot pronounce is a good sign that there are a shit ton of chemicals in it. Read my blog “Chemical Shitstorm” to get a better idea of how bombarded we are with chemicals on a daily basis. You can also check out my Skin Care Page located in the Blog Menu for chemical free options for self-care products. All the products that I list I have used at one time or another until I found ones that worked for me. My Shopping list page located in my blog menu has different ways you can buy healthy foods and products online instead of searching multiple grocery stores for what you need.
Disclaimer: The strategies, suggestions, and techniques expressed here are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The Author, Kira Miller, is not rendering medical advice nor is she trying to diagnose, prescribe or treat any disease, condition, illness or injury.
If you are under the care of a physician it is imperative that you consult their advice before beginning any new exercise or nutrition program.
Kira Miller claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss or damage alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application or interpretation of the material presented here.