You’ve seen the words “sodium lauryl sulfate” written on ingredients lists hundreds of times. Maybe you’ve wondered what it is, or maybe not. Any ingredient that appears in so many different products has to be safe, right? Much research suggests otherwise.
I never had any reason to question sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) before a few years ago when my dentist recommended switching to an SLS-free toothpaste in order to put an end to the canker sores I was continuously getting. I made the switch (Burt’s Bees SLS and Fluoride Free Toothpaste) and haven’t had a canker sore since. Actually, that’s not true. Last weekend I was on vacation and forgot to pack my SLS-free toothpaste. Within 3 days of using a “regular” toothpaste, I had a giant, painful canker sore. Not a coincidence! Now that I’m back home to my SLS-free toothpaste, my mouth is back to normal, and feeling good.
So what IS sodium lauryl sulfate?
Sodium lauryl sulfate is a detergent and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic and even cleaning products. If I challenged you to go to a convenience store right now and bring home a shampoo or toothpaste without SLS, I guarantee you would come back empty handed. It’s what makes shampoo lather and toothpaste bubble.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is actually derived from coconuts, but the process of manufacturing it is what makes it dangerous. SLS is contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product. In fact, several deaths have occurred when workers have been accidentally exposed to it. So while the argument has been made that SLS alone is not dangerous or carcinogenic, why take the risk?
Some of the other risks of ingesting or topically using SLS are irritation of the skin and eyes, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, hair loss, scalp irritation, and respiratory illness.
The great news is that more and more companies are starting to find ways to create quality, safe products without the use of sodium lauryl sulfate or any of its sister ingredients, like sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulphate.
Check out these products to see for yourself if going SLS-free improves your skin and health the way it has mine:
- Aubrey Organics Website: Aubrey Organics
- Burt Bees Website: Burts Bees
- Avalon Organic Website: Avalon Organic
- Dessert Essence Website: Dessert Essence
- Logona Website: Logona
- Henna Aloe Vera
Toothpaste (SLS and fluoride free!)
- Burts Bees, as mentioned in the beginning of this article
- Welda Plant Gel Toothpaste
- Jason Powersmile
- Tom’s of Maine, Clean and Gentle
Refer to our “DIY cleaning products” post!
Have questions about SLS or other product recommendations? Leave us a comment below!
By Courtney Perry