Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: What You Need To Know About This Common Ingredient

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.


Crest Toothpaste Label

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:


Toothpaste (SLS and fluoride free!)


Refer to our “DIY cleaning products” post!

Have questions about SLS or other product recommendations? Leave us a comment below!

By Courtney Perry


9 thoughts on “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: What You Need To Know About This Common Ingredient

    • Thank you! We love Dolphin Organics! Johnson and Johnson’s is used by most hospitals in the country and the number one shampoo on baby registries. For the mainstream parent choosing an inexpensive and widely available shampoo for their baby, it is a better alternative to the others on the shelves. The Johnson’s Baby Natural Shampoo is the better choice if necessary for a family that could not otherwise afford a truly natural shampoo.

      With that said, they do have some questionable and non preferred ingredients in the formulation… hopefully one day these big business companies will remove the harmful ingredients and provide products that we can trust!

  1. It looks like you will have to change your toothpaste. I went to the link and see that Burt Bee’s will be phasing out their toothpaste. I am not sure I can trust companies like this since they are not owned by the people that started the company.

    • It’s such a bummer!! Looks like I’ll have to load up on it while I can. And hopefully Amazon will have it in stock for awhile. Do you have a favorite SLS/fluoride free toothpaste you use?

  2. I use Dr. Bronner’s soap exclusively for face wash and body wash! I love it!

  3. We use Earthpaste, and Biologique Himalayan toothpastes. Looking into making our own – we were warned against using baking soda or (insert ingredient I forgot at 3 AM here) because they were too abrasive. Ellie of Zellie’s is a dentist – she answers questions if you email her. (She is a busy human of course!)

  4. Pingback: Hair Loss & Thinning Hair – Shampoo Sulfates could be the Culprit! | Susy Sayz…..

  5. Pingback: Rafael ☼ | daianadarlene

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