Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is a substance found in skin care products and detergents. But, you might be asking what the big deal is? Is SLS safe? There is no easy answer, but here are some basic facts.
What is sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)?
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) is a common and cheap chemical found in a lot of commercial skin care products such as soaps, shampoos, and toothpastes. SLS is a detergent and surfactant which is responsible for giving you a nice lather. Most surprisingly, industrial cleaning agents contain SLS although is larger amounts. This is enough to make you want to learn more about the chemical.
Is SLS safe?
The most concerning aspect of SLS is its link with cancer. The internet was a hotspot for spreading the claim that SLS is a harsh chemical used to clean dirty floors and are carcinogenic when used for the skin. However, these are simply claims with no scientific evidence.
While you might not need to worry about cancer, low concentrations of SLS (less than one-half percent) are reported to have sides effects on the skin, such as irritation. It follows that higher concentrations lead to severe agitation and corrosion of skin. The International Journal of Toxicology recommends no more than 1% of SLS for long term use. Read more here.
Do baby products contain SLS?
While baby products do not often contain SLS, they contain another substance called sodium laureth sulphate (SLES).
What is SLES?
SLES is also a detergent and foaming agent in hygiene and beauty products. It also serves as an emulsifying agent to help blend ingredients.
Is SLES safe?
First of all, SLES may also agitate the skin. However, there is a deeper concern with the contamination of SLES with 1,4-dioxane during manufacturing. These chemicals are carcinogens and are potentially harmful, which is why manufacturers remove them through vacuum stripping. Having said that, we do not have any way checking whether our products have traces of these carcinogens.
Should I avoid SLS and SLES in baby products?
There is many competing claims out there each to their own marketing strategies. There could be many approaches to this concern, such as being more conscientious about reading labels, avoiding SLS and SLES altogether, or being selective. For example, you might not want to leave these chemicals on your body for long periods of time. So, you can avoid the lotions and moisturizers with SLS and SLES. Furthermore, you might want to stay away from the toothpastes with SLS or SLES, since they get inside your mouth. Hand and body wash? Maybe that’s okay.
Conclusion: Is SLS safe? Is SLES safe?
At the end of the day, do what makes you feel comfortable. However, you will do well to remember that before the advent of highly commercial and marketable products, personal hygiene products were made with natural ingredients. It is actually not that hard to find them. Moreover, you can always opt to make your own soaps so you know what goes into it!