Monday, 25 January 2016

Say no to nasties: Sodium Laurel Sulphate

Concerned about the chemicals in the products you use?
Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles at
Is it just me, or are ingredients lists on toiletries and cosmetics getting longer and more complicated? In an attempt to learn more about exactly what I'm regularly putting on my face and body, I'm looking into the additives you'll find in everyday products. I'll also provide info on some products that have moved away from these ingredients - to provide a more natural and potentially healthier choice. First up SLS...

Dry skin? Itchy scalp? Mouth ulcers? Sometimes the very things we use to maintain our health and hygiene can be causing more problems. And so it could be with Sodium Laurel Sulfate/Sodium Laureate Sulfate, often referred to as SLS, a cheap and effective foaming agent often added to cleansing products.

Where will I find SLS?

SLS may also be listed as sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me or aquaria methyl. It can be found in everything from soaps, shampoos and bubble baths, to cleanser, moisturiser, sun cream and shaving foam to toothpaste and mouthwash. It's also commonly found in washing up liquid and household detergents, stain removers, carper cleaner, fabric glue and, um, mascara!

While no hard and fast evidence exists to prove that SLS used over a lifetime at the levels present in your average shampoo, bubble bath or toothpaste damages your health, research has shown some correlations between high levels of the ingredient and contact dermatitis. It is also worth knowing that in some applications SLS is used as a pesticide and herbicide to kill plants and insects. At the moment there are no conclusive studies that link it directly to cancer or eye damage, despite there being some claims of that nature floating around the internet (but let's not forget there was a time when smoking was thought to be healthy...what with it being a profitable business and all).

oral health, sulphate-free, cruelty-free
Sulphate-free ultraDEX
What is known is that the amount of irritation caused by SLS increases the longer it is left on the skin - and the more concentrated it is in a product. So it follows that you need to keep an eye on the sort of levels that are in your products and how often you are using those products in one day - and perhaps even over a lifetime.  You might also want to re-consider using it on sensitive or delicate skin - like skin prone to allergies or that of children.

What's the alternative?

SLS is a common ingredient in toothpaste - typically giving that minty fresh foaming-at-the-mouth look we associate with having a good old clean! If you want a sulphate-free toothpaste and mouthwash however, a British brand called ultraDEX is the choice for you. The toothpaste is clinically proven to protect teeth and gums by eliminating bacteria, lift organic stains and eliminate the compounds that cause bad breath - and contains 1000ppm of fluoride, which is complemented by by the Daily Oral Rinse mouthwash, which contains 230ppm fluoride (many mouthwashes don’t contain fluoride and can wash away the all important fluoride that the toothpaste leaves behind). The range is also approved by the Vegetarian Society, registered with the Vegan Society, gluten free and has Kosher status.

SLS is certainly an ingredient worth being aware of, and until it's been proven to be safe to use, one you might choose to avoid. Particularly when there are viable alternatives out there...


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