SLS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
If you walked into a shop and found some engine degreaser and industrial strength detergent testers would you start applying it on your skin? Most likely, your answer is a non-hesitant “No!” but in reality the chances are you probably already applying ingredients on your skin which are found in such products!
What is SLS?
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (commonly known as SLS) is an inexpensive detergent and a surfactant which essentially means it is a substance that breaks up surface tension between two liquids, or a liquid and a solid and allows for better interaction between the two. SLS is an effective cleaner so is found in a number of industrial cleaning agents however it also helps prolong shelf life, creates lather and is used as a foaming agent and therefore is also found in many cosmetic & personal hygienic products such as body washes, soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, mouthwashes etc. What many people do not realise is that the lather/ foam doesn’t mean it does a better job cleaning, rather it is merely a by-product, in fact when looking into SLS you will find that the negatives of using SLS products seem to clearly outweigh the benefits.
But Coconuts are good for you….right?
If you have heard that SLS originates from coconuts you may be thinking how can something as great and natural as coconuts produce something bad for me, well the answer is easy, it’s been contaminated with the chemicals and the result is a long way from the original coconut oil so when you see “from coconut oil” or the like on such products, check to see if it includes SLS and if it does then it’s likely a marketing tactic to make you believe that somehow the ingredient is more natural.
A skin irritant
SLS is a known skin irritant, in fact when cosmetic companies need to test the soothing properties of a product they irritate the skin first and what do they often use to irritate the skin? Yes you guessed it, none other than SLS which is able to penetrate and damage the skin barrier by stripping away oils from the surface of the skin. Much research and studies has shown that SLS can cause or worsen conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, canker sores, sensitive skin etc and ironically, you could buy a product to treat a skin condition, but if it includes SLS , it could be making it worse
Bad for your eyes
Eyes are a particularly sensitive and with SLS in shampoos and facewashes you have probably often found your eyes irritated and red after using such products. However, it’s not only the irritation you should be worried about, SLS can actually damage the eye surface if kept on for long enough and studies have even suggested can cause cataracts.
Drying out your hair
No one likes greasy hair but having some natural oils in your hair and scalp is essential to keep it nourished, healthy and shiny. However with SLS stripping away these oils, it can really irritate your scalp, and make conditions like dry itchy scalp and dandruff much worse or even be the reason it occurred in the first place.
SLS is manufactured using some toxic solvents and when you heat it or mix it with hot water, it emits toxic fumes which is not great for anyone but can be particularly worse for those already suffering from asthma or respiratory problems .
Lowers your immunity
SLS can also lower your immunity by helping other chemicals get into your body. This is because it is a penetration enhancer, meaning that its molecules are so small they are easily able to speed across the membranes of your skin cells. Once the skin barrier is compromised, it becomes more vulnerable to other toxic chemicals getting in.
SLS is toxic to aquatic species and as a pesticide it finds itself in and polluting our waterways and groundwater more often than it should, the problem here being it has the potential for bioaccumulation - meaning it accumulates in the bodies of the fish. Furthermore, it is also undetected in many municipal water filters meaning it works its way into our drinking water too.
The good news is that these bad effects and other dangers can be eliminated by using natural and safe cosmetic products. If you decide to make the switch, do not assume that ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ products are sulfate free rather look for products which state are ‘SLS Free’. When you first use these products, you will notice an immediate difference, for example, you will notice the amount of lather or foam produced is substantially less and in products such as toothpaste you will notice a difference in taste, do not let this allow you to think it’s not going to be as effective, rather you should think it’s now doing an even greater job, giving you a good clean and keeping you safe from the dangers of SLS.