Some of you have asked what the ingredient SLS is, in light of news about an Honest Co. settlement this week due to false claims that it is not in their products. [We personally really like some of Honestly Co. products - in particular Lindsey uses their diapers and wipes and Heather uses the glass cleaner and dishwasher rinse aid, so this is not a slam on the brand, just an opportunity to talk about why transparency is so important.]
If you have not started to look at the labels on your bath products (that's okay! We're all learning together!), what you're using more than likely contains SLS or a secondary form, sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). So...
SLS and SLES are both surfactants and emulsifiers (although made slightly differently). Companies put these in products to make them foam up, which is why it is commonly found in things with bubbles! Think shampoo, body wash, bubble bath and so on. Both chemicals also are used in industrial-strength cleaning products. Think car wash soaps, laundry detergent, floor cleaners, engine degreasers, etc. It is because SLS and SLES corrode cell membranes at high concentrations or "cut grease."
Here are 11 Reasons to Flip Your Labels and Check for SLS:
- Do you really want an ingredient used in industrial engine cleaners on your skin?
- It can be a skin irritant. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate are irritants in patch testing at concentrations of 2 percent and greater, and that irritation increases with ingredient concentration.
- Companies are claiming it is safe based on studies using extremely low amounts, but they are using too much of it in their own products. A safety assessment of SLS in the International Journal of Toxicology recommends concentration levels of no more than 1% in products with prolonged use. The bad news is that cleaning products have levels of SLS as high as 10-20%, sometimes more.
- Manufacturers put SLES through a process called “ethoxylation." This makes it less irritating than SLS, but the process involves adding ethylene oxide to the mixture, which is an industrial, flammable, toxic gas. This creates the chemical “1,4-dioxane” as a byproduct. 1,4-dioxane is a known cancer-causing agent and a top groundwater contaminator, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- The substance can be absorbed into the body through the skin and by ingestion, as listed by the CDC.
- It is actually registered as a pesticide used to kill ticks...YUCK
- It has corrosive properties that breaks down proteins, which is why it is found in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers, and car wash soaps.
- It emits toxic fumes when burned. It makes us wonder what happens in a really hot shower.
- It’s an eye irritant, especially in small children.
- The manufacturing process for making both SLS and SLES causes high pollution. This includes emitting cancer-causing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur compounds, and air particulates.
- It helps other harmful chemicals get into your body, as it is a penetration enhancer.
The good (?) news is you could receive $50 back if you've purchased Honest Co. products that have now been found to contain SLS : )
The FDA and soap manufacturers (bias, maybe?) officially state that SLS and SLES are not harmful, and there are plenty of articles (many of which we suspect are paid for) that argue the concern is unwarranted. But there is evidence to the contrary, and it does kill fleas, which seem like pretty indestructible little buggers, so common sense says it has to do something to your body.
Honestly, we have read a lot of studies (until our eyes felt like crossing!), and while many of them seem so confident that SLS and SLES can be safe in low doses, it is the continual, daily use that concerns us the most.
Since there are products available that do not have these ingredients, we're not interested in being a part of the debate of "is it or isn't it safe?" Our bodies have enough chemicals to flush out every day, so we're reaching for products without SLS and SLES. Some of our favorites are Under Luna, Alaffia, and BeautyCounter. In fact, SLS is just one of more than 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals that BeautyCounter has committed to never use as ingredients in its products and put on its "Never List."
If you have to use a product with SLS, keep this in mind. The amount of irritation caused by SLS increases:
- the longer it’s left on the skin.
- the more concentrated it is in a product.
- the more often it’s used.
In addition to SLS and SLES, look for these names on your labels:
- sodium dodecyl sulphate
- lauryl sodium sulphate
- sodium n-dodecyl sulphate
- lauryl sulphate sodium salt
- Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt
- Sodium salt sulfuric acid
- Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid
You can also check for Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), another surfactant that is very similar.
We invite you to check your ingredient labels. You could be surprised at how many products in your home contain SLS or SLES. Let us know what you find!
The SHE Team