Bath & Body Inspired by Nature

The debate over Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) has been going on for some time.  Some shun the ingredient while other companies will readily add it to enhance their products.

So what about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?  Is it really an ingredient we should avoid?

Let's see what it's all about:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/SLS

Take a good look at any of your personal care products and you will see that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is an ingredient in your toothpaste, shampoo, soaps, bubble bath, etc. 

Not only may your product contain SLS, but you may also notice that it is listed as one of the top three or four ingredients, meaning it makes up a higher percentage than the ingredients listed after it.  If listed in the top three it most likely makes up more than 10% of your product.

Why Do Many Other Products Contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

Manufacturers of personal care products find SLS a cost effective way to maximize your product's foaming ability.  After all, have we not all been conditioned to believe that "squeaky clean" is a good thing?  That stripping all the oils from your hair and skin is a measure of the product's cleansing ability?

Well, that's what manufacturers try to deliver to you.  SLS is a detergent and foam producing agent.  It increases lather which most consumers value as a positive quality.  We have been brain washed to expect lots and lots of lather!  Sodium lauryl sulfate has an emulsifying action, which means it combines your skin's oil with water better.

Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate a Natural Ingredient?

Unfortunately, descriptions such as "natural" and even "organic" are used very loosely in the cosmetic industry. 

Manufacturers like to disguise Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as natural by saying "comes from coconuts" or "naturally derived from coconut and/or palm kernel oil". 

Coconut oil is mixed with sodium hydroxide to convert the coconut oil into fatty acids & glycerin.  One of these fatty acids is lauric acid which is converted to lauryl alcohol via hydrogenation.  Next, via sulfonation, lauryl alcohol is converted into lauryl sulfate.  And finally, lauryl sulfate is combined with sodium hydroxide to produce sodium lauryl sulfate. 

Does that make it natural?  I suppose that depends on how broad you make your definition of "natural".

But It's An Approved Cosmetic Ingredient, Right? 

Yep, it sure is.   The FDA certifies that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is generaly recognized as safe (GRAS) when used within proper limits for food items.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) is an independent expert panel representing consumers, industry and the US government to assess the safety of ingredients in cosmetics.  This agency has also reviewed Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and found it to be safe.

Although Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a known irritant to skin and eyes, it appears to be safe in formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use.  This means products that are meant to be washed off such as soaps and shampoos.

What About Causing Cancer?  I Think I Read Something On The Internet About That!

You probably did.  At one time there were emails and a series of propaganda messages about Sodium Lauryl Sulfate causing cancer. 

The American Cancer Society has put out the following short video to provide information regarding cancer causing rumors including Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.  They have listed it as an irritant but not a carcinogen.

An Irritant?!  But Why Would I Want to Use An Irritant?

Exactly.  And here is where it gets a little fuzzy.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is so well known as an irritant that it is routinely used to irritate/inflame the skin in lab studies.  The following link demonstrates a research protocol studying the benefits of canola oil in which SLS was used to irritate the skin.

In toothpaste, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate has demonstrated to cause canker sores and attack the mucous membranes of the mouth. Other studies have also shown that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can "interact with the deposition of fluoride on dental enamel.   It is further suggested that this interaction may have potential to decrease the cariostatic effect of fluorides."  In this study the concentration of SLS was at 0.5-2.0%.  This would make us believe that concentrations less than 2% on mucous membranes can produce inflammation and irritated tissues.

For topical applications (non-mucous membranes) a concentration of 5% has shown to be an irritant.

So let's revisit that bottle of shampoo in your bathroom.  Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate listed as one of the first three ingredients?  If yes, chances are it contains more than 5%.  No wonder your hair usually feels dry, requires a separate conditioner and you often have an itchy scalp!

And aggravated eczema or psoriasis?  Hmmm....

Does German Soap Box Use Sodium Lauryl Sulfates?


Although the amounts of SLS in any given product may be within recognized "safe" limits, it is your cumulative exposure to these ingredients that we are concerned about.  The average adult uses at least 9 personal care items every day, and some women use 15+.  Such repeated use of a more harsh detergent can really dry and irritate your skin!  At the very least it would seem prudent to reduce your exposure, which is why German Soap Box has decided to refrain from all use of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.  Besides, there are so many new and milder options available that SLS seems totally unnecessary.

Your body has enough irritants to fight off every day, we don't purposely have to add to that.

Clean, fresh, smart & sexy.  Let's keep it that way.

Return to Reason to Choose German Soap Box