What is SLS?
SLS or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a chemical surfactant - which means it creates a foamy lather - and usually derives from palm oil. The foaming agent is often found in industrial and personal skincare or cosmetic products.
What are sulfates (SLS and SLES) in skincare, shampoo, toothpaste and soap?
Sulfates are a type of salt used in cleansing items that attract oil and water, so they bind to dirt and grease and strip them away when they’re rinsed off the skin or hair. When sulfates are mixed with water they product lather and suds to help brush them against the skin.
What does SLS and SLES free mean?
SLS stands for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which is a chemical foaming agent that produces a lather. Sometimes SLS is also known as SKS or Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate. SLES is Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate. Products which say they are SLS or SLES free mean they do not contain these ingredients.
Both are often used in shampoos, soaps, and toothpastes as a cleansing agent. SLS tends to be more irritating than SLES, so some manufacturers tend to use the later in skincare products.
What are SLS free alternatives?
A gentler cleanser is SCS, a sodium coco sulfate, as it stems from coconut oil. SCS is palm oil free. Other alternatives include SLSA, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, and Lauryl Gucoside.
You can also choose to buy from bands that have no SLS in their products - check out our range of vegan soaps that are SLS free here.
Why is SLS bad?
SLS, SLES or sulphates, can irritate eyes, skin and the lungs with prolonged use over long periods of times - however, it’s dependant on each individual person, and it has not been banned by government bodies so it isn’t a quick answer on whether you should stop using it too.
Sulphates also can penetrate the top layer of the skin, which works on providing protection, and removes the barrier which works tirelessly to keep your skin safe.
In most cases, if you have a history sensitive skin, if it’s irritated easily, or suffer from a skin condition like eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, then try avoiding products with SLS or SLES, and see if it improves. If you find your skin is red, irritated or itchy, especially when washing with SLS with warm water, you may benefit not using SLS as well.
Because they’re so good at what they do - leaving things squeaky clean - it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option for our hair and skin. They aggressively clean which can lead to natural, good oils being stripped away from the surface and scalp. In other cases, one study found they removed twice as much keratin compared to hair that was rinsed in water without sulfates.
Some sulfates derive from palm oil, which is a key component of deforestation, pollution and climate change.
Do sulfates cause cancer?
There has been a lot of concern that sulfates cause cancer, however, there is no research that confirm they cause long-term harm in skin and hair care. They are considered safe to use in personal care products, and have not been banned in the USA and the UK. However, people with sensitive skin or skin conditions may find them irritating.
How does SLS work?
Sulfates like SLS or SLES attach themselves to dirt and grease, so that when they or the lather is washed away the dirt is removed as well.
What are parabens?
Parabens, commonly used as synthetic preservatives in cosmetic or pharmaceutical products to preserve their shelf life. However, there has been concern that they can affect the body, in particular hormones.
They are believed to be endocrine disruptors which mean they mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones. Although, no scientific study has been able to confirm the impact on human health and they have not been banned,
What does SLS do to your hair?
SLS or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, is a cleansing agent and breaks down and removes dirt, grease from the scalp and root of the hair. Because it strips the dirt and grease in the top layer, it can sometimes penetrate the skin’s protective barrier and cause irritation.
It also means the top layer protection is temporarily removed and other chemicals and cause redness or soreness. However, this depends on each individual person.
Check out our SLS-free soap that has no parabens or palm oil, like our zesty goji berry and blood orange vegan soap bar.