Top 10 Reasons to Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

September 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm 23 comments

There are a lot of rumors out there about Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate. Is it really a carcinogen? What about an endocrine disruptor and skin irritant? What’s truth and what’s myth? We’ve put together this article to clear up the confusion about the debated chemical. There’s no need to spread lies…the truth is scary enough. To make it easy we’re going to refer to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and its even more evil twin, Sodium Laureth Sulfate from this point forward as SLS.

If you have the suspicion that washing your face is making your skin dry, or that shampooing is giving you an itchy scalp or making your eyes sting, or that cleaning your teeth is giving you mouth ulcers, sodium lauryl sulfate is the likely culprit. In studies, there are “significant correlations” (in the words of one) between SLS and contact dermatitis. The Journal of the American College of Toxicology says that it has “a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties”. The Journal adds that “high levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration.

Here are our top ten reasons you should not use anything containing SLS.

1. It is a known skin irritant. When cosmetic companies need to test the healing properties of a lotion, they need toirritate the skin first. What do they use to do this? SLS, of course. If you have dandruff, dermatitis, canker sores, or other irritated tissues or skin, it could be due to SLS.

2. It pollutes our groundwater.  It is toxic to fish and other aquatic animals and has the potential for bioaccumulation (meaning it accumulates in the bodies of the fish.)  It also is undetected in many municipal water filters, getting into the tap water that you drink.

3. It is actually a pesticide and herbicide.  It is commonly used to kill plants and insects. Makers of SLS recently petitioned to have SLS listed as an approved pesticide for organic farming.  The application was denied because of its polluting properties and environmental damage.

4. It emits toxic fumes when heated. Toxic Sodium Oxides and Sulfur Oxides are released when SLS is heated.  Makes a hot shower with an SLS shampoo seem not quite as nice…

5.  It has corrosive properties.  According to the American College of Toxicitythis includes corrosion of the fats and protiens that make up skin and muscle.  SLS can be found in garage floor cleanrs, engine degreasers, and car wash soaps.

6.  Long-term permeation of the body’s tissues.
 A study from the University of Georgia Medicine showed that SLS had the power to permeate the eyes, brain, heart, and liver.

7.  It’s an eye irritant.  It was shown to cause cataracts in adults, and is proven to inhibit the proper formation of eyes in small children.

8.  Nitrate and other solvent contamination.  Toxic solvents, including carcinogenic nitrates are used in the manufacturing of SLS, traces of which can remain in the product.

9.  Manufacturing process is highly polluting, emitting cancer-causing volatile organic compounds, sulfur compounds, and air particulates.

10.  It helps other chemicals get into your body.  
SLS is a penetration enhancer, meaning that its molecules are so small they’re able to cross the membranes of your body’s cells.  Once cells are compromised, they become more vulnerable to other toxic chemicals that may be with the SLS.

Does it cause cancer?
SLS is not a recognized carcinogen itself, but there is some truth behind those internet rumors.  When SLS is mixed with triethanolamine (or T.E.A) carcinogenic substances called nitrosames can form and be released.

Products commonly found to contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLES
Tooth paste
Washing-up liquid / dish soap
Laundry detergent
Childrens soaps / shampoos
Stain Remover
Carpet Cleaner
Fabric glue
Body wash
Shave cream
Skin cleanser
Moisture lotion / Moisturiser
Sun Cream

Unfortunately, there are over 150 different names by which it is known. Many products that are SLS-free will say it on the packaging, however it is wise to always study the ingredients. For cosmetics check to see the toxicity of your product with EWG’s Skin Deep Data Base.


NewsTarget “Popular Shampoos Contain Toxic Chemicals Linked to Nerve Damage” Mike Adams, January 11, 2005 

MSDS Data Sheet for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

MSDS Data Sheet for Sodium Laureth Sulfate

“OCA & Cancer Prevention Coalition Warn of Hidden Carcinogens in Baby Care” AScribe Newswire, Feb 28, 2007

“Technical Evaluation Report: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate” Compiled by ICF Consulting for the USDA National Organic Program, February 10, 2006

Environmental Working Group / Skin Deep


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23 Comments Add your own

  • 2. Personal care product replacements – The Toxin Escape  |  February 29, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    […] to organ toxicity, skin irritation and dandruff, hormone imbalance and more (a few SLS info links: SmartKlean, – and also have drying agents like alcohol, so I learned pretty fast that my […]

  • 3. Linda Saraco  |  October 19, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate is one of big the reason I started studying and making products for my family (and pets). This passion has now grown to be the business Zasscelou Natural Soap.

  • 4. dottymy  |  September 23, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    I have read all of your information including your resources. I am sorry to say that most of your resources are second or third hand resources. Also you have quoted numerous “studies” and yet fail to provide these in your resources. I hope to see more evidence next time – I’m not agreeing or disagreeing that this chemical is bad for you, but I don’t think this article should be taken as a valid argument against its use as it has done nothing to prove its statements. I suggest doing some research through a peer reviewed journal:

  • 5. lisa  |  June 16, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    This is a great article and why we use Ruby-Blue Bunny, from EcoNatura. They are certified by an NSF third party certifier as harsh ingredient free and endocrine disruptor-free ingredients – I think they are the first in this class.

  • 6. GLADNA  |  June 2, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    Never used those skin care or cosmetic those have SLS or SLES.

    all famous companies of skin care are fake with results..

    say no chemical !! ( GLADNA 100% Organic Skin Care )

    by bhutarabdha@ gladna @naratma

  • 7. Products I’ve Used Up / Empties: #2  |  April 25, 2015 at 11:06 am

    […] like shampoos, hand soaps and toothpaste. Why is it so bad? Well there’s a whole dandy list here but the main concern it is a skin irritant. SLS creates that great lather we all know as the sign […]

  • 8. The God-Made Life: Physical Health | The Little Millers  |  January 28, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    […] and try them out. The main ingredients I’ve been trying to avoid in my purchases have been sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, fluoride, parabens, paraffins, and aluminum. There’s a ton of information on the web on why […]

  • 9. Simple skincare is by Simple? | littlemissrosia  |  January 21, 2014 at 6:33 am

    […] smaller. Smaller the better because this means it has less chemicals. Simple is also void of SLS ( I also have dark circles (I know, how do I deal with it all?!) not just under, but above too, […]

  • 11. loveleen tandon  |  January 7, 2014 at 6:24 am

    i just listened 2 a lecture in which it was called poisonous n now i have got my answers that “ya its really what to do shall i change my toothpaste colgate which contains it

    • 12. smartklean  |  February 10, 2014 at 11:04 pm

      There are many options to choose from at your health store (such as Wholefoods) that do not contain SLS or Fluoride. You can also make your own which is what we do at home. Simply search on google for DIY toothpaste recipes. Blessings!

    • 13. secondlifeart  |  October 24, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      I brush my teeth, wash my dishes, & body with Dr. Bronners Magic soap. I wash my hair with baking soda and rince with ACV. Avoid all chemicals in your house, on your body, and in your food.

  • 14. Edna Cotty  |  December 9, 2013 at 1:38 am

    Sodium laureth sulphate is in my ferrous fumarate iron tablets. I’ve had acid reflux, sore mouth and tongue and now a really bad stomach! Pain like a stomach ulcer, so bad I have to make a doctor’sappointment ASAP! Can’t be anything else causing the problems, this is the only thing different in my diet. I stopped using toothpaste and other products containing it several years ago due to adverse reaction. I never dreamt it would be in medications and didn’t check until I started having these symptoms recently after being prescribed the iron tablets for anaemia.

    • 15. Mia  |  November 9, 2015 at 1:22 am

      This is a really old comment but in case anybody is’s prob just that iron is very hard on the stomach and the sore tongue could be b12 deficiency. I’m anemic, too.

  • 17. Virginia Warner  |  August 2, 2013 at 3:48 am

    I learnt years ago that SLS is an absolute no-no. What I cant understand is, why is it still used so widely,or rather, why is it ALLOWED to be used widely? I always read the ingrediants on bottles and if it contains SLS. its put back on the shelf! One only has to look at the percentage of children in cancer hospitals. In my childhood, I NEVER knew a child with cancer (I am 70) I think about that often.

  • 18. Peter Fairbrother  |  November 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate are two different chemicals.

    Most of the bad things you mention are properties of sodium lauryl sulphate (by far the most evil of the two), and are not properties of sodium laureth sulphate.

    It is illegal to put sodium lauryl sulphate in human hygiene products like toothpaste, shampoo, children’s soaps, washing-up liquid, etc. – the only items on your list where the use of sodium lauryl sulphate is permitted are in laundry detergent, stain remover, and fabric glues.

    • 19. SpaceCadette77  |  March 21, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      Sorry, but your information is incorrect. It is not illegal to put sodium lauryl sulphate in human hygiene products. In fact, it is in almost all typical body care products.

    • 20. Olv  |  January 25, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      “LUSH products” Fresh Hand Made Cosmetic (made in Canada), have products containing this chemical: SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE and Sodium Laureth Sulfate.
      To mention few: Shower Gels: “So White” a refreshing apple gel.
      Soap: “Snokcake” a creamy almond luxury.
      Shampoo Bars: “Copperhead, Jason And the Argan Oil, Lullaby, Braziliant, Montalbano”.

  • 21. Chrissy  |  January 31, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Id love to use this article for a health and wellness booklet, is that ok??

    • 22. smartklean  |  January 31, 2012 at 6:58 am

      Hi Chrissy,

      Yes that is okay, but please credit our company (SmartKlean) as a source of the information. Thank you.

  • 23. The Toxic 12- Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate – Jacquelyn  |  September 18, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    […] Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). The Killers in your bathroom?Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Friend or Foe?Top 10 Reasons to Avoid Sodium Lauryl SulfateInsan4IT: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS ) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). The Killers in your […]


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