Top 10 Reasons to Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

September 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm 60 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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SmartKlean Featured on Parenting Magazine The Ingredients Used in Leading Detergent Brands

60 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Isha kohli  |  July 11, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    If sls is dangerous…..why is it put in shampoos,soaps etc

    • 2. smartklean  |  July 11, 2018 at 11:13 pm

      Hi Isha! Well, our chemical laws in the US have not been updated since the 70’s. SLS is a foaming agent, this is what most people consider a ‘real cleaner’ result, which is not true. Chemicals, most are ‘petrochemicals’ that are cheap to produce and infuse in products. Check out the story of stuff video:

  • 3. Joan michaud, w'boro va.  |  August 7, 2017 at 1:54 am

    I bought a bottle of 7th generation dish liquid assuming it was good 4 us, the earth. I was wrong. It has sodium laurel sulfate ( plant derived), + 2 synthetic preservatives!! Is there any way Sal is not harmful 2 us? I called the co., told them how disappointed I am in their choice of ingredients!

  • 4. Joan michaud, w'boro va.  |  August 7, 2017 at 1:42 am

    I bought a bottle of 7th gen. Dish liquid, assuming it was good 4 the earth. I was wrong. It has sodium laurel sulfate, + 2 synthetic preservatives. It says the sls is plant derived. Can anybody tell me that sodium laurel sulfate, in any form, is good 4 the earth, and our bodies?

  • 5. Joan michaud, w'boro va.  |  August 7, 2017 at 1:29 am

    I just bought a bottle of seventh generation dish liquid, turns out it has “sodium Laura sulfate” in it’s ingredients. That’s what I’m trying 2 avoid! In addition it has 2 synthetic preservatives! I thought, in the store, wow, look @ that label! ” non toxic formula, 0% fragrance, dyes, triclosan! Read the ingredients, it tells a different story. Is there such a thing as a plant derived sodium laurel sulfate? The synthetic preservative we all know abt as being toxic comes as no surprise. I called the co. , left a message telling them how disappointed I am in their choice of ingredients.

  • 6. Henrik  |  August 5, 2017 at 6:19 am

    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is the most potent and cheap virucidal on earth aka protector against all kind enveloped and nonenvelopped viruses

    Being a panvirus killer , Sodium Lauryl Sulfate along with Carrageenans , was and is the biggest threat to the maffia of the multi billion dollar business of viruses such as AIDS, HSV1 and HSV2,Human Papilloma Viruses and all kind of avian or porcine viruses

    That’s why the virus businessmen aka the big pharmsters had launched a huge campaign in order to remove Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and also the Carrageenans from soaps,toothpastes , bath shampoos and sexual protection gels.

    Anyone who propagates the myth of the Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Carrageenans dangerosity can only be a mercenary of the above mentionned maffias and scientific gangsters of the BigPharma organized crime syndicate.

    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate comes from the Life of Tree aka the Coconut tree.How can it be dangerous ?

  • 7. Andrea  |  July 27, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    One of your sources, namely, lists SLS as “Not suspected to be bioaccumulative”. Where did you get the data that says that this bioaccumulates?

    • 8. Andrea  |  July 28, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      Plus, according to this document ( SLS was denied as a herbicide because it would have been used within the same vicinity as the crops, which they say is “beyond the intent of the regulation”, not because of polluting properties. They say that “SLS is unlikely to cause environmental contamination.”

  • […] Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES) Synthetic Perfumes/Fragrance (Phthalates)– another article Triclosan Parabens Phosphates Quats “Anti-bacterial” GMO’s Dyes Preservatives Optical Brighteners Fluoride […]

  • […] Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) […]

  • 11. Nana  |  June 25, 2017 at 6:03 pm a little bit more information about ‘SLS”…. the same story like with Glyphosate – ‘Greens’ because of fight with that not sa dangerous chemical, made herbicide more toxic…and being eco and anti GMO (which we eat from years), anty nuclear, pro – organic, they agree to deforestation of Amazon forrests (organic grow needs more land), new generation of nuclear plants is more eco, than coal plants – for which you agree fighting with nuclear….glyphosate as a pure substance is safe, problem starts when you mix that with other. Wind turbines are killing more than 4000 birds in few regions, why to not fighting with them ??? Because that is pure and free energy and is worth to use, but you have to think and check source, pro and con for everything what you will put here. Do you know, that if we could have more nuclear plants from 1970 we could even not produce 18 000 000 tonnes of CO2 ??? What is more eco ? SLS made from plants or scented candles, which most of us is burning each day and is washing or waste glass in which they are. Nice scent….but that is very toxic for us and water organism. What about Diclofenac which we use for back pain and wash them in sink ? Hormones pills, antibiotics in urine, oil after cooking, biofuels…. SLS is more eco than your tap water with cadmium, fluoride, ‘bleach’. Your concrete walls/floors/yard is more dangerous because of radiation than SLS for your body (granite radiation is 2 mSv per year, acceptable radiation is 1 mSv per year for human). Production of eco soap (which I’m making) is more dangerous for evironment than using SLS in cleanig products (some eco products using that as well – plant based).

  • 12. Chris Kaehne  |  June 13, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Why are we using SLS, because it’s cheap is not a valaid argument as long term we pay with our lives, stop poisoning us including our future generations just so large chemical companies can make a quick buck.

    • 13. Robert Paulson  |  August 6, 2017 at 3:18 am

      Nobody is stopping you from buying stuff without SLS. Vote with your money there is no other way.

  • 14. sjornella  |  May 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    I would like to repost your article on my blogsite: Surround Yourself with Healthy I would of course credit you and link back to you any parts I use. Is that ok?

  • 15. Margo  |  May 7, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Wow! I have been abysmally ignorant re SLS. Why hasn’t this been banned? I have been using it in aqueous cream for most of my life.

  • 17. theyellowcateyed  |  April 7, 2017 at 7:06 am

    My Shampoo has this. This is ironical. As I read, it can cause dandruff.

  • 18. The Biggest Beauty Lies - Babbling Beauty  |  April 7, 2017 at 2:20 am

    […] necessary at all. In fact, it’s mostly just been added in, using a chemical compound called sodium lauryl sulfate. This does nothing but add foam – oh, and it can trigger reactions such as a sore, red, […]

  • 19. Pellos  |  March 29, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Sulfates are quite dangerous and I don’t use them

  • 20. Tammy Lee  |  March 3, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    Make bath bombs with this Chemical have not had any complaints at all.
    Love the foaming it gives to my bath products.

  • 21. Rick  |  February 28, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I read this article on SLS that can educate a bunch of uniformed people because there are many misconceptions.

  • 22. manny  |  February 23, 2017 at 12:37 am

    i am more safe ,because i used the personal products that SLS is not detected.and i want it to share the world that thre company making products natural and safe.

  • 23. Naveen  |  February 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Very useful information.

  • 24. Andrea Willis  |  February 18, 2017 at 1:11 am

    If these ingredients are so harmful why are they allowed to be used in personal hygiene products?

  • 25. SLS – What is it and why avoid it? – Bath, Beauty & Beyond  |  February 14, 2017 at 12:45 am

    […] Source: […]

  • […] Sulfates are found in shampoos, body washes, face washes, toothpaste, laundry detergents, dish washing liquids, and shaving creams, amongst others. For a further list of products containing sulfates, go here. […]

  • 27. Rosella Scott  |  December 14, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    I have had this terrible itch on my head like pins needles it can affect other parts of my body doctor has been treating me for scabies and antihistame tablets still no use this is driving me nuts do you have any suggestions

  • 28. Mohamed  |  December 13, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Is Sls is safe to use it in toothpaste ?

    • 29. Joan michaud, w'boro va.  |  August 7, 2017 at 2:41 am

      To mohamed, i’d think Sls in any of our grooming products would b detrimental 2 our health, & the earth. The earth is the only planet that’s liveable, let’s take care of it! Blessings, Joan

  • 30. Valerie Hayward Williams  |  November 28, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Im a 60 year old Disabled Woman n i had an operation n when i gt washed up i thought a soap named Dail n the hospitals (periscent cleaner),(dynarex)(perineal wash) fr incontinent cleaning;me myself have no problem fr incontinence but in th Rehab some do n they usd that fr them but the others i uss! My arms look Monsterous n my chest n stomach n kneck too! Im ashame tk let people see it: u have made me want to hide my body, i went to the E R n they gave me Steroids n creams n I’m just gonna show n let the Social Media take a look n see what they say!😫😢

  • 31. Subhash Chandra Gupta  |  November 6, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    Good and valuable information. I always read the ingradients of the products but never cared for SLS. Now, l will be careful.
    Will you guide me should we use washing powder in our clothes washing machine containing SLS?
    Awaiting your valuable reply.

  • […] The most talked and written about chemicals often found in commercial shampoos is SLS and SLES. […]

  • 33. Victor W Rantala  |  July 6, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Enter Victor Rantala sls

  • 35. 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 […]

  • 36. 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.

  • 37. 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:

    • 38. Dave McCall  |  April 28, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      I’m willing to disagree that sodium lauryl sulfate is bad for you in any of the ways you listed above. You make extraordinary statements here. You accept the responsibility to provide extraordinary evidence to back them up. You provided NO evidence in the way of original research published in refereed journals, as mentioned above. Just junk assertions.

  • 39. 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.

  • 40. 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

  • 41. 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 […]

  • 42. 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 […]

  • 43. 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, […]

  • 45. 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

    • 46. 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!

    • 47. 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.

  • 48. 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.

    • 49. 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.

  • 51. 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.

    • 52. Smart Bosnian  |  August 7, 2017 at 7:53 am

      it kills hpv which causes many cancers. maybe that is why.

  • 53. 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.

    • 54. 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.

    • 55. 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”.

    • 56. Smart Bosnian  |  August 7, 2017 at 7:52 am

      Exactly. Plus this ingredient in our toothpaste and shampoo is discovered to be only detergent effective in kiling HPV – viruses causing many cancers as research evidence shows! Anybody should not be allowed to write articles!

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

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

    • 58. 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.

      • 59. Hanita Bakri  |  October 21, 2016 at 10:14 am

        I’d do that , may I too, share the information?

  • 60. 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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