What's Up with this….SODIUM LAURETH (SLS,SLES) Stuff?...

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate... apparently it's bad for your skin. But is it really? And if so, why?


Both Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to foam up. Both chemicals are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants.

The SLS found in our soaps is exactly the same as you would find in a car wash or even a garage, where it is used to degrease car engines and floors. In the same way as it dissolves the grease on car engines, SLS also dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause a drying effect.

The alleged dangers

SLS is also absorbed into the body from skin application. Once it has been absorbed, one of its actions is to mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen. This has been blamed for a variety of health problems from PMS and menopausal symptoms, a decrease in male fertility and breast cancer.

Apparently it also does something yukky to our skin proteins, which causes not only irritation, but also allows environmental contaminants easier access to the lower, sensitive layers of the skin and can damage the eyes causing cataracts.

Research in America at the Georgia University Medical Centre indicates that SLS and SLES can both react with other chemicals found in cosmetics to form nitrosamines and 1,4 dioxine, which are carcinogens.

The counter-argument

On the American Cancer Society website there is information suggesting that the bad press for SLS is an urban myth concocted to help the manufacturers and resellers of natural and organic skin care products to flog more to the unsuspecting and gullible consumer.


The truth is - who knows! However, when in doubt a little common sense is perhaps the best policy. It is a fact that cancer is on the increase. It doesn't seem out of the realms of possibility that the chemicals that abound on our food and in the skin care products we put on us and in us, could have something to do with this increase.

It may seem unlikely that the authorities would allow so many manufacturers to put a potentially harmful chemical in their products - but we're talking about the same authorities that allowed the extensive advertising of smoking and alcohol and approved the release of drugs like thalidomide in the past.

Natural skincare products make sense

Personally, I feel that it makes sense to lead the most natural life possible. Intuitively, surrounding ourselves with lots of harsh chemicals doesn't seem like a great idea. It doesn't take a lot of extra effort to find fantastic-smelling, wholesome natural skin care products that really work and look great on your bathroom shelf. For me, it's just common sense to choose natural and organic skin care.