The Dangers of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)One of the worst chemicals that is present in nearly all shampoos (and other cosmetics) is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which also goes by sodium laureth sulfate. Sodium lauryl sulfate is made from sulfuric acid, momododecyl ester, and sodium salt.
SLS is used as a skin irritant in clinical studies when they are testing the effectiveness of potential healing agents on the SLS-induced irritated skin.
SLS is absorbed into the skin and can enter the brain, heart, and other organs where it accumulates and causes damage. When contaminated, SLS also contains dioxane, a known carcinogen.
Here is a list of some of the ways sodium lauryl sulfate harms our bodies:
1. Skin irritant – SLS is actually used in clinical studies to cause irritation. SLS is the universal standard of irritation that other chemicals are tested against. Irritation occurs in concentrations of .5% – most products use a 30% solution of SLS.
2. Eye Irritant – Most people get shampoo in their eyes from time to time. If your shampoo contains SLS you could get corneal damage that is permanent.
3. Hair Loss - SLS can attack the hair follicle and cause hair loss.
4. Hormone Imbalancer – Since SLS is absorbed through the skin, it can cause havoc with our hormones. SLS attaches itself to estrogen receptors, causing the body to lose control over this hormone. In men, SLS can cause an increase in estrogen levels, leading to breast enlargement, drop in sperm mobility and sperm count, and a reduction in testosterone. In women, it leads to menstrual problems, and at worst, infertility.
5. Cancer Causer – SLS damages the protein in our cells, which can lead to cancer. Nitrates formed during the process of SLS can do severe damage over time, as our bodies absorb everything that comes into contact with our skin. SLS is also known to mutate genetic material in our cells.Why is it added to shampoo, then?
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a foaming agent – it gives your shampoo that nice lather we learn to associate with the shampoo doing a good job (thanks to ads by certain shampoo brands – photo left). Little do we know…
It cleans the hair – but by corrosion. SLS strips the hair and skin of protective oils (our protection against rashes and infection) normally found on the surface of the skin. This is why if you don’t shampoo daily, you start to feel itchy.
Alternatives to ShampooJust because I don’t shampoo doesn’t mean I don’t wash my hair – but now I use natural ingredients.
Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar – I started out with the popular baking soda and apple cider vinegar (ACV) method. I faithfully continued with this for two years. Looking back, I should have stopped after a couple of months and went right to a shampoo bar. Although this is a wonderful stripping method for removing the shampoo build-up, it was too harsh (drying) for my hair long-term. That said, I would recommend it to everyone to try when stripping your hair of the SLS shampoo. Those prone to oily scalps may wish to use this longer than those of us prone to dry scalps. Be forewarned: it takes time for your scalp to adjust to this method, but don’t throw in the towel too early!
Dr. Bronner’s Liquid and Bar Soaps - Next I tried Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. I loved the shine it gave me, but over time it did darken my hair and was too strong (oily). I have waist-length hair and literally two drops was more than enough. I found the soap bar to work much better.
Make Your Own Soap - I went through a phase of making my own soap with an olive oil base, and I really loved this soap. The shipping charges ended up going too high for me to continue purchasing this through the mail, and I found my health food store natural soaps to be most convenient. I have since found a source with more affordable olive oil base, and want to try this soap again.
Natural Soap Bars – I have found natural soap bars to work the best for my hair. My recent bar has been Tropical Tradition’s natural soap (unscented) bar. I want to try their shampoo bar next (it was out of stock when I ordered or I would have tried some already).
As you can see, there are lots of ways to clean your hair other than using chemical-laden store-bought shampoo. Even “natural” and “organic” brands include chemicals, including Burt’s Bees (now owned by Clorox) so read the labels! EWG’s Skin Deep is an excellent source for looking up ingredient information: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/