Sodium lauryl sulfate is an anionic surfactant used as a detergent in cosmetics and cleaning products, as well as in industrial chemical products. SLS is often called a natural substance in descriptions of many cleaning agents, because it is derived from palm oil. Unfortunately, this is not true. Sodium lauryl sulfate is synthesized by treating lauryl alcohol solution produced from coconut oil by sulfur trioxide gas or chlorosulfonic acid. The resulting product is then neutralized with an alkaline solution. SLS is the abbreviation of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.
Green Peace experts have summarized the results of research studies carried out by European scientists which prove that everyday use of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can be dangerous for health. Synthetic ingredients of cosmetic and cleaning products, when used systematically, tend to accumulate in the skin and enter the blood stream; their regular ingress into the human body may have various adverse effects. Health care professionals nowadays have a strong opinion that the increase in allergic diseases observed all over the globe is associated with the excessive use of synthetic detergents. Our living environment is undergoing rapid and dramatic changes. Reduction of government control over industrial production is bringing about environmental pollution which cannot have anything but negative impact on public health, and we have to admit that SLS today is one of such pollutants.
SLS toxicity studies have been going on for more than 45 years thus far; however, this chemical production is yet growing every year. This ingredient is found in shampoos, toothpastes, face creams, liquid soaps, shower gels, shaving foams, etc. It is merely impossible to avoid SLS in our everyday life. It is incorporated in 95% of all commercial shampoo and toothpaste formulations; likewise it is used as a component of powdered laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents and carpet cleaners. Paying close attention to the composition of household cleaning products that we buy is the only way to avoid repeated contact with this very harsh detergent. Scientific studies of absorption, metabolism and excretion have found that SLS can destroy cell membranes made up of lipids. SLS can penetrate deep into skin even at low concentrations. Exposure to SLS results in damage of the skin lipid barrier which in turn impairs the skin water holding capacity and leads to water loss, skin dryness and irritation, as well as hair follicle damage and hair loss. As a result of its regular application, SLS tends to accumulate in cardiac, lung, liver, and brain tissue. SLS is particularly harmful for young children, as it can damage eye cornea and even cause cataract. A typical detergent formulation contains 1 to 30% of sodium lauryl sulfate.
A study by Dr. Keith Green of the Medical College of Georgia (6) linked SLS to cataract and increased nitrate absorption. As part of commercial cleaning products, SLS easily interacts with triethanolamine, another synthetic ingredient, forming nitrosamines, which are highly toxic substances and potent mutagens. Recent studies have shown that SLS impairs production of a number of skin structure proteins, causes lipid synthesis imbalance and affects lipid metabolism (7). We all witness the rapid expansion of obesity epidemic in the modern society, and it is important to understand that overuse of detergents and the resultant skin delipidation can trigger a response reaction in our body.
If you still have not learned to wash your face and brush your teeth using natural mineral compositions which are nicely adapted to our bodies, then at least try to reduce the SLS amount entering your blood stream. When washing with synthetic cleaning products keep their contact with your skin to a minimum. For example, dermatologists recommend when washing your hair to apply the shampoo and make foam in 8-10 seconds, then wash it off for 20-30 seconds or, alternatively, take a soap made under ancient techniques using animal fat.