Sodium Lauryl Sulfate aka SLS

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate aka SLS

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)


This is number one in a series of eight outlining ingredients commonly included in so-called healthy bath products that should be avoided and that are nowhere to be found in The Bath Shoppe line of products.

What is it? It is a chemical surfactant that is commonly used in skin care products such as body wash, shampoos, shaving cream and toothpaste that give the products the foamy consistency we associate with cleaning. It is also found in many household cleaners like laundry detergent, dish soap, carpet shampoo, stain remover and surface cleaners. There are other sulfates that are used in the same role as SLS such as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and ammonium laurel sulfate (ALS) and should be avoided as well. SLS is the most common. SLS and SLES are produced from coconut oil, palm kernel oil or petroleum oil.

Why should it be avoided? SLS is capable of infiltrating the skin by cellular absorption and/or penetration, and goes right into the skin and, potentially, the blood stream.

  • SLS has oil and skin stripping properties that can cause severe skin irritation, contact allergy and clogged pores.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that SLS can be harmful if swallowed and may cause irritation of the eye, lung, and respiratory system.
  • Since SLS can penetrate dermal layers, it can strip the skin of its own protective barrier and disrupt its natural oil and moisture balance.
  • SLS can destroy the delicate lipid layers in the skin causing the skin to dry, making hair dry and dull, and also setting up an environment that invites other toxins to more easily penetrate the skin’s surface.
  • SLS can be easily absorbed into the body and build up in internal organs increasing the risk for related long term health issues.
  • SLS is a known pollutant that is toxic to fish and also people if it gets into municipal water supplies.
  • Although the SLS that enters the water stream through personal use is significantly diluted, so not much of a threat, chronic toxicity of SLS can occur at low concentrations.

How to avoid SLS, SLES, ALS? Many companies are becoming more aware of the dangers of sulfates and are looking at alternatives. However, even if the brand has “SLS Free” or “Sulfate Free” on the front label, be sure to read the full ingredient list.

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