Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Truth and Fiction

Using SLS Shampoo

When it comes to beauty products, we want to find items that are not only good for our skin, but are also good for the environment. Many chemicals that are processed today in labs aren’t exactly the healthiest, with some having a reputation for causing cancer. Others, however, have become almost legendary on the internet with a variety of different myths surrounding them. One ingredient in many health and beauty products that has gained a rather bad reputation is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, aka SLS. The big question is, however, is SLS really dangerous?

What is SLS?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate itself is a derivative of either coconut oil or palm kernel oil, making it a product with natural origins. The naturalness of SLS, however, can be debated, since it depends on how exactly it was synthesized and what other chemicals were combined in the process of making the SLS.  When sold, SLS is usually in a powdered form, and can be an irritant if it is left on the skin for too long (usually about an hour). Its main purpose, in most products, is to be a foaming agent, making it widely used in shampoos, bath products, and toothpaste. In higher concentrations, however, it can also be used to degrease car engines and as a cleaner in household cleaning products.


For quite some time, SLS has had a rather bad reputation on the internet.  Beginning all the way back in the early 1990s, people start claiming that his chemical compound could cause cancer if used regularly, causing individuals to avoid shampoos and other beauty products that had this chemical.  Seeing this as a big opportunity, many companies began making SLS free products.  Deciding that further testing was needed, scientists began experimenting with SLS, trying to determine if there were any dangerous properties of this chemical.  What was found was that SLS was relatively harmless. However, it was proven that SLS can be a skin irritant, as well as a leading cause of canker sores if used in toothpaste.

SLS Free Products

While there is nothing wrong with using SLS products, it is recommended that you avoid using SLS if you have sensitive skin.  Since it can be a skin irritant, it can easily dry out your skin or lead to breakouts for a minority of the population.  A variety of different SLS free soaps, shampoos, and other beauty products are available on the market today.  You may also want to use these products if you have any issue with having dry hair, since SLS has been rumored to strip the natural oils from your hair.  While this is one of the main purposes of shampoo, SLS can overdo it.

Even though it is safe to use, it is highly recommended that you use only toothpastes that do not contain SLS to avoid mouth sores.  On the market today, nearly every company makes SLS free toothpastes that are recommended by dentists.  Who knows, you may even like it better than your normal toothpaste.

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