Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate – the facts?
This month we are discussing Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), two products which have become controversial in the
health industry over the last few years.
Search for these on the internet and you will find the whole spectrum of views, from the sublime to the ridiculous! Using the information available we will try to
give a balanced report, so as consumers you can make your own choices without it being based on emotive propaganda from those for and against – not an easy task!
SLS is an anionic (negatively charged) surfactant (wetting agent) used in cosmetics and industrial chemicals as a cleansing agent. It is prepared by the
sulphation of commercially available Lauryl alcohol from coconut oil. Its cousin SLES has an ethyl ether attached to the sulphate. Both of these products are
cleansers and help foaming to occur.
According to a report from the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, SLS may have a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein
denaturing properties. High levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration (at what level though they do not say). (Remember that these tests are generally done on animals and doses much higher than would ever be used on human skin. For example this research team is suggesting that concentrations on human skin should not exceed 1% i.e. no irritation was found at this level, yet they are putting this product in the eyes of rabbits at concentrations of 20%! No wonder there is damage to the skin and eye.). One question then that we can be asking ourselves and the manufacturers of products containing these chemicals is what percentage of SLS does it contain?
SLS is considered to be the harsher of the two products, used in both industrial cleaning products and, of course, in lesser concentrations, personal care
products (shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream). Many people are justifiably concerned that these products are carcinogenic but there is no hard evidence on the net to suggest this (it does not appear on any official list of known or suspected carcinogens). SLS has however proven to be a skin and eye irritant and to cause dermatitis in high concentrations.
Phillip Melville, a pharmacist who works for Weleda NZ has done research on these products and does agree that SLS is the harsher of the two and does not
recommend its use in personal care products. He trusts the German 'consumer' magazine "Eco-Test" which is known for its independent and strong campaign against questionable cosmetic ingredients. In an article in which 6000 cosmetic ingredients were evaluated SLS was not recommended and SLES was given a limited recommendation.
Piko Products containing SLS or SLES:
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate SLS
Comvita Natural Propolis Toothpaste
Genesis Organics Toothpaste
Sodium Laureth Sulphate SLES
Weleda Shampoos (Rosemary, and Chestnut)
All Weleda toothpastes are SLS and SLES free
Our bulk "No Ordinary Moments" shampoo and conditioner are both SLS and SLES free
Tea Tree and Olive Conditioner $20.87/kg
Rosemary and Jojoba Shampoo $21.20/kg
The Truth is Out There?
One thing that is for sure, there are people out there with the best of intentions trying to sell you, the consumer, their product. There will always be those for (using SLS and SLES) and those against. On several websites containing this subject there were a number of people selling natural products damning SLS and SLES. On other sites there were people studying them saying, if used at low concentrations, they are safe. We suggest use your discretion, use reputable products recommended by someone you trust, and if in doubt, phone the manufacturers and ask for more details.
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