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The Facts Behind Sodium Laureth Sulfate

You might have heard people warning you about Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), a common ingredient in body-care products. SLES is the compound that is responsible for the foaming effect that we expect from products such as toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, and more. It is widely used because it is cheap and it breaks down the molecular structure of grease and oil.

There is much debate over the safety of both Sodium Laureth Sulfate and its close sister, the slightly harsher Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS). However, neither of these are considered a known carcinogen by the American Cancer Society, so anything linking either of these ingredients to cancer is just speculation.

It is important to note, however, that both the American Cancer Society and the FDA agree that SLS and SLES are skin irritants. My beau experienced this first-hand, as I am sure many of you have, too. If you have sensitive skin or if you suspect these are giving you skin problems, try the Jason Organic line, which is free of both SLS and SLES.


Join The Conversation
asco00 asco00 9 years
Back to basics also makes a sulfate free shampoo, you can buy shampoo and conditioner for the same price as a bottle of Pureology. I just made the switch hoping it will revive my curly hair.
lovekailua lovekailua 9 years
i recently discovered "parabens" ugh they are in everything too! i switched to paraben free lotions and i try to check for those too. anyway Pureology makes great sulfate free shampoo. it's pricey so im going to try burt's bees!
audreyxoxo audreyxoxo 9 years
next they're gonna be saying mascara causes eye cancer or asprin tongue cancer. its crazy!
MandyJoBo MandyJoBo 9 years
It seems like everything causes cancer. That's not why I don't like SLS, though. It's bad for hair.
designergirl designergirl 9 years
SLS is also very bad for curly hair- so I always choose shampoos without it.
nualac1365 nualac1365 9 years
you can check the safety of all kinds of health & beauty products on this site: you especially want to avoid products with "parabens"
Brooklynbee Brooklynbee 9 years
What about ammonium lauryl sulfate? One of the shampoos I have from Lush has this... my other solid shampoo from Lush is SLS-free.
emalove emalove 9 years
I avoid this at all costs sister and my old hairdresser told me about this chemical a few years ago and I made an effort to stop using products that contain it, but never found a shampoo and conditioner that I liked that didn't have this chemical in it. Until recently, that is...I am IN LOVE with Burt's Bees shampoos and conditioners. I've tried all of them and they work fabulously. Get my hair really clean and soft-feeling. I just like knowing that most of my beauty products that I have been using lately are almost all natural and/or organic.
hottpink hottpink 9 years
I have very sensitive skin and I had to eliminate almost all of my beauty products with SLS in them. Burt's Bees makes some great hand soaps and shampoos without SLS.
terryt18 terryt18 9 years
Most lotions and hair conditioners do not contain them. It's mostly things that foam a lot.
chiaramw chiaramw 9 years
I use Enjoy Sulfate Free Luxury Shampoo it was recommended by my hairdresser and it's seriously the best shampoo I've ever tried!
trésjolie1 trésjolie1 9 years
Some conditioners have it too, since they contain heavy ingredients like silicon, and they don't rinse out on their own.
Kaori Kaori 9 years
Ah damn. I like it when my toothpaste and body wash and stuff foams a lot D: *goes and checks for SLES and SLS*
lawchick lawchick 9 years
It's also in toothpastes, which seems riskier than shampoo since shampoo is used on the outside of the body... I use Toms of Maine toothpaste to get around it.
Sassette Sassette 9 years
Burt's Bees are also sulfate-free, and their shampoos do a great job of cleansing.
ALSW ALSW 9 years
It's not in my lotions, but it is in my shampoo. But so far that hasn't caused any irritation. I'm more worried about my lotions and toothpaste than my shampoo/conditioner.
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
I had been looking into this to find out more since it's everywhere. I wonder how these claims got started. I've never had a problem with them and I have pretty sensitive skin.
mischo-beauty mischo-beauty 9 years
Great post! Dr. Bronner's is also all organic and works well with sensitive skin.
trésjolie1 trésjolie1 9 years
It as really harsh on my skin and hair. Aubrey Organics has some great shampoos, and I switched from Redken, so I'm saving a lot of money too!
terryt18 terryt18 9 years
ALSW- You will surely be surprised at how many products contain one of these, and the listing is usually close to the beginning meaning it is present at a higher ratio. I love the Jason Organics line, Bella, especially the Ester-C stuff. I don't know if I can blame every skin irritation on SLES or SLS but I do believe it can/does cause problems, so I try to eliminate it or at least avoid it if possible.
ALSW ALSW 9 years
I hadn't heard that this was a potential issue. I'll have to check and see how many things I own with that ingredient...
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Ahhh good to know it's just speculation... I try to avoid it but if I'm in a bind I just use my usual shampoo/conditioner. Some of the "free" ones don't wash my hair all that well...
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