Know Your Nasties: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Jane Russell enjoys a nice soak in Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in a 1954 publicity photo for ‘The French Line’

Our ongoing guide to the top toxic ingredients in cosmetics.

SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate)

What are they?

SLS and SLES are foaming agents commonly found in shampoo, shower gel, soap, bubble bath, toothpaste and other foaming products. 

What’s the problem? 

There is strong evidence that both SLS and SLES are irritant to skin, eyes and the respiratory tract. SLES has been found to be contaminated with the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane.

Do we really need them?

We’ve learned to equate foaming with cleansing. In fact, these sulfates (or sulphates if you’re an English speaker!) work by stripping our skin and hair of their natural oils. We then need to replace those oils by using moisturisers and conditioners. Non-foaming shampoos and soaps may seem weird at first but they are much gentler on skin and scalp. Many people find that they need to wash their hair less often after switching.

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2 thoughts on “Know Your Nasties: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate

  1. I really like Giovanni shampoos – especially the Smooth as Silk shampoo. I believe Giovanni shampoos are free of both SLS and SLES but they still lather/foam. It is quite hard to track them down. Wholefoods shops sell the Giovanni range and if you live in London an excellent hair salon – Jigami – do as well. I haven’t seen them anywhere else. If they pass “the Good Glamour Guide test” – your subscribers might be interested in trying Giovanni products. They are good value and good quality.

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