Skin Care

Style - Skin Care
By: - at May 20, 2013

The Dangers of Products Containing Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate:
Why You Must Steer Clear of Skincare Products Containing SLS

Shampoo BottleSodium lauryl sulfate, abbreviated as SLS, is among the many substances used in natural, organic, and inorganic skincare products that can have adverse effects on the body. Skincare products can help rejuvenate, soften, and restore the tone of your skin giving it a beautiful youthful look. These products can reduce rapid aging of the skin while improving its appearance. However, skincare products come in different forms; there are those labeled as 100% organic, others labeled as simply “organic”, while there are those labeled as inorganic.

What is sodium lauryl sulfate-SLS?

Sodium lauryl sulfate formula

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a substance that is used as an emulsifier, detergent, surfactant, and foamier in many cosmetic products. It is also used in industrial cleaners. However, its use in cosmetics and skincare products has received a lot of attention owing to studies that have been carried out on the effects of this substance on the body. This substance is also a denaturant and is classified as a moderate hazard to the body by Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Where is SLS used?
Bath Salts dangerousSodium lauryl sulfate is used in industrial cleaners because of its ability to remove stubborn stains and oils from surfaces. It has widely been used in cosmetic products including shampoos, bleaching agents, hair color, scalp treatment products, body wash, cleansers, toothpastes, bath salts, bath oils, hand and liquid soaps, skin make up foundations and many other body care products. It may be labeled as one of active ingredient in skin care products among other substances like parabens, synthetic colors, fragrances, diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA).

The problem with cosmetic products is that there is no strict regulation that governs the use of ingredients in these products. This is why some products labeled as organic are actually using substances that could cause health complications to consumers. It is very important to know what you are applying on your skin. This is because substances that are absorbed through the skin can even be more dangerous than the ones you eat or take orally.

The reason behind this is that when you eat something, it can be broken down by enzymes in the saliva and the stomach and thus enable it to be excreted out of the body. Contrary to this, when you put the substances on the skin or scalp, they are absorbed directly into the bloodstream and do not undergo a filtering process. Such chemicals can get straight to your organs and with time, you can begin experiencing problems.

Why is SLS used in skincare Products?
Why is SLS used in skincare ProductsSodium lauryl sulfate is applied in skincare products to make them work fast and more effectively. It helps dissolve the skincare products so that they can be absorbed fast in the skin. Sodium lauryl sulfate is used to produce lather in soaps and toothpaste that helps in cleansing the body. SLS is used as an emulsifying, dispersing, and wetting agent in creams and lotions.

Because some creams contain oil and water molecules, mixing these molecules becomes difficult. When sodium lauryl sulfate is used in these cream and lotions, it helps keep the concoction emulsified, meaning the droplets are dispersed and not separated. SLS emulsifies lotions and creams that contain water and oil molecules because it consists of water-loving hydrophilic head and on the other side; it consists of an oil-loving hydrophobic tail. Therefore, it positions itself at the water and oil interface and breaks up the surface tension making these normally separated liquids to form an emulsion or mix together.

This way, they can be easily applied on skin. Another reason why sodium lauryl sulfate is used in cosmetic products is because it is an inexpensive foaming or emulsifying agent. This allows cosmetic product manufacturers to save money on product manufacturing costs. But why is sodium lauryl sulfate used in products labeled as natural or organic?

The reason is simple; SLS is derived from coconut plants and it is actually natural. However, the problem is that it undergoes a manufacturing process before it is used in skincare products. Through a process known as ethoxylation, the otherwise natural extract from coconut is contaminated with chemical substances that are said to be carcinogen by-products such as 1,4-dioxane.

coconut products

In its natural form, SLS may not have the ability to cause cancer. And this has been clarified in recent studies that do not link this substance with cancer. Therefore, the real problem lies in the way the product is manufactured before it can be used in skincare products. The product is chemically altered turning the byproduct into a carcinogen.

What healthy risks are associated with sodium lauryl sulfate?
There is a lot of information on the internet that tries to elaborate the dangers and benefits of sodium lauryl sulfate in skincare products. There are many health risks linked to sodium lauryl sulfate, and they include irritation of the eyes and the skin. The longer the SLS substance stays in contact with the skin, the more likely it will cause irritation.

brushing teethThis means that sodium lauryl sulfate may be safe if it is in small concentrations and used briefly on the body then rinsed right away such as when brushing teeth and showering. However, for skincare products where SLS remains on the skin for a long time such as lotions, cream products, and moisturizers, it can penetrate the dermis and cause problems.

Even in these lotions and creams, its concentration should not exceed 1 percent. The problem is that some manufacturers may not show how much SLS is in their products. If its concentration level is not indicated on the cosmetic product label, it could signify that the percentage is high.

Another effect SLS can cause on the body is drying the skin. Just like the substance dissolves greases and oils in garages, it can also dissolve the natural oils of the skin making it dry. Moreover, sodium lauryl sulfate damages the immune system making your body unable to fight disease-causing microorganism effectively. This substance can also cause inflammation of the skin when it triggers separation of the skin layers.

inflammation to the hands mutagen

SLS has also been marked as a possible mutagen, which can lead to changes in the genetic composition of cells. Studies done on bacteria have shown that this substance can cause mutations to occur. In addition, it is also a denaturant and it denatures proteins including the collagen of the skin. Besides, SLS causes organic toxicity because it penetrates through the skin where it enters the bloodstream without undergoing any breakdown or filtering.

With continuous use of cosmetic products containing this substance, even small concentrations, it can build up and start causing organ failures. Other risks associated with the substance are disruption of the endocrine system, which can lead to hormonal changes. It can also cause reproductive and developmental toxicity in expecting mothers.

Recent studies on whether SLS extracts can cause cancer have shown negative results. However, one aspect that needs to be understood is that when SLS is extracted from the plant, it undergoes an ethoxylation process before it is used in cosmetics and this creates traces of contaminants like ethylene oxide and 1.4-dioxane, which are linked to cancer. Much of the research on cancer has been done on natural extracts of SLS before they have undergone any chemical transformation as it happens prior to being used in cosmetic products. This implies that perhaps sodium lauryl sulfate, could be a possible contributing factor to cancer in humans.

At times, you may not find the name “sodium lauryl sulfate” or abbreviations “SLS” used in a cosmetic product labels and this does not mean that the substance is not present. SLS can also go by other names such as sodium dodecyl sulfate (A13-00356), sodium salt, and monododecyl ester. It is also referred to as sulfuric acid, akyposal SDS, and sodium salt sulfuric acid. Other names include aquarex ME, monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid, and aquarex methyl. Therefore, you need to be very keen when you are examining the ingredients in a cosmetic product. You are most likely to be applying a dangerous chemical on your skin because of the many names that can be given to one product.

washing faceIf you want to steer clear of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and other harmful substances like parabens, or the close associate of SLS known as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), you need to be very careful. Use products that are rated and reviewed by Environmental Working Group (EWG) and those that are certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Just because a product is labeled organic does not mean that it does not contain harmful substances. And, because there is no regulation that governs the use of natural ingredients in cosmetic products, this has created loopholes that could lead to using products that may actually cause harm on people’s bodies. In order to avoid using products that contain 1,4 dioxane, which is one of the contaminants found in SLS, alongside ethylene oxide, the Organic Consumer Association-OCA has recommended that you watch out for cosmetics that indicate the use of ethoxylation.

The ethoxylation process is used by manufacturers of cosmetic products to make SLS less harsh on body. Therefore, you can check for labels of ingredients that consist of suffixes like “eth” such as laureth and myreth. You can also search for ingredients whose names contain suffixes like “peg”. In addition, ensure that you check the label for ingredients bearing the name “oxynol”, "polyethylene glycol" and similar compounds.





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