Did You Know?
In clinical trials, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is often used purposely to cause skin irritation, which acts as a benchmark to study the effects of other substances on the skin.
Sodium lauryl sulfate is a detergent that is commonly added in a wide range of day-to-day products, including bath soaps, shampoos, facial cleansers, shaving creams, eye makeup and other cosmetics. Sodium lauryl sulfate acts like a foaming or lathering agent, which encourages formation of foam. So, the thick lather that you notice when using soaps and shampoos is largely due to the presence of SLS.

However, SLS is known to be a harsh ingredient that can be harmful to the health. According to research papers published in the Journal of American College of Toxicology, SLS is a skin irritant, and any product containing more than 2% of SLS is likely to cause irritation to some degree. Also, using products that contain SLS increases the risk of damage to the skin, eyes, hair, and oral cavity. Following are the health risks linked to the use of products containing SLS.

Dangers of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

Skin Irritation
Sodium lauryl sulfate, found in a wide range of skin care products, including bathing soaps, can cause skin irritation and dermatitis―a condition marked by itchy, inflamed skin followed by formation of fluid-filled blisters. People who are allergic to SLS are vulnerable to these bothersome side effects. SLS tends to strip the superficial oil layer off the skin, making it dry, flaky, and rough. A study reported in Exogenous Dermatology, a peer-reviewed journal that specializes in the areas of dermatologic conditions, has also shown that SLS is a corrosive substance that can damage the skin by removing its moisture and protective layer of oil. So, the product that is formulated to keep your skin supple and healthy, can actually be a cause of discomfort.

Eye Damage
Eyes exposed to SLS while using shampoos may also suffer from side effects and damage. SLS shows infiltration assets, meaning, it can seep into the cornea and cause damage. Due to its penetration ability, it can easily get absorbed through the skin and buildup, which may also affect the eyes. Prolonged exposure can cause burning sensation and vision disturbance. SLS may also interfere with proper development of eyes in children and infants.

Hair Loss
Using shampoos containing SLS may impede hair growth. As SLS has high penetrating ability, it can easily enter into the hair follicles (pouches that contain the hair root). If the hair is not washed properly after shampooing, deposits of SLS may get stuck in the hair follicles, which may eventually lead to hair loss. Apart from damaging the hair follicles, new hair growth may also take a backseat. The speed of hair growth drops sharply, which was found to be 8 times slower than normal hair growth. Using these shampoos can also cause itchy, dry scalp. Its detergent properties can rob the hair and scalp of moisture, leaving them excessively dry.

Mouth Ulcers
The foam-producing action of toothpaste, while brushing, has also been attributed to this ingredient. Studies have shown that SLS may contribute in the development of canker sores and gum diseases. Regular usage of SLS triggers cellular damage of oral tissue, which eventually leads to formation of canker sores. A study conducted at the Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University in New York, way back in 1997, observed that mouth rinses that contain SLS can damage the epithelial tissue of the oral cavity and cause burning sensation.

All in all, opting for SLS-free products can go a long way in keeping its side effects at bay. With greater awareness and more knowledge about the dangers of SLS, better alternatives to SLS-contained products have flooded the market. Be it toothpaste or shampoos, you will find various personal hygiene products that are free of SLS and are found to be safe and skin friendly.