You’ve likely heard or read about the beauty industry moving to “SULFATE FREE” shampoos. If you haven’t, check out your shampoo bottle. If it’s sulfate free, it’s likely touted on the sticker of the bottle. Perhaps you’ve wondered what the big deal is about sulfate free shampoo and cleansing agents. Let’s try to find out what exactly SLS is and how it affects your hair and actually all your body.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a relatively inexpensive, yet rather powerful, grease cutting detergent that also aids in the foaming nature of soap. It’s been used in all kinds of soap products from your shampoo and facial cleansers to heavy degreasing agents used on mechanic’s shop floors. So, in relatively simple terms, SLS is used to make soap “soapy” and it cuts and removes oil effectively.
This is a good thing in shampoo, right? We want our soap to be foamy and we don’t want oily hair. The problem is that, even in diluted quantities, SLS is irritating to the skin and scalp. In addition, and the primary reason that why we don’t like SLS, is that SLS has been known to be damaging to the hair follicle. Damaged hair follicles can lead to weakened hair structure and diminished hair growth. Eek!
There are also some studies that claim sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can also cause cancer, immune system damage, and damage to the skin. That’s scary, ha? But to date, SLS has not been banned from shampoos and cosmetic agents by the FDA as unhealthy or a cancer causing shampoo ingredient. Why? Well, we have no answer. You better ask FDA.
But this is not where the story ends. In addition to SLS nightmare there are some more sulfates people should be concerned about in soapy products. SLS is not the only one “bad boy” among sulfates. There are also sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), Sodium coco sulfate (SCS), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES), sodium myreth sulfate (SMS), sodium myristyl ether sulfate (SMES) and all other sulfates. Their molecules are too small, so they easily penetrate into deep layers of your skin and affect your body.
So, what to do? There are more and more companies are trying to produce SLS free shampoos and other soapy products. So, we are moving on to a healthy living. But slowly. The matter is the cost. SLS, SLES and other harmful surfactants are cheap (actually SLS is the cheapest one). So, some companies keep on using it. But there are wiser and safer choices for foamy agents like, coco-glucoside, for example, or another one (used by some companies, which really care about your health), – cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB). CAPB is milder and almost not irritating non-ionic, amphoteric surfactant, foaming agent and emulsifier. Its molecular structure is different, so it cannot penetrate the skin barrier, comparing with SLS. And it is naturally derived. But the thing is it is expensive. So, not all the companies actually can or want to afford it. Sometimes they just don’t care. So, ask yourself why should you care about their profit if the price is your precious health?
For you, as for the consumer, there is always a choice. Just study the sticker on your favorite shampoo (usually if it is SLS/SLES/DEA free, it is safer for you) and make your choice for a healthier living.