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Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: SLS, in Your Personal Care Products

sodium lauryl sulfate sls productsUsed to strip oils from skin, hair and teeth, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a common ingredient in many hair care products, soaps and toothpastes. Studies are currently being done to establish health risks associated with use of this ingredient. One report, published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology, indicates even low concentrations of SLS can be harmful to health.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is an anionic surfactant, used as a cleansing agent. Its relative, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) is also found in personal care products. Both SLS and SLES are esters of Sulfuric acid. SLS is used to strip oils from surfaces.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) Used In?

Commonly used as a degreaser for car engines or to strip barnacles off the underside of boats, SLS is also used in cosmetics and personal care products.

It dissolves the oil on skin, hair and teeth and also creates a drying effect as a result. This drying effect can cause irritation of the area. Long term effects are not yet known.

Common everyday products with SLS and SLES:

  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste & whiteners
  • Hair color and bleaching
  • Bar soaps
  • Body wash
  • Bath oils and soaks
  • Dish soap

What Other Names Does SLS Go By?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate goes by many names and can appear in many variations on product labels.

Some of the names to watch for are:

  • Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate
  • A13-00356
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
  • Sulfuric Acid
  • Sodium Salt
  • Mondeodecyl Ester Sodium Salt
  • Aquarex Methyl

Health Risks Associated With Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, SLS

The Environmental Working Group considers Sodium Lauryl Sulfate a moderate hazard drug. The health risks all depend greatly on exposure to SLS and concentration of exposure. Other forms of SLS, like SLES, are often contaminated with dioxane, which is a known carcinogen.

Some possible health risks are:

  • Cancer
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Irritation of skin, eyes, nose, mouth
  • Respiration Problems
  • Organic Toxicity


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice


Natural Health Information Center. “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). The Killers in your bathroom.” (accessed September 22, 2010)

Natural Health Information. “Journal of The American College of Toxicology” (accessed September 22, 2010)

Environmental Working Group. “ Sodium Lauryl Sulfate” (accessed September 22, 2010)
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