Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a common surfactant and emulsifier used in literally thousands of soaps, shampoos and detergents to help them foam. Its performance in so many of the household and personal care products around your home is a testament to how well it does that job. It's inexpensive, too, which is why it's so commonly used. Unfortunately, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is also a skin irritant that's been linked in research studies to hair and skin damage, immunological problems, damage to eyes and possibly even cancer. There are over 15,000 research studies that examine its toxicity, and the Environmental Working Group's skindeep database notes that there is strong evidence of it being a skin and eye irritant.
Even products that are positioned as "green" or "natural" may contain it. Some "green" cleaning supplies describe Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as "derived from coconuts." That certainly sounds natural, but it's far away from its natural origins.
There are skeptics who point to the fact that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is ok in the small amounts typically present in products. We say small amounts are all well and fine... until you consider that this chemical compound is so common that you're likely to find it listed on the label of your body soap, shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, dish soap, laundry detergent. It's commonly found in cosmetics, as well. These are all products that are used every day, and come into close contact with the skin. At the end of the day, it's not clear that the average person is exposed to "small amounts" when considered cumulatively. More research is needed -- not only into Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as a chemical itself, but also over the long-term effects of the types of repeated small exposures consumers are likely to encounter from common household and personal care products.
There is evidence that these chemicals may be absorbed into the skin...which is where concern over immune system and cancer come from.
If you're keen on reading labels, we certainly think that's great and encourage you to do so. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is often listed in labeling in a number of different ways that include:
MONODODECYL ESTER SODIUM SALT SULFURIC ACID; SODIUM DODECYL SULFATE; SODIUM DODECYL SULPHATE; SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE; SODIUM SALT SULFURIC ACID, MONODODECYL ESTER; SULFURIC ACID MONODODECYL ESTER SODIUM SALT; SULFURIC ACID, MONODODECYL ESTER, SODIUM SALT; AI3-00356; AKYPOSAL SDS; AQUAREX ME; AQUAREX METHYL, SODIUM DODECYL SULFATE, DODECYL SODIUM SULFATE, DREFT, DUPONOL, SDS, SLS, SODIUM DODECYL SULFATE, or SWASCOL 3L
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