Is SLS toxic?

baby in bath

I’ve seen so many comments about people being excited about a product until they found out that it had SLS in it. It’s one of those ingredients that is controversial. But is SLS toxic for real?

I’ve tacked other contentious issues like EMFs, essential oils, and fluoride, and now it’s SLS’s turn! Let’s do this…

What is SLS?

SLS – or sodium lauryl sulfate – is a surfactant and foaming agent found in cleaning products and personal care products. It is often confused with SLES (sodium laureth sulfate), which has its own issues but it’s different than SLS (more on this below).

Here’s a breakdown of some of the common concerns and how worried you should be.

Skin Irritation

SLS, along with many surfactants, have the potential to cause skin irritation because it can disrupt the membrane that protects skin cells. In wash-off products (like shampoo and body wash), this is unlikely to cause an issue for most people. Those with eczema-prone or sensitive skin however may find avoiding SLS helps.

Aquatic Toxicity 

SLS is considered toxic to aquatic life and on its own is not recommended to be discharged into the environment (including down the drain). This recommendation is for full concentration of SLS rather than the amount that would be found in household products. It is readily biodegradable, which means it doesn’t last long in the environment before it breaks down into nontoxic forms.

Cancer

There is no indication that SLS causes cancer, though there are some sources that make this claim. This is likely due to confusion between SLS vs SLES (sodium laureth sulfate). SLES is an ethoxylated substance, which means it may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. Some brands that use SLES use a process that also removes the 1,4-dioxane, but unless advertised it’s hard to know for sure. Again, this is not a concern with SLS.

 

The Bottom Line

Is SLS perfect? Nope. It may be made with unsustainable palm oil or petroleum (or it could be 100% non palm plant-based). And manufacturing isn’t without its problems if it’s not disposed of or treated properly, as I outlined with the environmental concerns above.

But if SLS is the only questionable ingredient in a product you love and you don’t have skin concerns, I’m likely to recommend you stick with it and move on to other things that have greater health impacts for you and your children. Then you can come back and revisit your SLS-containing products if you want.

But if you get hung up on this, you might be missing some chemicals that have a much larger overall impact. If you’re struggling to read labels and want to easily figure out what products are truly healthy vs harmful, then check out the Complete Guide to Choosing Healthy Products: Personal Care & Cleaners Edition here!

Post a comment


Many "Green Cleaners" actually contain toxic ingredients that you won't find on the label.
This quick guide spills the details on popular brands like Method, Live Clean, Green Works, Ecover, and more...

Environmental Engineer and mom, Emma Rohmann from Green at Home tells you how healthy 11 "green" brands really are.
INSTANT ACCESS
By signing up, you agree to receive emails from Green at Home to help you detox your home for your health, simply. If you only wish to see the Cleaners List and don't want any other awesome info and support, ask me for it here
close-link
This list of products may surprise you!
So many popular brands misuse terms like "natural", "green", and "organic". 
Stop wasting your money on greenwashing.
Find out whether brands like Live Clean, Green Works, Seventh Generation,
and 9 other popular brands contain harmful ingredients in this free download.

Grab the list here:
Get the Green Cleaners Product List Now
close-link
Send me my free patient/client downloads on toxins at home!
By signing up, you agree to receive emails from Green at Home with free resources, the latest reserach, and special promotions.
You may unsubscribe at any time.
close-link
Do you want great healthy home tips like this delivered to your inbox?
Join our community now!
Yes! I want to create a healthier home, stress-free.
By signing up, you agree to receive emails from Green at Home. You may unsubscribe at any time.
close-link
Are your body and skincare products as healthy as you think?
So many popular brands misuse terms like "natural", "green", and "organic". 
Stop wasting your money on greenwashing.
Find out whether brands like Lush, Live Clean, Arbonne,
and 30+ other popular brands contain harmful ingredients in this free download.

Grab the list here:
Grab Your Healthy Body Care Product List Here
close-link
Yes! Tell me when I can grab my spot in the program!
By signing up, you agree to receive emails from Green at Home featuring free resources, content, and promotions. You may unsubscribe at any time.
close-link
FREE GUIDE: 4 Hormone Disruptors to Avoid When You're Pregnant
Yes please!
close-image