What’s So Bad About Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

What’s So Bad About Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

I’m currently on a kick to get rid of as many chemicals as I can in my house. It all started as I stood in the shower one morning and took stock of all the lotions and potions surrounding me. There are the basics of course; shampoo, conditioner, soap. Then there’s the regular face wash, the exfoliating face wash, the body cream, the shave gel and my beloved Joe Malone body wash. That’s a lot of STUFF going on the skin, aka the body’s largest organ. What really brought it into focus was a doctor’s comment in an interview about nicotine patches. Just slap one little, unassuming patch onto a shoulder or a hip and voila, nicotine delivered directly into your blood stream for hours. That means other things that we put on our skin are seeping in as well.  While there’s no nicotine in that shampoo, there are other known irritants, among them Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). So, slowly but surely, as we run out of one product, I replace it with something kinder and gentler. And I feel good about that. So imagine my surprise when I find out there’s SLS in food?!

Yep, the same chemical that is used in cosmetics as a cleansing agent, in the “characterization of quaternary ammonium compounds” (I don’t even…) and in the “formulation of injection moulded explosives,” is also a common food additive, used as a binder and thickener. (Source)  The United States Food and Drug Administration somehow arrived at an “acceptable” level of exposure to SLS and it is routinely sprayed on fruits, and added to things like juice and baking products. According to www.davidsuzuki.org, “SLS is a skin, eye and respiratory tract irritant that Environment Canada has categorized as inherently toxic to aquatic organisms, flagging it for further assessment.”  While no research has proven SLS to be carcinogenic, it is considered by health Canada to be a “moderate human health priority, flagged for future assessment”.  Ummm….zoinks?

Ok, not to panic. You’re already reading the labels on your food right? While checking grams of sugar and saturated fat, just have a little look-see for sodium lauryl sulfate. And that Joe Malone body wash?  Guilty. But I love it! So I “Silkwood” shower with it…quickly on and then scrubbed off. I’m crazy but I smell amazing.

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1 Comment

  1. Trevor Bailey
    October 03, 21:19 Reply

    Thanks for the article, I enjoyed it.

    My concern with SLS being a food additive is how it reacts to heat e.g. if boiled are the fumes toxic?

    I’m less inclined to believe there is a direct link to Cancer when used in personaly hygiene products but it is a known skin irritant, especially for people with known skin conditions.

    As you mention, the best advice is to read the labels and educate yourself on the pros and cons. Most of us rely far too much on what we are told than doing our own research.

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