Master Chemist Explains the Reality Behind Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Its Multiple Names
Did you know that if you use conventional cosmetics on a daily basis, you can absorb almost 5 pounds of chemicals and toxins into your body each year? You may think that something so ubiquitous as your personal body care pro ducts can’t be all that harmful, but in reality, you can easily get exposed to thousands of chemicals which your body may have a hard time getting rid of. One of the harshest chemicals found in cosmetics are sulfates. These can be the cause of some horrible side effects that appear over time or are even passed down to your children.
Anthony Morrocco, founder of Morrocco Method, talked with a master chemist who worked at a factory which manufactures sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) to get the inside scoop. SLS is present in nearly all commercial shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color and bleaching agents, toothpastes, body washes and cleaners, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents, and bath oils/salts. The reason why it’s included in shampoos is to remove the naturally occurring oil produced by your hair and scalp known as sebum. Sebum with time can accumulate bacteria, which is why it needs to be washed every so often. Sulfates, however, are a corrosive agent that not only strip away more oil than necessary but also damage the hair, destroying hairs’ protective barriers. Sulfates are even strong enough to be found in industry-strength cleaners and have been shown to cut through heavily soiled surfaces (Luckily, if you’re reading this you’ve probably already made the switch to our Morrocco Method Shampoos; so, you don’t have to worry about it… But keep reading!)
A sulfate, in general terms, is a denaturant, surfactant cleaning agent, emulsifier and foamer. A sulfate can be any mineral salt that contains sulfur, most commonly found in the form of detergents. The two most widely used sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES); however, there is a third one that is being more commonly seen and is a derivative of SLS: Amonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS) – ALS is similar to SLS and possesses similar risks. These chemicals can be easily identified as the suds and foam that build as you shampoo your hair.
Manufacturers want to hide the use of SLS from you at all costs. Below is a list of the variety of names these harsh chemicals can be hiding behind. Now go and check your bathroom and under the kitchen sink!
List of Synonyms for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate:
This list is compiled by the US Department of Health & Human Services
• Sodium lauryl sulfate
• Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt
• Sodium dodecyl sulfate
• Dodecyl sulfate, sodium salt
• Sodium lauryl sulfate ether
• Sodium n-dodecyl sulfate
• Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
List of Synonyms for Sodium Laureth Sulfate:
This list is compiled by the US Department of Health & Human Services
• Sodium dodecylpoly (oxyethylene) sulfate
• Sodium lauryl sulfate ethoxylate
• Sodium polyoxyethylene lauryl ether sulfate
• Sodium laureth-8 sulfate
• Laureth-8 carboxylic acid, sodium salt
• PEG-5 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• PEG-7 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• PEG-8 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• PEG-12 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• Polyethylene glycol 5 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• Polyethylene glycol 7 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• Polyethylene glycol 12 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• Polyethylene glycol 400 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• Polyethylene glycol 600 lauryl ether sulfate sodium salt
• Sodium laureth 5 sulfate
• Sodium laureth 7 sulfate
• Sodium laureth 12 sulfate
• Sodium lauryl ether sulfate
Click here (10 Harmful Chemicals that Hurt Hair Regrowth) to learn about some other chemicals that may be getting stored in your body without being aware of it.
Would You Wash Your Face, Body or Hair with Engine Degreaser?
A Shocking History of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
When was SLS first discovered?
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) was first used as an engine degreaser in World War II because the chemical was abrasive and corrosive enough to remove the toughest oils and soot. It was then brought to the United States after the second world war and until the mid-1950’s was used for the same purpose in the product Gunk. To this day, Gunk is still sold in auto parts stores as an engine degreaser.
But not only is SLS prevalent in industrial strength cleaners, most of the haircare, household and hygiene products we use contain this harsh chemical. It all began when large corporations realized that SLS is an effective foaming agent, producing the same results in different environments and hardness levels of water. As more of these companies made the chemical, it became cheaper to manufacture. Now, it costs a few cents to make about 30% of a product such as soap or shampoo.
Why don’t we see this on the media?
There is a large movement to keep the shocking negative impact of SLS away from the public’s ears. Even if –as you may have seen in the previous emails– these chemicals are found in most body and hair care products which expose people to levels as high as 30%, larger consumer goods corporations don’t want to reveal the truth. Their wallets are more important than our health.
Moreover, the US Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seems to be in cahoots with large consumer corporations. The FDA is supposed to monitor the safety of consumed products after the passing of the US Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938. Under Good Manufacturing Practice Regulations for Cosmetics (Section 301 of the law), companies cannot sell products which “contain a potentially harmful substance” or has “misleading labeling.” But products containing SLS are harmful! They cause inflammation, stripping of natural oils and countless negative effects down to the cellular level. (We will release a comprehensive article on the risks of SLS next week – don’t miss it!)
So, why do we find products with SLS in them everywhere we go?
Well because the American Cancer Society, among other scientific research institutes, claim that there are little to no negative side effects of SLS. However, in reality what’s really happening here is that there is a major conflict of interest between the information released about SLS use and the high amount of consumer goods manufacturers. Some of these consumer goods manufacturers include Proctor & Gamble, Johnson and Johnson, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and countless other companies with a stake in producing and selling products with SLS. Another reason why we don’t sell to big corporations.
False advertising and misleading labeling is a major way these companies sell SLS under the pretense of being “all-natural” or “herbal.” Look at the green, health-conscious ploy the shampoo bottle on the right has. It distracts the user with promises of a “gentle cleanse” and “an invigorating aroma of certified organic rosemary and peppermint with other pure flower and plant essences.” It contains SLS. This is more common than you think!
This is why we find it vital to spread this information far and wide, because the opposing voice is too wealthy and corrupt.
In the next article we will talk about the dangers of SLS on the hair, skin and body. Meanwhile, find out about ways to get great hair results without exposing yourself to chemicals.
SLS: One of the most dangerous chemicals found in more than 90% of modern-day body and hair care products
How is SLS bad for my hair?
The simple answer is: yes. In minor doses, sulfates can be relatively harmless to your hair and scalp. But since sulfates are found in shampoos and cosmetic products which are intended to be used daily, some terrible side effects begin to manifest after repeated washes.
Here are 6 reasons to avoid sulfates:
1. Hair loss: Follicular damage is one of the most common side effects of persistent sulfate use. Damaged follicles have a harder time holding on to hair, which can lead to hair loss.
2. Scalp and skin irritation: More sensitive scalps can be agitated by sulfates, leading to tender skin, redness, dryness and itching. This is because sulfates strip away the protective lipids (natural fats) that otherwise protect the hair.
3. Dull and lifeless hair: As sulfates corrode hair, the strands become porous, which manifests as a faded color and an overall dull, lifeless appearance.
4. Toxic byproducts: Some of the most dangerous byproducts of manufacturing SLES are 1,4-dioxane, Ethylene Oxide, and Nitrosamines, all known carcinogens. And while manufactures try to remove these compounds, only a certain degree can actually be cleaned, meaning some gets left in the final shampoo. The best way to avoid them is by reading the labels and not buying products that include suffixes such as “myreth”, “oleth”, “laureth”, “ceteareth”, any other “eth”, “PEG”, “polyethylene”, “polyethylene glycol”, “polyoxyethylene”, or “oxynol”.
5. Environmentally unconscious: Most industry sulfates are produced from petrolatum, a costly and non-renewable resource. Furthermore, the gasses emitted after producing the reactions to obtain SLS come out of the factories’ vats, which contributes to the existing smog in cities.
6. Unnecessary: Harsh suds are not the only way to clean hair; there are many safer alternatives that cleanse hair without breaching our hairs’ natural protective barriers.
Does SLS only affect my hair?
The side effects or risks that SLS can produce will depend on the level of exposure to the ingredient and an individual’s susceptibility. However, studies have reported the following findings:
• A study at the Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University in New York in 1997 examined SLS in mouthwash. They found that SLS in mouth rinses caused desquamation of oral epithelium and a burning sensation in human volunteers.
• A study appearing in Exogenous Dermatology confirmed SLS to be a very “corrosive irritant” to the skin—irritation which persisted in research subjects for 3 weeks. SLS exerts its damage by stripping your skin of protective oils and moisture.
• SLS is associated with increased canker sores due to the denaturing effect and irritation of the oral mucosa.
• Swallowing SLS will likely lead to nausea and diarrhea and is even used as a rectal laxative.
• A dental association in Japan tested the effects of SLS on bacteria, finding it to be mutagenic, which means that SLS can cause cellular DNA damage.
So, how about all-natural shampoos?
Although SLS is derived from coconut, it’s anything but natural. What usually happens in the cosmetics industry is they take coconut oil and react it with a chlorosulfonic acid or sulfuric acid to get an acid ester; then they neutralize it with sodium hydroxide and produce SLS. The fact that they use coconut oil doesn’t mean anything as far as the natural ingredient list. They can say they use it, but it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It certainly doesn’t mean it’s natural by any means because it’s a chemical reaction.
It’s the same with olive oil or palm oil, because they are synthesizing them with other chemicals and then coming up with an acid ester. Therefore, companies that claim that their shampoos are “all-natural” shouldn’t be saying that. Just because they throw into their products a little bit of “natural” ingredients such as aloe vera, peppermint, chamomile, etc. doesn’t mean their shampoo is now all-natural. Moreover, most of these “natural” ingredients are often synthetic.
Stay tuned for the last article on this SLS series, where we’ll share with you tips on how to live a sulfate-free life. Meanwhile, you can read more about what really happens in salons, the products stylists use and how our hair should be taken care of.
Protect Your Health from SLS
So, what can I do to protect my health from SLS?
First, get to know the products you buy. Here is a list of common products containing SLS:
• Tooth paste
• Dish soap
• Laundry detergent
• Children’s soaps & shampoos
• Stain Remover
• Carpet Cleaner
• Fabric glue
• Body wash
• Shave cream
• Skin cleanser
• Sun Screen
Read Before You Buy!
Watch Anthony Morrocco talk about the importance of reading the ingredients on the haircare products you use on your skin, hair, and scalp here. The best advice is to avoid all products containing SLS and switch to safer and natural alternatives. As a rule of thumb, always read your labels and keep these tips in mind:
• If you can’t pronounce it, you’d better not put it on your body! Whenever you read an ingredient you’re not too sure about, ask yourself “would I eat this?”
• Choose Sulfate-free shampoos to break the cycle of sulfates stripping away your natural oils. Over time, as the hair and scalp adjust to gentler cleansers, sebum is produced at a more natural rate.
• Look that there are no fragrances included. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds –even thousands– of chemicals. Moreover, fragrances are a major cause of allergic reactions.
• Pay attention to the order in which the ingredients are listed. Manufacturers are required to list ingredients in descending order by volume, meaning the first few ingredients are the most prominent. If calendula extract is the last ingredient in a long list; then, your calendula body wash isn’t as natural as you thought!
• Drink plenty of filtered water every day to assist your body in flushing out toxins.
Eat lots of vibrantly colored local, organic vegetables and fruits to keep your body well stocked with antioxidants
With time and smarter choices, you will be able to enjoy a more vibrant health and take your body and mind to their highest potential…. And remember, Our Health is Our Wealth!