While the term SLS might not be one that we use in our daily lives, the product itself is something that is a part of our lives. This articles aims at looking at SLS, how it is a part of our lives and why we might want to consider living without it!
What is SLS?
The most basic question would be what is SLS? By definition, SLS is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a foaming agent and emulsifier, which is most commonly used in products such as hair shampoos, shower gels, bubble baths,cosmetic cleansers, toothpastes and even laundry detergents. It is interesting to note that the same SLS is also used in engine degreasers, garage floor cleaners and car-wash soaps!
SLS is known to be highly corrosive and is best used to clean extremely greasy surfaces. Even though the original elements of SLS are extracted from coconuts, when certain by products are added, the final result is one that is quite toxic.
There are certain other variations of SLS and these include:
- Sodium salt
- Sulphuric acid
- Sodium dodecyl sulphate
- Monododecyl ester
- Aquarex methyl
Then there is also sodium laureth sulphate, or SLES, which even though has a higher foaming capacity, is slightly less irritating as compared to SLS. However, Ammonium lauryl sulphate or ALS is as dangerous as SLS.
Why is it used?
Now it is obvious that you would think that when SLS is so toxic, why it is still being used so extensively. The simplest answer is that it is the most cost effective solution. SLS can dissolve and remove the toughest of grease and that is why it is used to clean garages and engines. However, while the same SLS can also clean oils found on the body and scalp, it is bound to dry out the skin too. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that SLS can denature the proteins that are found in the skin and scalp. This eventually leads to irritation and can even facilitate the faster movement of environmental contaminants into the skin.
Why is it dangerous?
Here are just some of the reasons why SLS is dangerous:
- SLS gets absorbed into the skin and once it gets into the skin, it starts imitating the activities that are normally in the nature of oestrogen. This in turn leads to several other problems, which can vary from symptoms of menopause, a decline in male fertility and even breast cancer!
- The dangers of SLS are even higher when it comes to children, because in them, the chemical is known to create harsher conditions. For instance, studies have shown that constant usage of SLS can lead to damage in the eyes or hinder proper eye development. In most cases, the damage caused is so severe that there is no treatment for the same.
- Even in adults, SLS can penetrate into the eyes, liver, heart and even the brain. The bigger problem is that the SLS gets retained in the tissues for a really long time. in adults, this very retention can also lead to cataract.
- SLS does have a clinical use, which is to create skin irritation for studies and researches. However, imagine if this same irritation continues for a long time!
- SLS can also attack the hair follicles, which means that it can lead to hair loss as well.
- It is a common ingredient found in bubble baths, but not everyone knows that it can actually wash away the protective layer of the skin, and eventually cause rashes and other infections.
- When you use SLS, it strips away all the natural moisture from your skin, leaving it dry and leading to further irritation.
However, the biggest problem with SLS is that when it reacts with certain other chemicals, it leads to the formation of nitrates, and nitrates can lead to cancer.
Why you might want to stay away from SLS?
- As per a study conducted by the American College of Toxicity, SLS corrodes the fats and proteins that are essential for the creation and maintenance of the human skin and scalp. The SLS that you find in your shampoo and bubble bath can also be found in floor cleaners and car wash soaps!
- In many cases, it has been noticed that people who struggle with issues such dermatitis, dandruff and canker sores have been using products with SLS since a long time.
- SLS can also lead to major problems with eyes, brain, liver and heart. While eyes can develop cataract, children who are exposed to SLS can have deformed eyes.
- In order to manufacture SLS, toxic solvents are used, and these include nitrates. These are the very nitrates that are known to cause cancer.
- The biggest reason for you to stop using SLS is the fact that it can enhance the power of penetration. This means that tiny molecules will be able to penetrate the membranes of your body and enter the cells. Eventually, your body will become more vulnerable and other dangerous toxins will be able to affect your body.
There are also other reasons why SLS should not be used and some of the more prominent ones are mentioned here:
The actual process of manufacturing SLS is one that leads to high levels of pollution. Factories that produce SLS emit organic compounds that are highly volatile and carcinogenic. In addition, the waste from such factories is known to pollute groundwater and also harm aquatic life. The same water can then seep into the water table, leading to the pollution of drinking water as well.
There are plenty of shampoos, bubble baths and shower gels being produced these days, which have no SLS and are completely natural. So, when you head to the supermarket the next time, make sure you pick a product that does not have SLS.