What if we tell you that instead of using your regular shampoo you can go to the kitchen, take your dish soap and wash your hair with it, or go to the garage and take a floor cleanser? Doesn't sound appealing, right? Well, the main ingredient in all of these cleansers is the same - Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or its milder versions Sodium Laureth Sulfate (Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate- SLES) and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS).
We know that this inexpensive synthetic detergent (cleaning agent) is commonly used in cosmetic cleansers, hair shampoos, bath and shower gels, bubble baths, etc. Basically, it is an ingredient that allows cleansing products to foam. But do you know how seriously dangerous it can be? It is probably the most dangerous ingredient used in skin and hair care products. According to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, SLS has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption. It is used in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers, car-wash soaps, etc. It is very corrosive and readily attacks greasy surfaces.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is used for clinical testing throughout the world as a primary skin irritant. Laboratories use it to irritate skin on test animals and humans so then they may test the effectiveness of healing agents on irritated skin.
A study at the University of Georgia Medical College, indicated that SLS penetrated into the eyes as well as brain, heart, liver, etc., and showed long-term retention in the tissues. The study also indicated that SLS penetrated young children's eyes and prevented them from developing properly and caused cataracts to develop in adults.
It may cause hair loss by attacking the follicle. Used in bubble baths and body washes, it eats away skin protection and causes rashes and infection to occur. It is potentially harmful to skin and hair, and dries skin by stripping the protective lipids from the surface so it can't effectively regulate moisture.
Considering that SLS/SLES is often contaminated by two known carcinogens Ethylene Oxide and 1,4 Dioxane, carcinogenic effects are very possible.
Ethylene Oxide (which is what the "E" in SLES represents) appears as an impurity in thousands of personal care products and reveals a rating of "high hazard' on the Skin Deep website (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/).
1,4 Dioxane, a byproduct of ethylene oxide, also receives a "high hazard" rating from Skin Deep and is associated with an even longer list of common personal care products. On the CDC site (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcsneng/neng0041.html), 1,4 dioxane is described as "probably carcinogenic to humans," toxic to the brain and central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. It is also a leading groundwater contaminant.
To avoid 1,4 dioxane, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) recommends avoiding products with indications of ethoxylation. To do this, look for the following suffixes in the ingredient list: "myreth," "oleth," "laureth," "ceteareth," any other "eth," "PEG," "polyethylene," "polyethylene glycol," "polyoxyethylene," or "oxynol." For example—sodium laureth sulfate.
The FDA continues to take the stance that the levels of 1,4 dioxane in body care products are too low to be considered harmful. But given that there are products available that have NO 1,4 dioxane, why take a chance with your health? Your best bet is to purchase products whose ingredients you recognize—and can pronounce!
The real concern here is the gradual, cumulative effects of long-term, repeated exposures. Did you know that, if you use conventional cosmetics on a daily basis, you can absorb almost five pounds of chemicals and toxins into your body each year? Daily use of ordinary, seemingly benign personal care products like shampoo, toothpaste and shower gel can easily result in exposure to thousands of chemicals, and many will make their way into your body and become "stuck" there, since you lack the means to break them down. This toxic load can become a significant contributing factor to health problems and serious diseases, especially if your diet and exercise habits are lacking.
The best advice is to avoid them and avoid the risk altogether—since there are safe alternatives available!