Everything You Need to Know About Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Unless you’re a chemist, chances are you don’t know much about sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)—a common ingredient found in many beauty, cleaning, and self-care products. There’s also a lot of misinformation about it, which adds to the confusion.
That’s why we’re breaking down everything you need to know about this chemical, including what it is, why it’s used, and whether or not an SLS-free toothpaste is right for you.
What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a chemical compound that is commonly used in personal care and cleaning products, such as body washes, detergents, cleansers, shampoos, handwashes and toothpastes. SLS is what’s known as a surfactant—that means it reduces the surface tension between ingredients in a product. It can be made synthetically or naturally, and it’s what gives cleaning products that foamy, bubbly consistency most of us have come to expect.
What Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Used For?
Since SLS is a common ingredient listed in a variety of personal care, cosmetic, and household cleaning products, you’re likely to find it in:
- Grooming products, such as shaving cream, lip balm, hand sanitizer, nail treatments, makeup remover, foundation, facial cleansers, exfoliants, and liquid hand soap
- Hair care products, such as shampoo, conditioner, hair dye, and styling gel
- Dental care products, such as toothpaste, teeth whitening products, and mouthwash
- Bath products, such as bath oils or salts, body wash, and bubble bath
- Laundry detergents
Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Safe?
SLS has a long history of use and safety. Studies have shown that there’s no link between the use of SLS and increased cancer risk. In fact, the American Cancer Society does not include SLS on any list of known, probable, or anticipated human carcinogens (or cancer-causing agents).
SLS can have potential side effects for some people. SLS can be irritating if it’s present at high concentrations and left on the skin for a long period of time. However, the amount of SLS found in personal care products is limited in concentration for consumer safety.
Should I Use a Toothpaste That Does Not Contain SLS?
SLS-containing toothpastes are safe and effective. However, if you happen to be sensitive to SLS, or simply prefer to use a product without it, there are plenty of toothpastes available to you that don’t contain SLS. In fact, SLS is not present in any Pronamel toothpastes.