Both Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants. SLS and SLES are esters of Sulphuric acid. SLS is also known as "Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt" and over 150 different names by which it is known. In fact, SLES is commonly contaminated with dioxane, a known carcinogen.
Although SLES is somewhat less irritating than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, it cannot be metabolized by the liver and its effects are therefore much longer-lasting.
National Institutes of Health "Household Products Directory" of chemical ingredients lists over 80 products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the ACT report called "highly irritating and dangerous".
Both Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to "foam up". Shampoos are among the most frequently reported products with problems to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation (can cause eye deformities in small children), scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms, split and fuzzy hair, protein denaturing and it is a known carcinogen. The main cause of these problems is sodium lauryl sulfate.
The AJT report states that "Other studies have indicated that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain from skin contact. This poses the question of it being a serious potential health threat to its use in shampoos, cleansers, and tooth pastes."
Ingredient reviews of shampoos sold in health food stores under "natural" brands and labels have turned up many formulas containing SLS. The cost, reputation, or market position of the shampoo apparently has little to do with its contents. Some of the most reputable and exclusive brands contain SLS. Don't be fooled by high prices or marketing hype-you must check the ingredients on each product if you want to avoid the harmful effects of SLS. Keep in mind that many people associate the foaming with "clean" but how much foam you get in your shampoo or toothpaste has nothing to do with its ability to clean well.
Check your shampoos, toothpaste, liquid soaps, body gels, and other skin products for sodium lauryl sulfate. Avoid any further skin contact with products containing this ingredient.
If you have children, make sure they are not using shampoos and toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate. Children under 6 are especially vulnerable to improper eye development. Also check sun block products. We found one that contains SLS and aluminum, a potentially dangerous combination for brain cell deterioration.
Check all your cosmetic products for propylene glycol and get them off your skin. If you have infants, check your baby wipes and baby lotions and find alternative products that are safe for children (some baby wipes are available with aloe instead of propylene glycol).