What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a synthetic organic compound that is found in cleaning and hygiene products. SLS can be found in washing detergents, and is used mainly to remove oily stains and residues; it can also be found in toothpastes, shampoos, and other personal hygiene products but in smaller concentrations.

Health Concerns of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Let’s get this out of the way: SLS has not been proven to be a carcinogen. This means that it does not cause cancer when consumed or applied directly.
There is however, an issue with toxicity.
In concentrations of over 2% SLS can cause skin and eye irritation, nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting. Note that the reaction to SLS varies from individual to individual, and while people may not experience side effects when using products with SLS it is still not recommended to swallow any toothpaste that contains SLS.
Over time, it is believed that SLS may also cause hormonal imbalance resulting in menopausal symptoms, and lowered male fertility. While this is not fully proven, there is concern that even in small quantities of under 2% there is a build up of SLS over time which is absorbed in the bloodstream and can build up in our organs.

SLS in Toothpaste

SLS in toothpastes is added due to its low cost and to cause foaming. Studies have shown that SLS has been proven to reduce bad breath. However it is believed to also cause canker sores due to irritation of sensitive tissues in our mouth.
Studies have also shown that SLS in toothpaste may reduce the effectiveness of fluoride in preventing dental cavities.

The Alternatives

Since SLS has become the benchmark for studies on skin irritation, there are cleansers made from vegetable oils, herbs or other organic products.