What exactly is SLS?

What is SLS

Everything you need to know about Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)

We often get asked about Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. So we thought we’d create a handy guide to all things SLS – from debunking the myths, to sharing some of our favourite SLS-free beauty and cleaning products.









What is SLS?

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is a chemical agent that’s used for cleaning. Essentially it helps to make soaps ‘froth’. It has been used as a shampoo ingredient since the 1930’s as an alternative to soap. It can be derived from petroleum, coconut oil or palm oil. SLS is an effective foaming agent, providing lots of bubbles and cleaning power. So it’s used in everything from floor cleaners to shampoos.


Should I avoid SLS?

That’s really up to you. While a lot of wild claims have been thrown around, there’s no evidence that small amounts of SLS cause any long-term health problems, including cancer. Nicola Smith, Health Information Officer at Cancer Research UK states ‘There’s no evidence to suggest that sodium lauryl sulfate causes cancer—so there’s no need to stop using shampoo.”

SLS can irritate skin and eyes, however. So if you have eczema, psoriasis or sensitive skin, you may prefer to avoid it. Some people prefer to use natural cleansing agents that work just as well, in our opinion.


Is Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulphate (SLES) the same as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)?

SLES is similar to SLS, but has been through an extra stage – ethoxylation. Because of this extra step, SLES can sometimes contain traces of a compound called 1.4-dioxane. The amount of 1.4-dioxane you’d find in a health and beauty product is so minute that it’s not considered to pose any risk. However, some people prefer to avoid SLES just in case.


How can I be sure that the products I buy don’t contain SLS or SLES?

You’ll need to get in the habit of checking ingredients lists we’re afraid. Some brands also ban SLS and SLES, and say so on their packaging or product description, which does make things a bit easier. We’ve also listed a few of our favourite SLS-free products below:


SLS-free shampoo and conditioner

Faith in Nature don’t use SLES or SLS in any of their products. Try the Coconut Shampoo and Conditioner. They smell amazing and work wonders on normal to dry hair. As one reviewer said about the shampoo, “Lovely shampoo and a nice smell - not too strong. Leaves hair clean, shiny and easy to style


Sodium Lauryl Sulphate free shower gel and hand soap

The Weleda body washes are superb. Try the Pomegranate Creamy Body Wash, which smells lovely and contains several plant oils to leave your skin feeling clean and soft.


Cleaning products that don’t contain SLS

Dr Bronner’s Castile Liquid Soaps are great multitaskers. You can use them for anything from cleaning dishes and floors to cleaning yourself! The Lavender soap is a favourite in the Big Green Smile office.

Marcel’s Green Soap Washing Up Liquid is also SLS-free and formulated with organic oils to leave dishes clean and your hands soft.


Sodium Lauryl Sulphate-free toothpaste

We have several SLS-free toothpastes and mouth washes to choose from. Jason PowerSmile is one of our most popular toothpastes and it’s free from both SLS and fluoride.