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    « DMDM Hydantoin | Main | Selenium Sulfide »

    Sodium Laureth Sulfate

    Today's Chemical:

    Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

    EWG Risk Score:

    What is it:
    A widely used detergent and surfactant.  It can be derived from coconut oil or petroleum by-products.  It is commonly used as an industrial degreaser.

    Why is it a risk?

    Sodium Laureth Sulfate is an ethoxylated compound. When it's created, it's processed with ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen. Traces of ethylene oxide and 1,4-Dioxane (another known carcinogen) can be found in the detergent. It's also a skin irritant that can lead to and aggrivate skin conditions like eczema and an eye irritant that has been shown to cause cataracts in adults and inhibit the proper formation of eyes in small children. Sodium laureth sulfate is commonly used in laboratory testing.  When companies need to test the efficiency of lotion, they first have to irritate skin.  To do so, they use sodium laureth sulfate. 

    What type of products is it in?
    Body Wash
    Hand Soap
    Dish soap

    A few companies that use this chemical?
    The Body Shop
    Bath and Body Works
    Beauty without Cruelty
    Jason Naturals
    Mr. Bubble
    Nature's Gate

    Steph's opinion:
    The state of California is currently suing a number of companies for their products being contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane. Most likely this contamination is from the sodium laureth sulfate contained in the products in question. Some products tested by the Organic Consumers Union and the state of California had ten times the legal amount of 1,4-Dioxane. In California, any product that contains a known or suspected carcinogen must be labeled accordingly, with a statement that "this product contains a carcinogen known to the state of California." As people become more aware of the dangers of SLES, companies are switching to other detergents like sodium myreth sulfate. They put on their label "sodium laureth sulfate free!" but the risks are still the same. Sodium myreth sulfate is ethoxylated as well, and can still contain the same contamination and irritation concerns as SLES. So, when you're choosing a product, be sure to look at the ingredients. If it in any way resembles Sodium Laureth Sulfate, stay away from it.


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    Reader Comments (5)

    So where on earth do you get your toothpaste! I have been to every store in Eau Claire that sells toothpaste - and every one has SLS (albeit the last ingredient) in their formulas... help!

    Tue, March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiriam

    Look for Weleda toothpaste--they're SLS free. If you can't find them in a local store, you can probably get a good deal on it at

    Tue, March 23, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

    I was trying to find some information on "How to read the ingredient label of cosmetics", and came by this site:

    Just to try it out, I looked up "Sodium Laureth Sulfate", and they claim it's all safe for cosmetics.

    Then I went back to your page to look it up, and found the information above.

    How confusing is this!? Also, when I look the same chemical up on the site of the Norwegian FDA, they of course claim SLS to be safe.

    So who are these "", and where can we find good sites as for real information about the chemicals?

    Well, I know your site is a good one, but when e.g. writing an article I know that people are going to confront me with the facts from the FDA and similar sites.

    Fri, January 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

    Hello Steph!

    So I looked up SLES:

    And I'm a bit confused. Of course, it is better to avoid SLES, but it looks like tests don't prove it to be that bad. I find DMDM Hydantoin to be much worse as its a proven irritant. Can you agree with me? Or what's your opinion?

    I heard many people complaining on SLES, but is it really THAT BAD?
    It doesn't irritate my skin and my only concern would be carcinogenic aspects of it... as they might appear to be bad in a long-term approach.

    Fri, August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOla

    i tried to stay away from SLES's and SLS's and the first time i used coconut oil on my hair nothing was strong enough to remove it when i was washing it out appart from a shampoo containing SLES. i even tried a baking soda and water wash and lemon juice and both didnt work.

    can anyone give any suggestions natural suggestions?

    thank you

    Wed, August 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermeee

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