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?
A few companies that use this chemical?
The Body Shop
Bath and Body Works
Beauty without Cruelty
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.