#5–More Harmful Chemicals–Sodium Laureth Sulfate

May 16th, 2011 | By | Category: For Senior Women
The harmful chemical we talk about today is Sodium Laureth Sulfate.  Most of us seniors enjoy the ‘clean’ feel we get when we use a skin care product that bubbles and foams and softens our skin.  SLS is a chemical in shampoos, shower gels and facial cleansers that makes the substance bubble and foam.  It is also found in dish soap and other household cleaning products. 
SLS is an ‘ethoxylated’ ingredient.  Wikipedia says this about ethoxylation:  “Ethoxylation is an industrial process in which ethylene oxide is added to alcohols and phenols to give surfactants.”  Let me put that in plain English: Ethylene oxide, a pleasant smelling gas that is highly flammable at room temperatures and is a known carcinogenic, is added to alcohol/phenol to make bubbles and foam that produces a pleasant, clean feeling on the skin.  So SLS is one result of the ethoxylation process that is in a lot of skin care products we buy across the counter.  Gas… flammable… carcinogenic… parading around in bubbles and foam that we like to use on our skin.

There are measurable amounts of 1,4-dioxane in SLS, amounts depending on the manufacturing process.  Dioxane is another ethoxylated chemical, a “…byproduct of the ethoxylation process in the production of materials used in cosmetics, notably sodium myreth sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate.[1] Dioxane is classified by the IARC as a Group 2B carcinogen.[2]” 
Dioxane can be removed from cosmetics during the manufacturing process, but the problem is that there is no easy way for us seniors to know whether something we are buying contains SLS or if it has been removed following the ethoxylation process.  Further, SLS can irritate skin and eyes, even though its approved for use in cosmetics.


Canada does not restrict use of SLS; it is toxic to aquatic organisms; other chemicals including the letters “…eth” have many of the same chemical properties as SLS.

The next time you use a product on your skin (the largest organ in your body) or you wash your infant with a product that bubbles and foams, remember flammable gas and carcinogen.

There are other safe and beneficial options out there.

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