Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: what is it? Is it harmful?

Sodium laurylsophate (SLS) is a surfactant that has recently been in the spotlight. It can be found in body hygiene soaps. Knowing more about it is a good way to evaluate its actual impact on the body. Is it really that dangerous to health? Doing the research is the way to understand the subject. For Albogroup, which produces soap for third parties, safety is important.

Label and INCI: how to recognise substances

The potential effectiveness is one of the reasons that lead us towards the choice of a product. This is the case for any purpose but is also more true when buying a soap. A body wash also requires a good dose of foam and it is here that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate plays an important role. This compound is therefore not often found on the commercial label of classic detergents but can be obtained from the INCI located on the back.

In fact, the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients reports the wording Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): this substance is generally found at the top of the list. Already inclusion in the INCI is indicative of the use of any substance in doses that are not harmful to the body. Noticing the presence of a chemical should therefore not be frightening as the product is certified and labelled so that it can perform its function without causing damage. The INCI is a list of substances that does not show the percentage of each one. Compliance with the safety limits must therefore reassure the user. Labelling in the cosmetics and detergents industry is a guarantee, regardless of the chemical composition of the products. Knowing more about it is in any case useful.

Sodium laureth sulfate. Is it harmful?

Let’s start with a fundamental clarification: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are two different molecules. SLES is an ethoxylated derivative of SLS, often added to products that already contain SLS. Although the derivative is derived from petroleum compounds, its function can be viewed positively. SLS is a particularly aggressive detergent but, in admixture with SLES, the surfactant function is mitigated. Glancing through the biodictionary, Sodium Laureth Sulfate is indicated as a cosmetic ingredient, surfactant and is also approved in vegan preparations.

It goes without saying that even ordinary water could be dangerous if it were drunk in excessive quantities. The use of SLES in skin care products is not a particular source of risk for humans. It is obvious that the data available confirm its potential aggressive action on the skin, but it is necessary to be exposed to excessive doses to ensure that the substance can significantly attack the lipid film that covers the human skin. Considering what has been specified, the exclusive presence of SLS by virtue of a mitigating effect by SLES is more worrying.

SLS and SLES: what they are and what they are used for

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a naturally derived product and its origin is mainly plant-based as it is obtained from palm oil. Chemically it is classified as an anionic surfactant: it is identified as such because its negatively charged part has surfactant power. It thus consists of a long chain of carbon atoms and ends with a sulfonate group. If SLS is of completely natural origin, SLES is a relative of SLS called Sodium lauryl ether sulfate but also known as Sodium laureth sulfate. The molecule differs in its length, precisely by virtue of the addition of ethylene oxide molecules derived from petroleum.

The cost of SLS and SLES is actually very low, which is why the two ingredients are particularly used in the field of the soap industry. Recently brought to the attention of the general public through an actual negative media campaign, probably the result more of the logic of marketing than of scientific evidence, the two substances constitute salts with surfactant functions. Their function is to reduce the surface tension of the liquids present around dirt to wrap it inside a micelle that is washed away by water. In a nutshell, they are the reason why a soap can wash.

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Where can we find them?

Given that SLS can be dangerous due to its aggressiveness – only if the detergent is used continuously – and given that the maximum risk can be associated with possible inflammation of the skin – but that no carcinogenic power has been demonstrated – it is good to recall a number of products in which Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is more likely to be found. It is obvious that, by virtue of the above, the SLS can be combined with the SLES in order to mitigate its aggressiveness towards the outermost layer of the skin.

High-foam detergents are the perfect products for use with SLS and SLES; the molecules ensure a large amount of foam while giving greater performance to the soap. Shampoos must avoid the presence of these substances as their effect could be harmful to the hair bulb and scalp, especially in the case of dry skin. Another category is dishwashing detergents; their presence guarantees a good foam content. The real virtue of SLS and SLES is in the right measure, which is why there is no need to be concerned about them.

Albogroup SLS-free soaps, soap bars and solid cosmetics

For more than 40 years we have specialised in the production of soaps, especially hotel soaps, with varying types of formulas, size, weight and packaging, both our own brand and for customised productions and on behalf of third parties. Albogroup’s classic soaps and soap bars are SLS-free: the quality of the product is very high, with selected raw materials, also including natural and organic ingredients. There are many types of soaps that are produced by Albogroup, both for hotels and for retail collections or on behalf of third parties:

  • Classic soaps and soap bars
  • Soaps and soap bars with ingredients of natural origin
  • Soaps and soap bars with organic ingredients
  • Soaps and soap bars with classic and delicate fragrances
  • Soaps and soap bars with strong and particular fragrances
  • Soaps and soap bars with natural colours
  • Soaps and soap bars with a high glycerine content
  • Soaps and soap bars with RSPO MB certified palm oil
  • EU Ecolabel, Nordic Ecolabel, Cosmos Natural, Cosmos Organic certified soaps and soap bars

The same choice not to include SLS is also present in the Innovative Solid Cosmetics, which Albogroup produces under its own brand or in personalised productions and on behalf of third parties both for the world of hotel amenities and for that of the more selective distribution. Find out more about the world of Hotel Amenities in solid format and contact us for further information.