ecostore New Zealand Blog
Despite concerns over the safety of Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) coming from scientists and research groups such as EWG; these chemicals continue to be the darlings of manufacturers of household products because they’re cheap and they perform a simple task really well. They make long-lasting bubbles and in the minds of many people more bubbles = a better clean. As a result these chemicals are used in tons of everyday household products, from dishwashing liquid to shampoo. Even some ‘green’ and ‘natural’ brands use SLS and SLES.
How can these chemicals affect your health?
The reason we should be questioning the widespread use of SLS and SLES is because of the effects they could be having on our skin and health. SLS is used in many cleaning products yet it’s a known skin irritant and is also used in clinical studies to induce contact dermatitis, and make the skin absorb other products more easily. SLES is also used in many cleaning and body care products, including dishwashing liquid and shampoo. Yet due to the synthesis process it goes through, it can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a suspected carcinogen. Some products containing sodium laureth sulphate have already been found to contain low levels of 1,4-dioxane.
For more on this: see the nasty chemicals index on the ecostore website.
We need to know more about the chemical ingredients in the products we buy
According to a recent survey by Colmar Brunton, most Kiwis have little knowledge of the ingredients used in everyday products that come into contact with their skin despite nearly 2/3 of households having someone suffering from a skin condition. This is not surprising because we’re up against some pretty big obstacles:
- Companies aren’t obliged to be transparent about what’s in their products so they often aren’t. This makes it impossible to know what’s in their products or to research their ingredients.
- Many dodgy chemicals are completely sanctioned by regulatory bodies meaning that the burden of proof is on individuals to prove that a chemical is unsafe rather than on companies to prove that they are safe.
- Even when you have groups of scientists, doctors, lawyers and consumer watchdog groups raising red flags and calling for change, they are often ignored. It can sometimes take years for legislation to change. Two examples of this are the continued use of Teflon (non-stick coating for cookware) and BPA which is used in the lining of canned foods (more about Teflon coming up in another blog).
- The other confusing factor is that both SLS and SLES go by many other names, or may just be listed as ‘Anionic Surfactant.’
What can you do?
- Thanks to the growth in social media, many brands are available online these days. If your favourite brands have a website, Facebook page or twitter account then ask them if their products contain SLS or SLES.
- Look for products that list all of their ingredients on their labels. An incomplete list of ingredients may mean they have something to hide.
- Do your own research: use reliable resources such as EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to find safety scores for thousands of products.
- Vote with your wallet and err on the side of caution by avoiding products that have potentially harmful chemicals like SLS and SLES
Anything to add? Agree/disagree? Let us know in the comments field below, we’d love to hear what you think.