ecostore New Zealand Blog

What are SLS and SLES doing in your dishwashing liquid and shampoo?
Posted On July 13th, 2012

SLS and SLES are commonly used ingredients in dishwashing liquid.

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 it’s hard for us to get away from the idea that more bubbles equals better cleaning power.

As a result SLS and SLES are used in hundreds of products, from dishwashing liquid to shampoo. Even some ‘eco’ brands use these chemicals.

How can SLS and SLES affect your 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.

We need to know more about ingredients in the products we buy
According to a recent Colmar Brunton survey, most Kiwis have little knowledge of the ingredients used in 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:

  1. Cleaning product brands aren’t obliged to be transparent about what’s in their products so they often aren’t making it impossible to know what’s in their products or to research their ingredients.
  2. Many questionable 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.
  3. 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.
  4. SLS and SLES go by many other names, or may just be listed as ‘Anionic surfactants.’

What can you do?

  1. Thanks to 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.
  2. Look for products that list all of their ingredients on their labels. An incomplete list of ingredients may mean they have something to hide.
  3. Do your own research: use reliable resources such as EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to find safety scores for thousands of products.
  4. 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.

6 Responses to “What are SLS and SLES doing in your dishwashing liquid and shampoo?”

  1. Hayley says:

    I love your products due to the fact they don’t contain any SLS, although I’m still allergic to something in your dishwashing liquid! Can’t figure out what it is though. I trialled a dishwash liquid for you last year and it was incredible! I had no reaction to it at all. Keep up the good work.

  2. Talia says:

    I am so glad people are finaly realising how nasty SLS is! I have been super sensitive to anything with SLS for YEARS and have battled to find any shampoo / bodywash / facewash / handsoap / liquid laundry detergent that doesnt contain SLS or equivalent… hopefully now more and more products will begin to exclude this NASTY chemical :)

  3. Tineke says:

    thanks for this article These chemicals are even found in toothpaste.
    maybe Ecostore could do a toothpaste range full of ingredients that will actually benefit the body when absorbed in the mouth as the good toothpastes in the organic and health stores are pretty pricey.

  4. Rhed says:

    I am low in iron because of pregnancy. So I have just been prescribed some iron supplements. Sodium Lauryl sulphate is one of the ingredients in said supplements. It’s thanks to your products that alarm bells went off in my head…

    I am having trouble working out why doctors/midwives do not have any issues encouraging pregnant woman to eat them.

    I also like the Toothpaste idea

  5. Peter says:

    I’m allergic to methylchloroisothiazolinone.
    This nasty chemical caiuses bad skin rashes in millions of people around the world and is used in many brands of soaps, shampoos and cleaners and even in wet wipes and baby products! I guess because it’s cheap and extends shelf life.
    I buy your product because you don’t use it
    (You don’t do you?)

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