What is SLES doing in your dishwashing liquid and shampoo?
Despite concerns over the safety of 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 SLES is used in hundreds of products, from dishwashing liquid to shampoo. Even some ‘eco’ brands use these chemicals.
How can SLES affect your health?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- SLES goes by many other names, or may just be listed as ‘Anionic surfactants.’
What can you do?
- 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 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 SLES
Anything to add? Agree/disagree? Let us know in the comments field below, we’d love to hear what you think.