Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Bad for Skin?

woman washing face with cleanser containing sodium lauryl sulfate
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Many chemical ingredients are used in skincare products. But, do we know all of them and how they work on our skin? You’re probably familiar with skincare ingredients that are beneficial for skin, like hyaluronic acid with vitamin C, and retinol. But what about those skincare ingredients to avoid? Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate bad for skin?

It’s essential information that every person should know, but often people don’t pay much attention to it. If you want amazing skincare results, then you must understand how chemicals work on your skin. Once you know this, you can make proper decisions about what you want in your skincare products and what are those you do not.

Here are details on Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS, which is used in several skincare products.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

SLS stands for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which is a chemical agent heavily used in cleaning products. If your skincare product produces a lot of froth, there is a possibility that it contains this chemical ingredient in it. We may love our bubbles, but not if can cause damage to our skin.

In general, the SLS is derived from palm oil, coconut oil, and petroleum. It boasts excellent cleaning power due to the soap-foaming abilities. This ingredient is found in almost all products, from shampoos to cleaners. 

SLS is also referred to as a ‘surfactant,’ which means it reduces the surface tension between ingredients, thus increasing its foaming and cleansing properties. So, is sodium lauryl sulfate safe?

Its presence in cleaners is understood, but the use of this ingredient in skincare and beauty products raises a lot of concern. Nonetheless, there is still a debate: is sodium lauryl sulfate bad for skin or not?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate vs Sodium Laureth Sulfate

When it comes to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate, there is a big difference between them. Some people confuse these two ingredients because they aren’t aware of the differences.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is known to have a severe negative impact on the skin if used for a long time. It’s been found to strip off the natural oils from your skin, leaving it dry and cracked. These days, people are genuinely concerned about the adverse impact that the ingredient might have on the skin. Some concerns are related to the risk of cancer development due to the prolonged use of this ingredient. However, there is more research required in this area.

Alternatively, SLES is used for the same reason, but it is way milder than SLS. It does not strip your skin of its natural oils and works gently on the skin. It actually makes your skin look nourished and smooth.

Unlike allantoin which is naturally found in plants and microbes, SLES is generally made after the ethoxylation (a chemical reaction in which ethylene oxide is added) of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. The process changes the chemical formula of the compound, leading it to become SLES.

Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Bad for Your Skin?

According to popular opinion, SLS is not suitable for your skin.

Nonetheless, there is no sufficient evidence to conclusively suggest that SLS leads to development issues, infertility, or cancer. In its safety assessment study of SLS, the International Journal of Toxicology found that SLS is not harmful if used briefly and rinsed from the skin, just like how we use regular shampoos and soaps.

Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts this ingredient in the list of ‘safe to use.’

Another report on the safety assessment of SLS indicates that the ingredient is not at all harmful. However, the report suggested that the SLS limit should not exceed 1% concentration in skincare products. According to this study, the prolonged use of skincare products with SLS can irritate the skin. Other researchers dismiss the ingredient as a carcinogen, likewise describing it as an irritant.

Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Safe or Not?

The key concern then boils down to whether or not to use skin care products with this chemical element. Is sodium lauryl sulfate bad for skin? Most people are still looking for an answer to this question, even when the research concludes it is a safe ingredient.

If you have to use SLS in your skincare, make sure that the concentration is within the prescribed range. Apart from that, aim to avoid chemicals in products that you apply to your skin for an extended period of time. It may help in the retention of skin moisture. If you do use SLS-containing products for an extended period of time, make it a habit to use a good moisturizer.