My absolute favorite part of the day is coming home and taking a relaxing, hot shower. I love the feeling of cleanliness, which usually requires some sort of body wash or bar soap. But, I never realized popular body washes on the market could actually have some very dirty by-products.
What to Look Out For
The ingredients you want to be cautious of are sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate/ammonium laureth sulfate (SLS/SLES/ALS), PEG compounds, parabens, fragrance, and color additives.
Okay, so we’ve finally gotten to the topic of SLS. Most of the time, we hear that we should avoid certain chemicals, but we never know why; we just know it’s “bad” for us. This was the case with SLS, for me at least. If you’ve strolled through a body wash aisle lately, you probably noticed many products labeled as SLS free.
What exactly is SLS and is it truly harmful?
SLS is a very effective surfactant, meaning it cleans well and has the ability to create a foaming lather. That’s why you commonly see it in toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, and cleaning products. SLS actually ranks as a low hazard on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) site, so what’s the big deal then?
One minor concern with SLS is irritation to the skin and eyes. Human patch tests, typically performed over 24 hours, have shown SLS in concentrations greater than 2% to be irritating to the skin. The higher the concentration and the longer the exposure time, the more likely it is to cause irritation. Therefore, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review recommends concentrations not to exceed 1%; many products list SLS as the second ingredient though, meaning it’s in high concentration.
Most of the worry with SLS is due to the possibility of contamination. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is often converted to the less harsh sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) by a process called ethoxylation. This manufacturing process creates the by-product 1,4-dioxane, which is possibly carcinogenic to humans and is on California’s Prop 65 list. So, let’s clear up some rumors–SLS itself is NOT a carcinogen. 1,4-dioxane is the real culprit and ranks a whopping 8/10 on EWG.
(Let’s clear up another myth circulating around the internet. SLS can irritate the eyes, but it does not cause cataracts or blindness.)
As consumers, how do we avoid 1,4-dioxane?
The FDA doesn’t mandate 1,4-dioxane be on an ingredient list since it’s a by-product of manufacturing. This requires consumers to be savvy shoppers. Organic standards do not allow ethoxylation, so purchase products that are certified USDA organic. If you can’t find organic options, then avoid products that contain SLES/ALS, PEG compounds, polyethylene, and chemicals that include -xynol, -ceteareth, and -oleth.
The sad part is manufacturers could easily remove 1,4-dioxane from products by vacuum stripping, they just choose not to take that extra step. The FDA encourages manufacturers to do so, but it’s not required by federal law at this time.
How about environmental concerns?
SLS as a raw material is considered moderately toxic to aquatic life. Usually though, SLS is diluted in the bath products we use, so the effect could be slightly less. The repercussions are dependent on other factors as well, like water temperature, water hardness, and the marine species.
What’s the take away?
Sodium lauryl sulfate is not as bad as we make it out to be. Yes, it’s an irritant. Yes, it can be toxic to aquatic life, so you should still avoid it, especially if you love fish and turtles (which we do!). Most importantly, remember to avoid its evil cousins sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate because 1,4-dioxane is probably lurking close by.
About Our Body Wash
Naked Turtle is so excited to announce the launch of our first product. It’s a healthy, natural body wash made with all organic oils, meaning it’s good for you and the Earth! It’s such a versatile, safe soap that you can use it as a hand soap, dish soap, and household cleaner! Choose from unscented, lavender eucalyptus, and cedarwood. More scents to come!
Better Than the Rest
- SLS free
- Paraben free
- Phthalate free
- No artificial colors
- No synthetic fragrances
- Vegan Friendly
- 100% biodegradable
- BPA-free packaging
- Cruelty free