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SLS and Skin Distress

SLS and Skin Distress

A large proportion of the cosmetic products that we use on a daily basis may contain SLS.

Unfortunately, SLS doesn’t stand for Super Luxury Soap nor is it Seriously Lovely Shampoo!

SLS or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is primarily a surfactant which may act as a detergent, emulsifier or foaming agent. It is found in many personal care products including cleansers, moisturisers, shampoo, shower gel and toothpaste. It is also used in heavy duty industrial cleaners such as car shampoo although in a much higher percentage than found in personal care products. It is a very effective and inexpensive ingredient.  

The thing about SLS is that it is a known skin irritant so if your skin is sensitive or you suffer from any skin conditions like eczema or dermatitis then this ingredient is probably a good one to avoid.

SLS strips away all the natural oils from the surface of the skin and reduces the effectiveness of skin function therefore leaving the skin more vulnerable to irritation.

SLS is actually used as a benchmark against which cosmetic scientists can measure the skin irritancy of other ingredients.

Although SLS can be derived from a natural source (such as coconut) it is anything but natural and the source ingredient goes through extensive chemical processing in order to produce SLS.   

There have been many studies on the potentially damaging effects of SLS on our skin and one recent study featured on the BBC series Trust Me I’m A Doctor. Dr Chris van Tulleken worked in collaboration with the University of Bath and their experiment produced interesting results. The Dr’s skin was kept in contact with SLS for 6 hour durations daily for 3 weeks. The rate of water loss from his skin at the end of the study had more than tripled.

The conclusion of their experiment was that SLS disrupts the natural oils that maintain the skins barrier function. This not only reduces the skins effectiveness to keep out allergens but may also trigger reactions such as eczema.

In order to keep your skin happy you need to maintain your skins protective function. Dry, itchy or irritated skin are common signs of a damaged barrier function. Products that contain SLS certainly won’t do your skin any favours.