The Science of Sulfates: Is SLS harmful?

Published on Oct 01, 2013 in Facts

Many people sway away from any bottle listing Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate due to the fact that word of mouth condemns it as harmful.

The primary concern consumers are wary of is the myth that sulfates cause cancer. Not only is there no evidence or conclusive experimentation to back up the claim, many sulfate-free shampoos use this as a promotional tactic for health-conscious customers to purchase their product instead. There is no link between sulfates and cancer.

So What’s The Deal With Sulfates

Take care of your hair so it can take care of you

Take care of your hair so it can take care of you

Sulfates are indeed a skin and eye irritant. Alone and not included in a formula which contains properties to promote moisture control, it has the potential of stripping the natural oils of the hair. For shampoos which offer no health benefits and use sulfates as their primary foaming agent, it can be worse than using no shampoo at all.

Yet, there are many shampoos which include health benefits that override any negative effects this detergent can have on the scalp. For example, Degrease and Hydrate are both moisture control shampoos which balance the sebum secretion levels in the right direction, which is what produces the natural oils for your hair. Countless other shampoos boasting effective actives use sulfates as their foaming agents based on the fact that the alternatives are rated much more harmful.

A primary competitor to SLS are the parabens – which have been found in breast cancer tumors. Parabens and sulfates are compounds which many shampoos utilize for both its easy compatibility with other synthetic ingredients, but the health risks they pose is one of the largest hazards in the cosmetic community. Sodium Methylparaben, an additional alternative, is also a health hazard – both are rated between 7 and 9 on the 1-out-of-10 danger scale by Skin Deep.

Cosmetics Products That Might Use Sulfates

The bottom line is that once you become hip to Sulfates you will realize they are everywhere. This isn’t meant to invoke fear. Like I mentioned above there is no conclusive evidence that Sulfates are dangerous for us. If you do a quick investigation you will probably see that Sulfates are in most things in your bathroom. Shampoo, toothpaste, and lotions all have varying degrees of Sulfates in their ingredients. It is a foaming agent so you could make the assumption that if you use a cosmetic that foams odds are there is Sulfate. It should be noted that there are many companies using a form of Sulfate that is extracted from plants. This natural version can potentially be healthier for you. Most “organic” shampoos use this variety of sulfate.

The Importance of Using Safe Shampoo

The shampoo you use is extremely important. It can have a major effect on your hair health. Whether you use a shampoo with SLS or not the key is that the shampoo works with your hair type. We were all born with a hair type and it is important to know which shampoos work best with it. If you are having issues with oily hair you wouldn’t want to use a curly hair shampoo. This is because these kinds of shampoos focus on moisturizing which can make oily hair even oilier. The point I am trying to make is; educate yourself about the different kinds of shampoos on the market. Your hair is an extension of who you are so treating it with care is ideal. Using a safe shampoo for your hair should be of utmost importance.


Sulfates are everywhere. They affect everyone differently. They are certainly not as dangerous as the general consensus makes them out to be. SLS is an ingredient like any other, and anybody who has an allergic reaction is categorized as no different than somebody having an allergic reaction to a different ingredient. As long as you are using a shampoo for the betterment of your scalp health, you can avoid all of the floating myths about the non-existent rumors of this detergent.