Shampoos Without Sodium Laureth Sulfate – The Hidden Dangers of Sulfates (SLS/SLES) That Every Family Should Know

Shampoos free of sodium laureth sulfate (SLES for short) are in high demand these days, as consumers learn more about the dangers of this ingredient that’s found in hundreds of everyday personal care products.

What are sulfates, you ask?  The long and short of it is this: Sodium Lauryl or Laureth Sulfate is used to create foam and lather in hundreds of products used by families every, single day – multiple times a day.  Otherwise known as “foaming boosters,” SLS/SLES are an inexpensive way for manufacturers to give consumers that “rich and creamy” lather and foam they expect in everything from their soap, to their toothpaste, to shaving cream, mouthwash and shampoo. SLS/SLES rank as a prominent ingredient in clothing detergent and dishwashing liquid as well.

But if these sulfates are in thousands of products that we use every day, then what’s the big deal, right?

Like so many other ingredients that are left off of labels, consumers are completely unaware of the dangerous byproducts that are produced by chemical processes used to make products.   Have you ever heard of “1,4-Dioxane?”  It’s not surprising if you haven’t.

1,4-dioxane is a petroleum-derived carcinogenic compound that is used intentionally in dry cleaning solvents, lacquers and automotive coolant. 1,4-dioxane also shows up in personal care products because it is the byproduct of chemical ingredient manufacturing processes.  This includes the process by which sodium lauryl sulfate becomes sodium laureth sulfate. The latter SLS (or SLES, as it is sometimes known) is used in products that make suds, like shampoo, bubble bath and body wash.

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Independent lab results released in February 2007, revealed 1,4-dioxane contamination in children’s bath products, as well as many adult products.  1,4-dioxane is a known animal carcinogen and probable human carcinogen, as well as a skin and lung irritant.  It is strongly suspected to be toxic to the kidneys and nervous system.  It also appears on California’s Proposition 65 list of substances known to cause cancer or birth defects.”  For more about 1,4-dioxane, see the September 2007 public health statement from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Studies show that 1,4-dioxane can be vacuumed-stripped out of personal care products at very little cost.  Manufacturers have chosen to avoid this additional step in an effort to keep their costs low and increase profits – all at the expense of your health!  Since this ingredient is present in many foaming and sudsing products, consumers (and their children) may be exposed to 1,4-dioxane multiple times each day, by using different personal care products.  Since 1,4-dioxane figures so prominently in popular clothing detergents, consumers also are exposed each time they wear their freshly washed clothes.

1,4-dioxane is considered an “impurity,” not an intentional ingredient.  For this reason, it does not appear on ingredient labels.  For consumers, that means required knowledge to avoid any products containing petrochemical ingredients that often include 1,4-dioxane contamination. These include the ingredients or partial ingredient names: “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” “-eth-” (such as sodium laureth sulfate), “oxynol,” “ceteareth” or “oleth.”

The Environmental Working Group has stated that, “When it comes to harmful impurities in cosmetics and personal care, 1,4-dioxane is just the tip of the iceberg.  Our analyses show that 80 percent of all products may be contaminated with one or more of the two dozen recognized cosmetic impurities that are linked to cancer and other health concerns. According to government and industry studies, these trace contaminants in petroleum-based ingredients often readily penetrate the skin, and their presence in products is not restricted by government safety standards — they are legal at any level.”

The EWG went on to state, “In our 2004 online survey of the cosmetics and personal care products used by 2,300 people, we found that impurities are so ubiquitous that one of every five adults is potentially exposed every day to all of the top seven carcinogenic impurities common to personal care product ingredients — hydroquinone, ethylene dioxide, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, nitrosamines, PAHs and acrylamide.”

Valley Green Naturals shampoos are made without sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate.  In your search for safer body care, look for products that are labeled “SLS-free” or “SLES-free.”  Also check for chemical preservatives, such as methyl- and propylparabens, ingredients that have been found in breast tumor tissues, and that are reported to adversely affect development of male reproductive organs and cause hormone disruption.   

Most companies refuse to use safe alternatives to foaming boosters and chemical preservatives because it’s too expensive.  For this reason, consumers need to put the same effort into researching ingredient labels on their personal care products that they do when looking at the foods they eat.  Safe alternative ingredients in truly natural products would include organic saponified oils, Vitamin E (non-GMO), rosemary extract, rice bran oil and potassium sorbate.  

In addition to Valley Green Naturals products, companies that are committed to manufacturing body-safe shampoos include Burt’s Bees, Dr. Bronner and Terressentials.

Valley Green Naturals is committed to using only the purest and safest ingredients in our organic shampoos, natural hair conditioners, and body-safe skin care products.  We know what’s safe, and what is not.  And it’s our job to help educate others and demand safe products for ourselves and our families.

To your enlightened good health!

Cindy DeVore & The Team at Valley Green


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