FAN MAIL FRIDAYS: SLES and SLS: Are They Really harmful?

Jeezus, I think I just had my 3rd bath today. It's sooooo dang hot. :( Our Fan Mail Fridays for today reminds me of bathing, and I think I might have another one before I hit the sack! By the way, thanks Ivy for sending in this query!

Hi Martha!
I just read your blog post regarding Sulfate- Free shampoos and conditioners and this got me wondering, is Sulfate really that harmful to the skin or health? Looking forward to your reply! 
Your fan,

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Hi Ivy!

Thanks for reading the blog post! Ah, SLS and SLES, one of the most misunderstood ingredients in the Beauty Industry along with Petrolatum, Paraben, and Mineral Oil. First, here's a little info about  SLS and SLES. :)

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Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is different from Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), although it's easy to confuse the two. Actually, SLES is a milder version of SLS where a chemical is added to make it less irritating. Despite the difference in formulation, SLS and SLES do the same thing: They are surfactants or foaming agents that produce suds and bubbles, two of the things that make bath time a little more fun.

Both surfactants are cheap that's why they're widely used in commercial cleaning agents. SLS is used in floor cleaners, detergents, and any household cleaning agent-it's no longer used in body products as it's pretty harsh, but there could still be a few beauty brands out there that use it. SLES is now widely used in shampoos, toothpaste, facial wash, conditioners, hair mask, bar soap, hand soap, and body wash. These foaming agents rid the skin and scalp of grease and dirt, and makes 'em feel cleaner and fresher.

But are they really harmful to the skin and can they really cause cancer?

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Internet rumors state that SLS and SLES can cause Cancer and again, this remains a theory up to this day-some studies even suggest that it doesn't cause Cancer at all, although they're considered as irritants. People with sensitive skin may experience dryness, rashes, and flaking as both chemicals strip the skin of necessary moisture-I think this is the main reason why brands have started churning out Sulfate- free alternatives to their regular products. Coconut- oil derived surfactants are becoming popular nowadays as an alternative to these chemical surfactants so if you tend to break out from regular body, face, and hair cleansers, you should consider switching to SLS and SLES- free ones.

Other than skin irritation, there's no reason to fear SLS and SLES. Hope you've learned something new today. :)

**Got a burning question about makeups, skin care products, beauty, dieting, and health tips, relationships, and whatever? Just send them to or shoot 'em up at The Beauty Junkee's FB Fan Page via the MESSAGE button and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. (Please, do not send me Math- related queries. :D)

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15 Lovely Thoughts

  1. Nice read! I really am not that much aware with the ingredients of the products that I use. Just a curious question, are SLS and SLES also a factor dandruffs or splits-ends and stuff? :o

  2. I'm not one to take half-baths, so I end up washing my hair twice in the summer (even though I have long hair that takes forever to dry). I have both a regular shampoo and a sulfate-free shampoo, and the biggest difference I've noticed is that my hair is softer after the rinse using sulfate-free. However, I hate the fact that it doesn't lather as well as my regular shampoo does. :(

    What I've been doing the last few weeks is I use the regular shampoo only once-per-day. If I shower again, it's the sulfate-free shampoo that's whipped out. I know switching back and forth isn't recommended, but I haven't had any problems so far. Maybe because the other shampoo is milder.


  3. I like using natural products on my hair. One of my favorites is from the popular Philippine brand, Human Nature because their products are guaranteed. I like their shampoos particularly because they do not contain SLS which they say strips off moisture from your hair and because my scalp is easily irritated. I agree that foamy shampoos are a lot fun to use though. Thank you for sharing this informative read!

  4. Maybe the trick to not experience dryness, itchiness, etc. is to not use the products with SLS and SLES daily. Try switching them with sulfate-free products. :)

  5. Wow.great question.:)
    Kinda confuse too. No need to worry pala..

    Thanks for the info ! :)

  6. This is such an interesting post. I am not really aware bout the ingredients included in my everyday bathing. What about conditioners? Do they also have sls? I am really curious bout this since it is harmful pala. But I know some natural method to shampoo your hair like using baking soda and vinegar. It makes your hair shiny, swear! Though the smell is not as good as shampoo, safe naman and all natural :)

  7. I tried human nature's shampoo before because I had a bad case of hairfall, thinking that it could save my hair because its sulfate free but it dries my hair big time so I started using regular shampoos again and my hair is became okay again, I actually like it better as long as it works and its not overly rich or oily.

    But Caroline Hirons does not approve of sulfates when it comes to facial washes, according to her it turns our facial skin into alkaline thereby making it more prone to acne. I want to follow her advice but I can't let go of my facial soaps and washes with sulfates. I have super oily skin and I really want that super clean feeling!

  8. Before I was really careful in choosing what shampoo to use because of this SLS and SLES. I used to try different organic products like HHN and the likes, but then those shampoos na walang sls, sles made my hair hard to manage, tangled... I guess it's not that harmful naman if it has sls, kaya back to regular shampoos na ulit ako :D

  9. Great info! I recently been seeing a lot of articles about sulfate-free shampoos and it kinda made me worry but as what they say, not all you read is fact so thank you for posting this articles. It does help in clearing some confusion.

  10. this is nice. I actually dont care if the product has sulfate as long as I buy a product from a trusted brand and from a credible store that sells stuff that are only approved by our FDA, the only thing here is if you are allergic to sulfate, then you may opt for a product that is sulfate free. Now I know that sles are not really that harsh because these are still theories.

  11. Wow. Now ko lang binasa mga Fanmails post mo. Ganda pala. napaka informative. Tuloy mo lang 'to Sis. dagdag kaalaman din 'to sa mga readers mo. :)

  12. Lei: yes, because they can be too drying for the scalp. Dandruff is actually shedding, overly dry skin!

    Ricalyn: Thanks! Glad you liked 'em :)

    Cincincin: Thanks for reading :D

    Donna and Kaye: Welcome! :D

    Sincere: yup, as long as you know how and when to give your hair some rest, then it should be okay! :D

    Eiss: To answer that, this is why it is recommended for you to tone to bring back acidity and moisturize to re-balance your skin. Actually, water alone can make your skin alkaline! :)

    Aegeanne: Yes they have too. :) Vinegar is good for taking out residue such as silicones and wax due to regular hair cleansing products-you just have to put up with the smell though. :D

    Knickknacksnix and Dearkat: Welcome :)

    Rizza: true that!

    Matromao: Actually, that's over-rinsing, if you don't mind me telling you this. :) I understand that it makes you feel fresher and cleaner, but it can cause your hair to be drier in the long run. Maybe for your second rinse, you can opt for sls and sles- free shampoos and conditioners that have natural oil extracts in them such as Argan oil. :)

  13. I only avoid shampoo with Sulfate because that's what the people at the salon told me when I had my Keratin Treatment. I didn't know it has harmful effects too :O

  14. ahhh.. i like this post.. diko alam harmful pala talga iyon, buti nabasa ko ito. kahit di naman talaga siya nakaka cancer i may switch to a organic nalang para surely safe .. Thanks Martha for this very informative post :)


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