A few days back I received this mail from a reader:
Are you aware of any SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) free shampoos or Bio shampoos as they are commonly called and conditioners available in India. I’ve been trying to find one but have so far been unsuccessful.
I’ve recently become a mother and as with all new mothers I’ve been a victim of hair loss and dandruff. I tried a few desi nuskas but they don’t seem to work or either I’m trying for too short a period. I have dry, rough, now damaged thick wavy hair.
I am aware of SLS present in shampoos, face washes, body washes, detergents etc. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate /(SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are surfactants and are both expected to produce foam in products.
Since I am not a dermatologist or a scientist, I have picked up extracts from the research I did regarding the same.
Why is a dangerous chemical like sodium lauryl sulfate used in our soaps and shampoos?
The answer is simple – it is cheap. The sodium lauryl sulfate found in our soaps is exactly the same as you would find in a car wash or even a garage, where it is used to degrease car engines.
In the same way as it dissolves the grease on car engines, sodium lauryl sulfate also dissolves the oils on your skin, which can cause a drying effect. It is also well documented that it denatures skin proteins, which causes not only irritation, but also allows environmental contaminants easier access to the lower, sensitive layers of the skin.
Perhaps most worryingly, SLS is also absorbed into the body from skin application. Once it has been absorbed, one of the main effects of sodium lauryl sulfate is to mimic the activity of the hormone Oestrogen. This has many health implications and may be responsible for a variety of health problems from PMS and Menopausal symptoms to dropping male fertility and increasing female cancers such as breast cancer, where oestrogen levels are known to be involved.
On the other hand, SLS has been used in shampoo for over fifty years by millions of people, millions of times, repeatedly. So why isn’t everyone bald? There is a glut of possible reasons. Some people may be more sensitive to SLS than others, perhaps some sort of mild allergic reaction. It’s possible people with male pattern baldness may be more susceptible to the alleged evils of SLS. Some people may use less shampoo and so are less exposed, or maybe they rinse their hair more thoroughly, so there is less residue. Hair length could be a factor. The more hair you have the more dilute the residue will be on your hair and scalp, a possible reason why women don’t bald as much as men.
Scenario 1 – Imagine washing your hair with just plain water.
From a chemical view point, scrubbing your hair and using warm water will help dislodge some oil, but really not that much
Scenario 2 – Washing your hair with SLS containing shampoo
When a surfactant such as SLS is used, oil can be dissolved away from the hair. The hair is left squeaky clean and oil free. This is because SLS can form micelles which help carry the oil away during the rinsing of the shampoo.
Now not everyone wants squeaky clean hair. Curly hair does pretty well with some oil on it. However if you are trying to get rid of a silicone product, have too much oil on your hair or have used a product that you didn’t like and your conditioner isn’t helping you, some SLS shampoo may actually work to give you a clean slate.
There are surfactants in conditioner (for example behentrimonium chloride) , but these are not nearly as comparable to SLS.
Sodium lauryl sulphate is sodium laureth sulphate chemically combined with ethylene oxide to form larger molecules. Why on earth should anyone be concerned about the size of the molecules? Well, one reason is because small molecules, such as those of sodium laureth sulphate can pass through skin into the body where they enter the blood stream and build up in the internal organs – especially the brain and kidneys. Bearing in mind what sodium laureth sulphate does to the comparatively tough skin, I hate to think what it can do to the gentle internal organs.
I personally went around to check which all shampoos have SLS or SLES. Following is the list. The tick against the shampoo name indicates that the product has either SLS or SLEs present in it.
- Garnier Fructis Shampoo √
- VO5 Shampoo √
- Alberto Balsm Shampoo √
- Pantene Shampoo √
- Head and Shoulder’s Shampoo √
- Sunsilk Shampoo √
- Clicnic Plus Shampoo √
- Neutrogena Face Wash √
- SebaMed Shampoo√
- Flex Shampoo √
- Boot’s Shampoo √
- Wella Biotouch Shampoo √
- Vatika Shampoo √
- Dove Shampoo√
- St. Ives Face Wash √
- Loreal Repair Total Shampoo √
- Khadi Shampoo- doesn’t state the full ingredients but their facewash has SLS so I am not sure
- Pears Shampoo- Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate ( Ammonium lauryl sulfate, like any other surfactant, makes a good base for cleansers because of the way it disrupts the hydrogen bonding in water.)
- Blossom Kochhar’s Shampoo- No SLS mentioned on label
- Biotique Shampoo – No SLS mentioned on label
- Himalaya’s Shampoo- No SLS mentioned on label
- Ayur Herbal Shampoo: Doesn’t state any ingredient list. Use at your own risk.
- Neutrogena Face Wash √
- Neutrogena Shampoo √
- Shehnaz Hussain (Shamla) No SLS mentioned on label
- Joves No SLS mentioned on label
My personal take: I am not taking any stand against whether SLS is harmful or not harmful and also the fact that almost 95 percent of shampoos, cleansers etc. have sls present in them so it would not be harmful. I generally oil my hair the night before washing them so my main concern remains that my shampoos should clean my scalp and remove oil from my hair. I have used Biotique’s shampoo in past but all I would end up using a huge amount of shampoo and still my hair couldn’t get rid of the oil. Ultimately I used have oily hair even after washing and sticky hair used to attract dirt. I also ended up having brittle- lifeless hair. The Biotique’s shampoo used to work fine on my hair when I used to wash my hair without oiling. But I discontinued using it and came back to my trusted Yellow Sunsilk. My hair were fine again- nice, shiny and the ones I would be proud to flaunt. I keep my hair open most of the time, so for me the main purpose of my shampoo is cleaning of scalp and hair both. The whole concept is about what suits your hair and what not. Every single cosmetic that we use is a formulation of chemicals. Most of our beauty products have parabeans present in it and parabeans are said to be harmful for your skin. So would you stop using makeup? Depending on whether I have oiled my hair or not, I alternate between Sunsilk Yellow and Himalaya’s Protein Shampoo.My scalp and hair are both happy. Also, I keep my shampoo routine pretty short. A quick application, rubbing with fingers and rinsing it off. It is followed by a conditioner. Oiling and conditioning is necessary. And that’s what I do.I’d say you would have to test and try shampoos or the oils that suit your hair the best. If you don’t try you would not know what keeps your scalp and hair healthy. PS: You are free to agree or disagree with me. This is quite a controversial topic so take it as informational post and test and try shampoos according to what suits best for your hair.
So which shampoo do you use? SLS based or non SLS based?
In my upcoming posts I will talk about hair care in general and hair care after pregnancy. Following is my hair care routine