Sodium Laureth Sulphate in a Shampoo- Yay or Nay?

by Rati on February 21, 2010 · 40 comments

hair careA 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.

Source

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.

Source

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.

Source

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.

Source
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. :P
  • 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

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

HD February 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Hey Rati, very informative post. I hv thick hair with a lot of volume such tht I cn never lv my hair open without straightening. Its mostly always tied except for specially ocassions whn I straighten if I want to lv it open so atleast the hair looks settled. But recently I was recommend loreal professional shampoo by this guy at the parlour whr I gt haircut and its working wonderfully well..my hair looks so much better and settled even whn I don’t apply conditioner which I could not even imagine earlier..used to use dove shampoo until I strtd using loreal…I wud highly recommend it..the price is oc much higher thn the other shampoos available in market , but for me its all worth it!! N yes I checked it has SLS..

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Rati February 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm

HI HD,

The other day my hairdresser was also suggesting Loreal hair products. I have not used them yet but now that you have also mentioned, I guess I am gonna give them a try. I have also used Dove in past but I like Sunsilk more. :P

Thanks for the reco. :)

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Rima Kaur February 21, 2010 at 7:46 pm

i alternate between dove and loreal professional because i read somewhere that each shampoo leaves a residue in the scalp, which can decrease the efficacy of the product over time. for example, the same shampoo that worked wonders a month ago may not give the same results today. loreal professional is expensive, so i suggest buying larger bottles. more economical that way. i have the respective conditioners of both shampoos, but use them only once in a while. not on a regular basis, because i don’t find them necessary. the shampoos are pretty good on their own. as far as these chemicals are concerned, i don’t really go through the ingredients list of products i buy. there, i said it! :D

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Rati February 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Guess, I really need to give Loreal a go. :) Conditioners are necessary but you are young no so you could enjoy the carelesness for many more years. :P

I also don’t bother putting to much brains into the ingredient list because I have no bloody clue what a Cocamidopropyl is . :P However I do give a glance at the list and understand whatever I can. :)

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HD February 21, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Hey Rima, I completely agree with you tht every shampoo stops working after a certain period of time. I’ve experienced tht a lot in the past but dint really knw the reason behind it.I strtd using dove since the time it got launched and it was working really well for me until a few months back whn dove completely stopped working on my hair and thts whn I strtd using loreal and its dng wonders for me. Until now I could never just shampoo my hair coz of my hair type but w loreal I don’t hv to use conditioner every time..I agree tht buying the bigger bottle is more economical..since I was using it fr the first time I bght the smaller one but now I will get hold of the biggest bottle I can find ;)

Rati, I’ve heard frm couple of ppl tht lot of conditioning is also nt good for hair…and now since loreal is working really well fr me I use conditioner only once or twice a month..

Btw..I visited the beauty shop today n bght the lakme eye artist, BK almond eye cream n BK nail and cuticles cream..I am already loving the eye artist ;)

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Rati February 21, 2010 at 10:50 pm

HD, I also keep changing shampoos but not too much. I keep coming back to my old ones then going on tot new ones and the old ones again. :P

I didn’t know about the conditioning fact. Guess, I’ll figure it out. :)

Glad gald. Achha, apply almond cream only on under eyes and if you are applying on eye lids as well just wipe it off after 20 mins only from the lids. You might end up getting puffy eyes otherwise. This doesn’t hold true for everyone but for me I do get puffy eyes if I apply anything oily on my lids overnight. I confirmed it from the company’s executive. :)

Glad you liking the eye artist. :)

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Alpa February 22, 2010 at 4:27 am

wrong article to post this comment …but revlon matte lipsticks are amazingg … i bought mauve it over and pink pout … pink pout looks awesome on me .. and i am a bit fair for mauve it over so no luck with that color for me .. i ll buy wine not next .. and you know i think you can help me with a post on How to Select Lip Color :D .. too much of demand .. but i know you will do it .. you are a sweetheart :D

Thanks for the recommendation ..
Cos of your advice ‘I am a lipstick girl now’ :D

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Rati February 22, 2010 at 9:43 am

lol!! it’s okay. :P I have not loved mattes so much. Revlon mattes are really good. I think there these guys have exchange policies or return policies on cosmetics. Why don’t you check?

OKay I” see if I could write a post on that. It’s difficult but I’ll try. Try using mauve one with a gloss or a lip balm on top. It might soften the colour?

Most welcome. Glad, glad! :)

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Palak February 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Hehe , I second everyone , You SHOULD try Loreal range of shampoos . em using then since 12 and I swear they are the BEST(trust me , I have used sauve , garnier,loreal,clinic plus,dove and n number of shampoos!) … I do switch to new shampoos now and then but always come back to them !
even I heard the shampoo does goes ineffective after certain period , so I try to use deep cleansing shampoo once a week !

I am little paranoid about my hair , so I always make it a point to use conditioner after every wash .. these days em loving sauve elixir (volume boosting one) and my all time fav. Loreal nutrigloss

Here’s my secret – Apply curd mixed with fenugreek seeds(methi dana) on hair , keep it for 15minutes .. You’ll get the most dazzling shine !!
This was told by my hairdresser , N I love him for that :D
it’s very effective on my hair . Do try when you have lot’s of time to waste :P

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Palak February 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Did I forget to mention that I don’t care about the ingredients , I hardly take a look at them , Yes I am ignorant ! what made it worse is the F^&*@#$ organic chemistry in the ingredients list !!
Like my 7 inches wide Pradeep’s aint enuf .. Hmmmff !!(oh yes , I measured it !)

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HD February 22, 2010 at 2:46 pm

thanks Rati for the tip…i’ve started using it since yest…lets see if it works wonders for me….
I too agree with Palak’s curd tip…it works as a wonderful conditioner….used it many times

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piya February 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm

hi rati,

would u also recommend Loreal Elvive shampoo?? i also wana give a try to have a good texture n for shiny hair…tell me is it worth?

take care

Piya

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piya February 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm

hi Rati,

Forgot to tell u that i was unable to put eye shadow over eyeliner.
i tried on sunday but unable to do so….

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Rati February 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Palak,

lolzZ I have hated Organic chemistry at school and these makeup world is forcing me to get back to chemistry. The other day I finally ended up saying to my hubby, “crap! this is all science”. :D

You measure your books? Can understand. :P

I apply curd to my hair sometimes but since I have this sniffer;s nose, I keep oit to very min imal. It’s works as a great onditiner. Will try it with the fenugreek.

What’s up with your exam prep?

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Rati February 22, 2010 at 3:12 pm

HD, gotta try it. Hope the eye cream works for you. :)

Piya, not used Loreal shampoos ever. Now since all these guys are prising the Loreal hair care range, you might give it a try. In fcat, I am myself going to give it a try.

What brush did you use to apply shadow over liner?

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piya February 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm

rati, i used a thick sponge brush that comes with the eyeshadow kit.

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Ratior a February 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Piya,

You have to pat the colour on the liner step by step rather than glide the shadow on the liner.

And no, the thick sponge wouldn’t work becasue the liner application is thin. So with a thick sponge you would end up putting colour all over. Take either an angled brush, a thin brush or a listick brush thinner sponge if you have nothing at all.

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Cynthia Zacharica February 22, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I don’t know what to say about this…lol…I use anything anything that works for me. My favs r L’oreal Professionel range, Herbal Essences, Pantene, Sunsilk.
Hate Dove! Oh, the hair fall…. :\
♥XX♥

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tanveer February 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Hey, missed this post somehow… great research :D

There are a lot of beauty myths going around. It keeps getting tougher by the day to understand what to believe.

I guess I am in the minority here, but I do always go through the list of ingredients. It helps me identify any potential comedogenic ingredients, potential allergens, as well as if the company’s claims can be supported by their formulation. Maybe my science background helps.

But I guess each one to his / her own. We all have our unique way of shopping and tht’s cool too :D

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Rati February 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Tanveer, we don’t come from a background such as yours. It’s a great thing if you are able o identify the ingredients. But these days, i guess companies are making it a little easier by stating “non- comedogenic” kind of tags on the labels. :)

I know there are myths but can’t deny that SLS is hramful and also that we have not much choice around. :)

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Rati February 22, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Cynthia, same hre. Oh! I quite liked Dove. Herbal essences gives me hairfall. :P

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Poornima February 23, 2010 at 11:35 am

I have used Herbal Essences in its earlier avtar and experienced hair loss.

Was planning to try the new one after reading the rave reviews on many sites.But now I guess it is not necessary after reading Cynthias and Rati’s opinion.

Dove has been good to my hair,very mild and all that.

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Rati February 23, 2010 at 11:48 am

Poornima, It’s actually what suits your hair the best. Some people rave about SLS free shampoos but they didn’t work in my favour. I generally purchase small bottles of shampoos before purchasing the big ones. So this way I am able to save my money from going waste. :)

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Melissa March 12, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Thanks soooo much for this… it’s really helped so much…. I’ve been using the Himalaya range so I’m just being patient and waiting for results… your information is really great… I’ve learnt so much…

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Rati March 12, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Hi melissa, welcome to my blog. :) Gald I could be of some help to you.:)

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ritu March 30, 2010 at 6:00 am

hi.i have thick & very dry hair.i have tried 1000s of shampoos & conditioners including herbals but nothing worke.particularly no shampoo worked.but i use loreal liss extreme masque as conditioner & it gives amazing results.i tried liss extreme shampoo too but i found it harsh for me.so now i m using jhonsons baby shampoo.bcoz it has no chemicals in it & also with no tear formula.it cleanses hair efficiently.u need 2 apply lot of it though to get cleansed hair.and w/e oil is stripped off is compensated my masque & u get hair free of tangles.if u guys know any good shampoo & conditioner mild enough 4 daily use then plz tell me.thx

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Rati March 30, 2010 at 11:39 am

I am using Loreal repir 5 and it is kind of suiting my hair. I also like Sunsilk’s black and yellow shmapoos but not many people like it. A doc siggested Himalaya’s protein shampoo to one of the readers out here and I havea also used it. It’s mild and does not have harmful chemicals. You may give that a try.

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shilpa June 29, 2010 at 8:47 pm

hey is sodium laryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate same or different…..???i have heard that sodium laureth sulfate is relatively milder…….but not sure./….
i use schwarzkopf shampoo……its just wonderful..people with dry hair must try its moisture kick shampoo and hair mask……its to die for…..

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sandhya August 28, 2010 at 12:07 am

hi ppl read all ur comments …was very informative ….. recently i started using clinic plus shampoo and my hair has become very dry and tre has been heavy hair loss … what about aroma magic shampoo and conditioner …can someone help me….i like to use herbal products !!and aroma magic face wash does it help :-)

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Febin September 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm

:-) Hi everyone. There is a shampoo which is SLS, paraben, formaldehyde free which is called Hairomax Nalikera shampoo made with virgin coconut oil and it has three varieties. Popular and reputed brand here in Kerala.. Not sure whether it is available rest of India but worth checking online. I am now using biotique shampoo for past 2 years.. does not add shine or anything great.. but my hairfall actually stopped..I am sure that it has SLS cause they dont mention it on the pack and it laters well. Himalaya has SLS and parabens but i am now using the protein conditioner and its okay…I have been using ayurvedic oil Neelibringhadi for past one year.. Its great gals.. Worth a try. I think that stopped my hairfall. Dont try to use random brands. Buy from Kottakal..Keeping the scalp clean is important for good hair at all times..Cheerrs :) 8-)

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Monalisa October 9, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Can anyone please tell me whether the VLCC shampoos are sls free?

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Samin November 14, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Hi Rati..
Am new to IMBB n bcome a real fan of it..
I got dis mail abt SLS long bak n really got worried…rushed to each bathrooms to check th shampoos..found it in head & shoulders, dove damage repair – antidandruff..
Bt bcame happy wen i chekd Pantene – shampoo conditinr for dry hairs..it doesnt has SLS listd in its ingredients.. Now i bought Pantene – anti hairfall..it too doesnt has SLS.. :)

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Harshita July 30, 2011 at 2:36 am

How about Garnier Fructis?? No one mentioned about it even :| … oil plus shampoo range sucks like anything…but long and strong works for me…i keep on switching between loreal total repair 5 n garnier fructis! :shy:

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anna August 26, 2011 at 4:54 pm

does avon shapoo contains any of these hairfull chemicals?

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deepa June 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm

hi everyone! thot i wud mention Matrix Biolage Smoothing Shampoo.Its great fr dry hair.

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