Friday, December 31, 2010

Silly Little Synthetics, or SLS

For years now I have cringed each time I've gone to pick up soap, shampoo, toothpaste or other hygiene products at the store. The knowledge that nearly every name brand product contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or some related chemical has plagued me since I was a kid, when a friend of mine told me that her uncle "puts the foam in soap" and that it was a "very bad chemical"... At the time I had no idea what she was really talking about, but I did manage to grow up with a healthy aversion to the mystery foamy chemical so commonly found in household hygiene products.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, or SLS, is a common chemical in the cleaning industry, used in higher concentrates to break down industrial greases and oils. Various studies indicate that when SLS is used on the skin it does break down the oils, but it also penetrates and is stored in the eyes, heart, liver and even brain where it showed long term retention. Yuck! In addition to that, when stored in the eyes it has shown to cause cataracts in adults, and to inhibit eye development in children. They even use SLS on laboratory animals to irritate the skin so that they can then apply and test healing agents. They also have discovered that when SLS combines with Nitrites it can form cancer-causing carcinogens. Urg. Is it really worth a bit of foam in your soap to threaten your skin or even your life?

Still more interesting is that the use of a corrosive like SLS and it's relatives can cause permanent damage to the lipid-regulating glands that issue protective oils. This can cause either a lack of oils or a surplus, and I suspect may be the reason I have battled acne for much of my life.

This past month I have made an effort to complete my switch to non-synthetic cleaners and hygiene products. Sure, they cost a bit more (or WAY more in the case of cosmetics) but in my mind they are definitely worth it.

To share a bit of what I have started using, here are some photos and links to the web sites.

My greatest discovery has been the Burt's Bees acne solution which has willow bark derived salicylic acid.

Burt's Bees

The Burt's Bees Radiance is a great body wash with a peculiar consistency, but I noticed that it uses "Royal Jelly" and to be honest I've got conflicting morals surrounding the use of royal jelly for anything other than the bees themselves. I'll have to read up some more on it before feeling like this is something I'll buy again.

Burt's Bees

It was interesting to seek out a shampoo that I could use, too. A lot of shampoos hide SLS derivatives in their ingredients under mysterious names (often with a long, winding name in parenthesis after them).

I finally stumbled upon Renpure Organics, which appears to have all natural oils and very little foaming action. It took some time for my hair to be "O.K." with the new shampoo, and I went through some weird phases of oily hair, dry hair, and then one day it all just evened out. I even find with Renpure that I am able to go longer without washing my hair since my follicles have figured out how much oil to produce. I use the "My pretty hair is parched" shampoo and conditioner and it's GREAT for sunbleached I-work-on-a-farm-in-the-summer-sun hair.

One other product I made an effort to switch was toothpaste. Tom's of Maine toothpaste is a staple in many households, but I have to admit I was unimpressed with most of their toothpastes, finding them artificially sweet, strangely gooey and outright gross. I finally Trader Joe's All Natural toothpaste, which is comparable to Tom's, but their sodium bi-carbonate (baking-soda) based is an all natural paste that really tastes/feels all natural. According to my husband, it has the consistency of wet cement, but I can't help but feel completely clean and free of chemical residues after brushing. Woo!

I also use a Tom's of Maine deodorant (though I admit to losing it recently and finding an old tube of name-brand deodorant to use until it shows up again).

Which brands of hygiene products do you use and why?

1 comment:

  1. Like you, I'm off SLS and have been for a few years. I love the Dr. Bronner's soaps, and use Avalon Organics shampoos. I find you don't need conditioner if you rinse your hair with apple cider vinegar.

    Did you know Tom's of Maine (and I second your opinion...) now puts SLS in their toothpaste? Talk about a regression!

    I buy a lot of Green Beaver products (, and haven't been disappointed by anything I've tried yet. They are a local company so I like to encourage them as well.