Should You Be Concerned About SLS in your Skincare?

What is SLS?

SLS is the more common name for Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, a surfactant that was developed in the 1930s as an alternative to the traditional bar soap. Its primary component is coconut oil, which is naturally high in Lauric Acid, but when combined with Sulphuric Acid (from petroleum) and Sodium Carbonate you form SLS. While its origins are natural, the process it goes through turns it into a chemical compound before it is added to topical cleansing products.

Why is it added to cleansers?

As we mentioned SLS is a surfactant, which means it has the ability to break the surface tension of water and separate different molecules from one another, which in turn creates a foam or a lather on the skin. This reaction helps to clear away debris, dirt and oil from the top layer of the skin which is why it is so commonly included in cleansing products for the face, hair and body.

What’s all the fuss about?

The main issue is regarding SLS’s effect on the structure of the skin. Some experts believe that SLS can make severe epidermal changes, from thinning the top layer of the skin to causing intense dryness, which leads to irritation that can be particularly detrimental to complexions that are already on the sensitive side. This type of damage can leave the skin vulnerable to other irritants and bacteria which could cause all manner of problems not just for your complexion.

What should I do?

As with any ingredient, from Glycolic Acid to Jojoba Oil, there is a possibility that the skin could take a dislike to it. As SLS helps a product to foam up on the skin, which is quite a dehydrating process, very sensitive skin can become inflamed, dry and tight when using products that contain it. By stripping the skin, the epidermal barrier can become impaired which does make it easier for bacteria to enter the skin and potentially cause problems but this isn’t something unique to SLS.

The best thing to do is check your current cleansing products and see if they contain SLS. If they do and your skin hasn’t reacted badly then continue using them if you wish. However, if your skin has become sore or incredibly sensitive and you are not sure why, then this ingredient could be the culprit so it would be wise to stop using anything that contains it. This goes for anyone with sensitive skin that doesn’t react well to chemical ingredients.