Coming Clean - Facts About
Additives in Shampoos, Soaps and Detergents
August 31, 1999
WASHINGTON, D.C. (SafetyAlerts)
- Rumors which have been circulating around the Internet have raised questions and fears
regarding the safety of certain additives that are commonly found in shampoos, soaps,
detergents, shaving cream and even toothpaste.
Unfortunately, the answer as to whether these
additives are safe is not a simple one. Rumors, half truths and incorrect
information has built a mountain of confusion regarding this issue.
The additive in question is known as
"SLS". Even the meaning of the acronym has been under controversy.
What SLS actually stands for, according to the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance
Association, is "Sodium Lauryl Sulfate" a surfactant which is used by
manufacturers to amplify foaming or lathering. This chemical has been confused with
"Sodium Laureth Sulfate" which, although similar in sound and use, is a
completely separate chemical.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - This common additive,
along with other chemicals in this family of additives such as Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate is
added to many soaps, shampoos and other toiletries and has been examined by an independent
panel of experts chosen by the CTIF.
Results of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review
testing done on animals found heavy deposition of the detergent on the skin surface and in
the hair follicles causing possible, if minor, hair loss. "Further, it
has been reported that 1 percent and 5 percent Sodium Lauryl Sulfate produced a
significant number of comedones when applied to animals. These two problems -
possible hair loss and comedone formation - along with proven irritancy, should be
considered in the formulation of cosmetic products."
Sounds bad, right? Well, sort of. The
panel of experts have fully assessed the safety of this ingredient and found it to be
safe. The report stated that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate appear to
be safe in products designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing
from the surface of the skin. In products intended for prolonged contact with skin,
concentrations should not exceed 1 percent. You can view the report findings here.
SafetyAlerts talked to Don Havery, a chemist for
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whom told us the claims that SLS can cause cancer
are false. "There are no indications that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Ammonium
Sulfate are carcinogens." Haverly said, "These false rumors have mislead people
into believing the product is dangerous."
In an effort to reduce the amount of SLS absorbed
by the skin and hair, some manufacturers have combined surfactants with Ethylene oxide.
This procedure actually enlarges the molecule of the additive, thus making it
harder to penetrate the skin and hair. The resulting product is called Sodium
Part Two of this article deals with Sodium Laureth
Sulfate and its relation to possible cancer causing agents. Part 2 can be found by
Top of Page
(To return - Click Back On Your Browser)