Sodium Laureth What?

Both sodium laureth sulfate and its close relative sodium lauryl sulfate are commonly used in countless kinds of shampoo, bubble bath, toothpaste, soaps, deodorant and detergents — it’s what makes the products foam up, what gives them their bubbles. But did you know they are also very dangerous, and highly irritating?

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can actually damage your hair follicles in the case of shampoo/baby shampoo, cause damage to the skin in the case of bubble bath or body wash and can cause permanent (yeah, you heard me, permanent) damage to the eyes in children — not to mention your everyday liver toxicity. It’s another one of those great chemicals like phthalates that gets inside your system and stays in the body’s tissues — only in this case, being metabolized by the liver, your body really has to expend a lot of energy to get rid of it. The EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database classifies these agents as likely to be toxic or harmful. There is “strong evidence” to support this claim, including over 40 studies that you can read yourself if so inclined! If you’re at home, get up, go to your bathroom and examine your toothpaste, shampoo, body wash and baby shampoo. I’ll bet you any amount of money that at least one of the products you use every day has sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate as one of the first few ingredients. If you’re reading this on the go, stop at a drugstore or grocery store. Try to find a popular shampoo or body wash WITHOUT one of these bad boys. I seriously think you’ll come up empty handed.

So if something is so toxic and harmful, why are we “allowed” to buy the stuff and scrub it on our heads, faces, bodies and, did I mention, all over the insides of our mouths? Well, think about it this way, for one: You can still buy cigarettes and foods with trans fats, both of which are linked to cancer. Consumer products companies generally loathe replacing chemicals in their precious formulas, because that costs huge amounts of time and money — and, after all, it’s only our health and vitality at stake. Don’t expect your favorite brands to do away with SLS any time soon, because there is no government agency that actually regulates how much a manufacturer uses or claims not to use in a given product! We might as well be talking about herbal supplements or bottled water, two other areas where the government basically sits on their collective ass rather than stepping in to protect our health and wellness (more on that later). Vote with your dollar and look for something safe — I’ll provide some examples below for you to munch on. Let’s not risk developing cancer because we love our Paul Mitchell shampoo so much, mmkay? Here are some practical alternatives to swap out the next time your toothpaste and detergent are running low.

Jason Powersmile toothpaste contains no sulfates or preservatives (no animal testing, either). I use the stuff every day. If you don’t have a local earthy-crunchy health food store like I do that sells it, try Amazon. They sell everything!

Dr Bronner’s Pure Liquid Castile Soap can be used in a million different ways, but I’m most excited about using it to clean dishes as even Seventh Generation’s dish soap contains SLS. (That was a shocker to me. SMH, Seventh Gen.) You can get tons of different varieties of Dr Bronners on Amazon also, or at Target and health food stores too.

Natural Newborn sells chemical-free baby wash, lotion, massage oil and more. Keep in mind, however, shipping can be slow from these smaller organic companies as they’re often small and family owned, so order with enough lead time in advance (not when you’ve already run out of your baby’s old favorite).

The Skinny book I’m reading now recommends Amazon Beauty Rahua shampoo and conditioner, Sukihair Clean Balance Shampoo and Glory Locks Hair Cream aside from the Giovanni Smooth and Silk line I told you about in an earlier post. I’m looking forward to trying all of the above!

Face washes can also contain SLS as a foaming agent, so try (again, Kim’s picks) Terra Firma Cosmetics Face the Day Cleanser, Suki Sensitive cleansing bar or OSEA Ocean Cleanser (which sounds the yummiest to me). I’ll review all of the products for you as I try them, starting with the Giovanni hair care and Jason toothpaste I mention using above.

Don’t mess around with this stuff, guys. I know it’s easier to just go on using what you always use and ignoring what you may consider to be paranoia or conspiracy theory, but what have you got to lose? Are you really that attached to your bottle of Pantene? Don’t keep it shallow, sister. Pass along this info to your beauty-obsessed friends, your wives who do the shopping, your moms and girlfriends and whomever you think is otherwise too lazy to care. Get them to care by showing that YOU care about THEIR health and wellbeing! Try one product and let me know how it goes — I promise there are alternatives out there for everything, and I’ll help you find the best ones.

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