SLES: Uses & Hazards

Sodium laureth sulfate is also called sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES). Commercially, it’s available as a mixture of the general formula CH3(CH2)10CH2(OCH2CH2)n-OSO3Na, where “n” varies but represents an average value or a mean. While it is both a detergent and a surfactant, it’s especially known as a foaming agent. The use of sodium laureth sulfate in consumer products, such as toothpaste, is controversial. does not consist of one molecular formula.

Detergent manufacturers use sodium laureth sulfate in products because of two reasons: this chemical can be easily acquired and has a strong amphiphilic base. This means the chemical compounds are compatible with both water and fat. Thus it easily mixes with water and acts a formidable stain exterminator. Sodium laureth sulfate forms the basic ingredients of various surface cleaners. Even cosmetic companies use this chemical in frugal amounts in cosmetic products.

However, the use of SLES is not limited to detergent cleaners only. Various types of cosmetics like soaps and cleansing milks have sodium laureth sulfate as a component. This chemical makes detergents and cleaning agents powerful and strong on stains and hard grease, also effectively wiping them out of existence if sodium laureth sulfate based cleaners are applied.

SLES can be used to stop several viral infections. Herpis simplex and HIV virus infections can be prevented with SLES. It has been clinically proven that SLES is effective as a microbicide and studies are underway to establish a method which will use this chemical to curb infections. Other than keeping viruses at bay, SLES(CAS No. 68585-34-2) is also prevalent in laxatives, medicine for heart disease and in aspirin.

Effects To Environment
Despite of the above uses, the manufacturing process alters the natural ingredients with ethoxylation. Ethoxylation is a process that uses ethylene oxide, which is a known human carcinogen. The surfactant becomes contaminated with byproducts of the manufacturing process.

According to the David Suzuki foundation, depending on manufacturing processes, sodium laureth sulfate may be contaminated with considerable amounts of 1,4-dioxane. 1,4-dioxane does not degrade easily and may remain in the environment long after it is rinsed down the shower drain.

Sulfate-Free Shampoos

When it comes to shampoo, many people think the sudsier the better. In fact, the very ingredient that causes those foaming bubbles is also responsible for hair damage. The “Journal of the American College of Toxicology” has reported that sodium lauryl sulfate, the foaming ingredient found in nearly all your everyday drugstore shampoos, puts not only your hair at risk, but your health as well. For this reason, more people are investing in the slightly more pricey sulfate-free shampoos

A sulfate-free shampoo is a shampoo that does not contain sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES, also known as sodium laureth sulphate). It is a popular chemical in commercial hygiene and cleaning products. The chemical is particularly useful in applications where the removal of oily residues is needed. While the sulfates used in hygiene products have not been shown to be carcinogenic, the chemicals can irritate the scalp, excessively strip essential oils, and cause hair to be dry.

When first using a sulfate-free shampoo, most people often feel as if their hair is not getting clean because sulfates are responsible for creating that thick, rich lather that many people desire when shampooing. This can take some getting used to because the hair will not feel as dried out, and some users may associate that stripped feeling with being clean. The hair will be clean, but will be softer and silkier.

Shampoos that contain sulfates, and even those that do not, are surrounded by controversy. There are reports that claim sulfates are dangerous. There are also claims that sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners merely replace the missing sulfates with extra ingredients and other potentially dangerous chemicals. The onus is on the consumer to check the labels of any sulfate-free products, and look for natural ingredients.

SLES(CAS: 9004-82-4) is a powerful surfactant. The term surfactant is actually a shortened form of surface active agent — a chemical agent that lowers the surface tension of liquids, to allow them to be spread more efficiently. It basically stabilizes a mix of oil and water through surface tension stabilization.

Life Solutions Scalp Therapy Shampoo provides soothing, sulfate-free cleansing. This gentle formula promotes circulation to the hair follicles without stripping hair color. Despite its lack of sodium lauryl ether sulfate, this shampoo is able to work up a decent lather. For about $24 per bottle, Scalp Therapy is a average-cost choice for those looking to make the switch from harmful shampoos to healthful, sulfate-free ones.

Sulfate-free beauty products are generally more expensive, and are becoming more readily available. Beauty and bath products that are green — products that do not contain any unnatural chemicals that may be harmful to the environment — have become very popular. Sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners are in greater demand because of environmental concerns, as well as for health reasons.