Read about natural parenting tools every family can use
Natural Family and Parenting Community Message boards
Shop for natural family items
Write to us or get writers guidelines
Contact or read about us

Read about natural parenting tools every family can use
Natural Family Living
Attachment Parenting
The Bottom Line
Education & Learning
Make Today Magical
Pregnancy, Birth & Fertility
Questions & Answers
Resource Guide
Your Family's Health
Join Our Newsletter
Natural Family and Parenting Community Message boards
Discussion Boards
How do you cope when you fall off the wagon into not-so-natural ways? Let’s talk!
Shop for natural items every family can use

Product Reviews



Write to us or get writers guidelines

Reprint Permissions

Send Us Feedback


We're looking for writers! Visit our Writer’s Guidelines for more details.

Contact us or read about us

About NFO

Advertise with NFO
Contact NFO
Media Page: See who's talking about NFO.
NFO is going to print!
Interested in getting NFO by mail? Send us a YES here. Be sure to include your full name, e-mail and mailing address. We'll contact you with more information in the future.
Visit other BFN sites:
Busy Parents Online
Busy Homeschool
Busy Parents University
Busy Family Network
The report's key finding: Formula DOUBLES THE DEATH RATE for American infants.
NFO Special Follow-Up Report:

Optimizing the Health of Your Formula-Fed Baby.


Natural Health

Question: I have heard some controversial statements concerning the use of sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS. Can you tell me exactly what SLS is, how it is used, and whether or not I should be concerned?

Laura Seipp responds: The chemical ingredients used in personal care products tend to be surrounded by a fair amount of controversy. There are those on either side of the issue who take an extreme view: “This ingredient is perfectly safe!” to “This ingredient should be avoided at all costs!” Sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, is perhaps one of the most controversial of these ingredients in use today.

SLS is a surfactant, degreaser, detergent and emulsifier that is used in thousands of foaming personal care products including shampoo, soap, facial cleansers, body wash, bubble bath, shower gel, shaving cream and toothpaste. Used in strong concentrations, SLS is also used to degrease engines and clean garage floors.

SLS has been found to penetrate the eyes and tissues. Tests show that SLS can penetrate into the eyes as well as systemic tissues such as the heart, brain and liver, where they are retained for long periods of time.1 This quality makes SLS especially harmful to infants and children.

SLS can form carcinogenic nitrates when used in shampoos and cleansers containing nitrogen-based ingredients. These nitrates can enter the bloodstream in large numbers and cause eye irritations, skin rashes and allergic reactions.2

SLS tends to react with DEA (diethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine) to form the nitrosamine NDELA, a potent carcinogen that causes the body to absorb nitrates at high levels.3

SLS strips moisture and oil from the skin and scalp, which may produce inflammation of the skin4, hair damage and hair loss5.

SLS has been shown in studies performed in Japan to damage DNA in cells.6

Proponents of the use of SLS in personal care products contend that when used in small quantities and in the generally small concentrations found in most personal care products, and when rinsed from the skin or hair immediately and thoroughly, SLS poses absolutely no health risks.

Two common alternatives to SLS that are generally considered to be both mild and safe are ammonium cocoyl isthionate and olefin sulfonate. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), closely related to but milder than SLS, has ether added and is therefore considered toxic.7

When choosing personal care products, remember that knowledge is power. Make your choices carefully, and read those ingredient labels!

1 Green, Dr. Keith. “Detergent Penetration Into Young and Adult Eyes.” Department of Ophthalmology, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA
2 Hampton, Aubrey. Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients. Organica Press, Tampa, FL
3 Erickson Kim. Drop-Dead Gorgeous. Contemporary Books, New York, NY
4 “Denaturation of Epidermal Keratin by Surface Active Agents.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 32-581, 1959
5 Wright, Camille S. Shampoo Report. Images International, Inc. 1989
6 Vance, Judi. Beauty To Die For. toExcel Press, Lincoln, NE
7 ibid

The information appearing at Natural Family Online™ is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please review the rest of our disclaimer and user agreement.






Let's Play Yoga - A yoga program for children between the ages of 2 and 6. Teacher training and home-study courses available.
Operation Special Delivery offers doula services to military spouses
In Association with
See the monthly adventures of Hathor the Cowgoddess.

Join our newsletter

Being a parent is only natural, so why not parent more naturally?
Let NFO show you how.

"The media have become the mainstream culture in children's lives. Parents have become the alternative. Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition to it."
-- Ellen Goodman, Boston Globe columnist

[Home] [Read] [Discuss] [Shop] [Write] [About Us] [Contact Us] [Advertise] [Natural Family Living] [Attachment Parenting] [Family Health]
[Qestions & Answers]
[Pregnancy, Birth & Fertility] [Breastfeeding] [Bookshelf]
[Bottom Line] [Education & Learning] [Family Resources] [Product Reviews]

Natural Family Online™ is intended to provide an open forum for the public exchange of information. Throughout this web site, statements are made pertaining to the properties and functions of foods, supplements, herbs, medicines and other nutritional products as well as to strategies and procedures. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials, products and strategies are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. Natural Family Online™ and the Busy Family Network™ are not affiliated with any political or religious organization. Natural Family Online™ and the Busy Family Network™ do not endorse the personal opinions of the individual writers presented on this web site. No part of this website may be misconstrued to be medical or legal advice. Please review the rest of our disclaimer and user agreement. This site © 2000-2004 Busy Family Network™ (BFN). All Rights Reserved.  Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site. Graphics by . Web design by Busy Family Network. Hosting by BFN Hosting. Also visit: Busy Parents Online | Busy Parents University | Busy Pets | Busy Homeschool | Parent & Family Niche | AntHill Editors & Publishers | Spa products, Cosmetics and Skincare | Affordable Family Healthcare