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What is all the chatter about SLS? Does it cause us harm or not?

Does it penetrate the skin because it is a small molecule and with that bring harmful substances to the body that bypasses the liver’s potential cleansing abilities? Does it turn into NDEA while sitting on the stores shelves or in your cabinet at home? Or is it all hype just to sell multi level marketing products? What do you think?

Here's what I found so far.

CIR (Cosmetic Ingredients Review) states “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate are irritants at concentrations of 2% and greater… …Although Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is not carcinogenic, it has been shown to causes severe epidermal changes to the area of skin to which it was applied.” Link

From “The Personal Care Products Council (previously the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association or CTFA) is an industry group comprised of more than 600 member companies… …They started the (CIR) Cosmetic Ingredients Review”

My personal research also found that SLS is NOT listed as a prohibitive substance on the EU Cosmetics Directive.

Ed Friedlander MD and Dr. Weil's site both disagree with claims that SLS is harmful as used in today’s cosmetics.

From Alba website --
Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate
“Derived from coconut and palm oils; a safe, skin-friendly surfactant (foaming agent) for both skin and hair. This mild plant derived surfactant creates a rich, luxurious lather that effectively removes surface oil, dirt and bacteria, without stripping or drying sensitive skin. Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate is also hydrophilic. This means it is attracted to water, which enables it to dissolve more readily in water, thus providing superior rinse-ability.”

Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate vs. Sodium lauryl sulfate
“Although an ingredient's name may sound similar to another, it does not mean that the molecules are similar with respect to shape, size, performance or even function. Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate sounds similar to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, however, the two molecules are quite different from each other. Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate is a large molecule ingredient. Large molecule ingredients are considered to be mild, gentle, and non-irritating, as they cannot penetrate the skin. In contrast, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a small molecule ingredient, and is capable of penetrating the skin, which can increase the occurrence of skin irritation.”

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC)
From CPC website “Dr. Epstein is an internationally recognized authority on avoidable causes of cancer, particularly unknowing exposures to industrial carcinogens in air, water, the workplace, and consumer products--food, cosmetics and toiletries, and household products including pesticides--besides carcinogenic prescription drugs.”

I have Googled some of the CPC local office contacts and found them to be Independent Neways Distributors. Neways International is a privately held American multi-level marketing organization, which distributes consumable products. Neways is headquartered in Springville, Utah. The company claims that its products are chemically safer than other brands. Neways pleaded guilty to a felony count of illegally distributing a product containing human growth HGH.

Dr. Epstein writes: “DEA is diethanolamine, a chemical that is used as a wetting agent in shampoos, lotions, creams and other cosmetics. DEA is used widely because it provides a rich lather in shampoos and keeps a favorable consistency in lotions and creams. DEA by itself is not harmful but while sitting on the stores shelves or in your cabinet at home, DEA can react with other ingredients in the cosmetic formula to form an extremely potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA). NDEA is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers.”
“According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), "There is sufficient evidence of a carcinogenic effect of N-nitrosodiethanolamine -- ." (1) IARC recommends that NDEA should be treated as if it were a carcinogen in humans.”
“To date, there is no way of knowing whether a particular cosmetic has been contaminated with NDEA. The best approximation is determining whether the cosmetic contains DEA. The following cosmetic ingredients are among those contaminated with DEA:
Cocamide DEA or Cocamide Diethanolamine
DEA Lauryl Sulfate or Diethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate (DEA Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
Lauramide DEA or Lauramide Diethanolamine
Linoleamide DEA or Linoleamide Diethanolamine
Oleamide DEA or Oleamide Diethanolamine
Any product containing TEA or Triethanolamine”

More lists from Samuel S. Epstein’s 2009 book, Toxic Beauty.

Shelley R. Kramer disagrees with the claims of SLS safety in the quantities found in today's products. “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate appear not to be safe in formulations designed for continuous, use.. In products intended for prolonged contact with skin, concentrations should not exceed 1-2%. However, some shampoos, body gels, creams, lotions have over 10-20%. There is other research and studies done on SLS and SLES, and the reports also are in agreement that this is a chemical that should be reduced, reformulated or taken out of the products in public consumption products.”
“…concludes that Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Laureth Sulfate are not as safe as presently used in cosmetic products in amounts over 2%.. Most consumer products contain more than 20% of sls.”
About Shelley - (Independent Neways Distributor?

By the way, I personally use Dr. Bronner's Fair-Trade Organic Soaps and I'm not affiliated in any way to their company

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I found much more SLS info through some wiki links.

Sodium laureth sulfate from Wikipedia
Toxicology research by the OSHA, NTP, and IARC have confirmed the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) and the American Cancer Society disputation that SLES is a carcinogen.SLES and SLS, and subsequently the products containing them, have been found to contain parts-per-thousand to parts-per-million levels of the known carcinogen 1,4-dioxane, with the recommendation that these levels be monitored. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers 1,4-dioxane to be a probable human carcinogen (having observed an increased incidence of cancer in controlled animal studies, but not in epidemiological studies of workers using the compound), and a known irritant (with a no-observed-adverse-effects level of 400 milligrams per cubic meter). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration encourages manufacturers to remove 1,4-dioxane, although it is not required by federal law.

In 2008, testing sponsored by an independent consumers organization found 1,4-dioxane in almost half of tested personal-care products.

March 14, 2008
Contact: Ronnie Cummins, 218-226-4164 (Organic Consumers Association)
David Steinman, 310-455-8952
Carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane Found in Leading "Organic" Brand Personal Care Products
USDA Certified Products Test Dioxane-Free

ANAHEIM, CA - A newly released study commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a watchdog group with over 500,000 members, and overseen by environmental health consumer advocate David Steinman (author of The Safe Shopper's Bible), analyzes leading "natural" and "organic" brand shampoos, body washes, lotions and other personal care products for the presence of the undisclosed carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane. A reputable third-party laboratory known for rigorous testing and chain-of-custody protocols, performed all testing.

Ethoxylation, a cheap short-cut companies use to provide mildness to harsh ingredients, requires the use of the cancer-causing petrochemical Ethylene Oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product. 1,4-Dioxane is considered a chemical "known to the State of California to cause cancer" under proposition 65, and has no place in "natural" or "organic" branded personal care products. 1,4-dioxane is also suspected as a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, among others, according to the California EPA, and is a leading groundwater contaminant. Although previous studies have revealed 1,4-Dioxane is often present in conventional personal care products, this new study indicates the toxin is also present in leading "natural" and "organic" branded products, none of which are certified under the USDA National Organic Program.

Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS)
The Human and Environmental Risk Assessment (HERA) project ( link performed a thorough investigation of all alkyl sulfates, as such the results they found apply directly to ALS. Most alkyl sulfates exhibit low acute oral toxicity, no toxicity through exposure to the skin, concentration dependent skin irritation, and concentration dependent eye-irritation. They do not sensitize the skin and did not appear to be carcinogenic in a two year study on rats. The report found that longer carbon chains (16-18) were less irritating to the skin than chains of 12-15 carbons in length. In addition, concentrations below 1% were essentially non-irritating while concentrations greater than 10% produced moderate to strong irritation of the skin. ( HERA PDF)
I just came across another related article on entitled 15 Toxic Ingredients in Personal Care and pasted it below.

15 Toxic Ingredients in Personal Care
Nov 9, 2009

By now we’ve all heard that everything from hair serum to sunscreen can be teeming with troublesome toxins and crazy chemicals, and many concerned consumers already steer clear of products made with parabens, phthalates, and synthetic scents and colors. But there are hundreds of lesser-known ingredients hidden in many favorite products–some with the potential to wreak havoc on the environment and others that have been linked to breast cancer. Without a universal and enforceable natural or organic standard to regulate the beauty industry, even companies claiming to be natural often produce products laced with not-so-clean stuff.

For their 2nd Annual Beauty with a Conscience Awards, Natural Solutions magazine put its stamp of approval on 101 of the purest and best personal care products using guidelines developed in collaboration with Whole Foods Market, here is their list of the toxic ingredients that you don’t want in your products.

Next: Top 15 ingredients to avoid in personal care and beauty products
1. Synthetic fragrances often contain phthalates (pronounced THAY-lates), synthetic chemicals commonly used to stabilize fragrances and make plastic more pliable. These endocrine disrupters mimic hormones and may alter genital development. Avoid products that list fragrance as an ingredient unless the label states that it’s derived from essentials oils,
or look for a phthalate-free label on the packaging.

2. Parabens, ubiquitous in skincare, preserve other ingredients and extend a product’s shelf life–but these antimicrobial chemicals also have hormone-disrupting effects.

3. Ureas, formally known as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, or DMDM hydantoin and sodium hydroxymethyl-glycinate, are preservatives that have the potential to release formaldehyde in very small amounts and are a primary cause of contact dermatitis.

4. 1,4-dioxane, a chemical carcinogen, is created when ingredients are processed with petroleum-derived ethylene oxide. Common ethoxylated compounds include sodium laureth sulfate and polyethylene glycol (often listed as PEG). To avoid it, skip any product with the following ingredients: myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth (or any other -eth), PEG, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, or oxynol.

5. Petrochemicals are derived from crude oil. Petroleum-based ingredients such as petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin (derived from nonrenewable sources) form a barrier when applied to the skin that does not allow it to breathe and can clog pores.

6. MEA/DEA/TEA are “amines” (ammonia compounds) and can form harmful nitrosamines when they come in contact with nitrates. Used as foaming agents, synthetic stabilizers, and to adjust the pH of cosmetics, they can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, and dryness of the hair and skin.

7. Sulfates, such as sodium lauryl and sodium laureth, are harsh detergents that give cleansers, soaps, and shampoos their latherability. Often derived from petroleum, sulfates can also come from coconut and other vegetable oils that can be contaminated with pesticides. Sulfates can cause eye irritation and skin rashes.

8. Chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone and octyl methoxycinnamate, have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safer alternatives.

9. Quats, such as benzalkonium chloride, steardimonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide, and cetrimonium chloride, give a positive charge to conditioners in order to prevent static. They are necessary for conditioners, but we have allowed only the mildest quats in our Beauty With a Conscience standard: guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, hydroxypropyltrimonium oligosaccharide, and SugaQuats.

10. Antibacterial compounds, such as triclosan and chlorphenesin, do not break down in the environment and may contribute to bacterial resistance.

11. Synthetic polymers, such as sodium polyacrylate and carbomer, come from petroleum and give viscosity to skincare products. They are highly processed and their manufacture
creates toxic by-products.

12. Synthetic colors are made from coal tar. They contain heavy metal salts that may deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic. They will be labeled as FD&C or D&C, followed by a color and a number.

13. Chelators, such as disodium EDTA and tetrasodium EDTA, are used in personal care products to remove impurities from low-quality raw materials. They do not readily biode-
grade in the environment.

14. Nanos are a new technology with inconclusive but potentially hazardous study results. Research suggests that when tiny nano particles penetrate the skin, they may cause
cell damage.

15. Animal testing: A grim history of cruelty to animals lies behind many cosmetic ingredients. But scientists are developing new technologies to test cosmetics before a European Union ban on animal testing begins in March 2009.

Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living. Click here for a free sample issue.

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