If you’ve been keeping up on skincare controversies the last few years, you’ve seen sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) in the news. For nearly all the wrong reasons.
First, there were the unsubstantiated SLS cancer charges from one side of the fence, and then complete dismissiveness from the other. Neither side was right. But the cancer charges were at least rooted in concern for other people. The same can’t be said for the dismissiveness, especially from industry apologists.
Why Use Irritants on Your Skin?
There are lots of issues with SLS and SLES, some real, some made up by one side or the other. Our problem with both ingredients is that they’re synthetics. They’re, by nature, incompatible with our skin, and they’re irritants. In fact, they’re both used that way in skin irritation tests. Yet they show up in most common skincare products. According to synthetic advocates, they contribute to foaming and lather in cleansing products and make these products available and affordable to millions of people. So they’re used in glycerin soaps, liquid soaps, and shampoos. And in all those products, they dry out skin and cause irritation.
Keep Track of These Priorities
So, for the skincare industry – and their advocates – cheapness and availability take precedence over product quality and kindness to the skin. Be sure to keep that in mind when buying skincare products. At Botanie, we don’t use SLS or any other surfactants. Instead, we focus on making a high-quality soap from organic oils that doesn’t ultimately depend on surfactants for its lather. We carefully balance the oils in our base recipe to provide the proper fatty acid mix for a wonderful, rich, and – most importantly – completely natural lather.
What Doesn’t Get Talked About Enough
Our concerns with SLS and surfactants are, for the most part, product-specific. But we’re also an organic manufacturer, and that involves us in a lot of larger discussions. For instance: while it’s true that SLS has never been proven to cause cancer, it’s also true that in manufacturing environments – such as large-scale synthetic soap production – SLS nearly always comes in contact with 1,4 dioxane, which IS a known carcinogen.
You won’t see that included in defenses of SLS, nor will you see mention of how many skincare products the average person uses every day and that over time our skin and systems can’t effectively rid our bodies of toxins at the level they’re exposed to them. Commercial manufacturers get a surprising pass from the media in general on these points, as they do from groups we’ve come to expect reliability from.
The Naivete of Snopes.com
Even snopes.com, generally regarded as a voice of reason amidst the extremes and shouting, can be surprisingly naive when they go beyond fact-checking and practical
conclusions to the judging of character: “Sodium lauryl sulfate is even found in food products such as candy. Although the label warns that the product should not be eaten outright, Candy Bubbles are touted as a fat-free, calorie-free edible product. Hardly something the Food and Drug Administration would allow to remain on the market if one of its ingredients were known to cause cancer.”
Their phrasing is interesting. It’s exactly the phrasing used by politicians and marketers to deflect an issue without actually addressing it.
How Things Should Be and Aren’t
It’s completely understandable, though, why snopes reaches the conclusions they do. The FDA – as an arm of our government – should be looking out for us and the common welfare. But while snopes appears to trust the FDA to be doing as they should, there is plenty of evidence that the FDA doesn’t and is really looking out for someone else.
For starters on what the FDA will allow, see Monsanto and glyphosate. Monsanto continues to push Roundup as a safe means to have the perfect lawn and driveway, while the World Health Organization cites it as a possible carcinogen and California is set to classify it as an actual carcinogen.
And Then There Are GMOs and Roundup
For further proof, check out the FDA caving in to corporations when GMO’s were first introduced to the public. They didn’t require independent scientific studies. They accepted the industry’s own studies as proof of safety. Which was, technically, illegal. They ignored reservations from some of the industry’s own scientists. What was promised was the ability to feed a starving world. What we got from Monsanto were crops simply more resistant to pesticides, including – coincidentally – Monsanto’s own Roundup. History indicates it’s not us – American consumers – that the FDA is looking out for.