Some of us have tried every trick under the sun to cure our acne, diet changes, extreme workouts, the caveman regimen, and the list goes on; but what if I told you that curing your acne could be as simple as switching out your toothpaste?
You heard that right- it could be as SIMPLE as switching out your toothpaste. "How is that?" you're wondering, "it's not like I'm putting toothpaste ON my skin?" (and if you are, plz don’t!). That is because of this one specific ingredient in your toothpaste that easily causes skin irritation, hormone disruptions, and creates reproductive toxicity. But it isn't just your toothpaste where this nasty ingredient lingers, no, we're talking about shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and EVEN face wash! This little acne-causing-skin-irritating ingredient goes by the abbreviation of SLS, otherwise known as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a common sudsing agent (basically think of anything that foams) used in thousands of cosmetic products and cleaning supplies. It is used in almost every single toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, body wash, hair coloring, and liquid foundation on the market. But, it's also used as a degreaser in more "heavy duty" products, including dishwashing detergent and car washing liquid. Although it has a "moderately hazardous" rating and over 90,000 studies in Pubmed alone linking SLS to various health concerns, the FDA has approved for its use in such products because it is dirt cheap and effective. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate also commonly goes by the names:
- Sodium dodecyl sulfate
- Sulfuric Acid
- Sodium Salt sulfuric acid
- Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid
Basically, SLS is notorious for causing inflammation, so much that it is used to purposefully cause inflammation so that anti-inflammatory studies can be conducted. The problem with SLS is that it doesn’t differentiate between a dirty car and the bacteria on your face, it cleans them both the same stripping away any trace of oil (and leaving your skin overly irritated).
Another study in states, "SLS to be a very "corrosive irritant" to the skin—irritation which persisted in research subjects for 3 weeks. SLS exerts its damage by stripping your skin of protective oils and moisture."
sls, irritation, and acne
Your skins barrier has the ability to absorb every chemical that you put onto it. It is even thought by some that putting SLS on your skin may be more dangerous than eating the substance itself. This is because when you digest things you have enzymes and other ways to break it down, but when it is absorbed through the skin, the toxicity isn't filtered and all of the bad stuff goes straight to your organs.
What's more compelling is that due to the foaming nature of the SLS, it can create microtears and leave a film on the skin. This allows for dirt and other bacteria to easily get trapped and irritate the sensitive skin barrier, thus causing acne. Within just one hour of using SLS, it causes cracks to form in the skin.
Not only is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate irritating, but it is also extremely pore clogging. After using SLS, your skin will feel extremely clean, almost too clean, tight, and uncomfortable (something that many people refer to as "squeaky clean"). This is bad news when it comes to the essential oils your skins barrier needs to thrive, without any oil left on your skin, your sebaceous glands will over compensate and begin to produce more oil. This excess production of oil in turn creates clogged pores which of course causes acne.
Understandably, this is probably why SLS has an overall comedogenic (pore clogging) rating of 5/5, that means under no circumstance should this substance be used on your skin because it has a 100% chance of clogging your pores and irritating your skin. Crazy to think that this ingredient is in our makeup, let alone our facewash?! That don't make no sense bruh.
sudden sls sensitivity
You can be using the same shampoo for months without a problem but then suddenly begin developing an itchy scalp or sensitivity to SLS. How does this work exactly? Well, while a few washes with a SLS product may not do any damage, with continued use overtime SLS can work to break down the skins natural barrier resulting in acne and irritation.
People who suffer with a compromised skin barrier are going to be more susceptible to skin irritation and things like acne or eczema when using Sodium Lauryl Sulfate filled products.
how to check for sls
Luckily, checking your products to see if they contain SLS is simple, all you have to do is read the label! Most products that do not contain SLS usually have some sort of label or stamp on the front or back of the package to advertise that they are indeed SLS-free!
With that being said, here are some of my hands down favorite SLS-free products!
sls free products
Shampoo and conditioner:
Beauty: OGX carries a large range of shampoos and conditioners that are SLS-free, paraben free, and smell amazing. Some of my favorites are coconut water, coconut milk, and Niacin3 with caffeine for hair growth!
: Dr.Bronner's has been around since, well forever (1858 to be exact). Their soap is fair trade, pure castile soap made with delicious ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, and various added essential oils like Tea Tree, Lavender, Peppermint, and Rose. Dr. Bronners is so gentle and natural that it can be used as body wash, shampoo, hand wash, makeup brush cleaners, and more!
my experience with sls
Switching your products to SLS free ones is a great place to start when determining if this chemical is an irritant for your skin or not. Remember that everyone is different so Sodium Lauryl Sulfate may or may not irritate your skin, depending on the sensitivity of your skins barrier.
It was a hugely aggravating factor for my acne and after a few weeks of switching to natural, SLS-free products, I noticed my skin wasn't irritated as easily, nor was my acne as inflamed. I started by switching out my toothpaste, and when I noticed that the lower half of my face wasn't as inflamed or irritated is when I moved into SLS-free hair and body care. Now, I still use SLS- free products and try to keep it as natural as possible, making sure the ingredient list is small, yet powerful.
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Kali Kushner, known as the Instagram alias myfacestory, is a natural beauty advocate in the greater Cincinnati area who is passionate about using organic skincare and holistic remedies to heal acne from the inside out. Her dedication lies in her own chronic acne struggles as she continues to restore herself while helping those around her.