Did you know that the order in which ingredients are listed on a product start from the most used to the least? Next time you’re in a grocery store, grab a bath wash or shampoo and read the list on the back. A large majority of products will start with Aqua (water) followed shortly by SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). In other words, these products contain more Sodium Lauryl Sulfate than any other ingredient (other than water). Yet this ingredient is a proven irritant.
What is SLS?
SLS is a surfactant, which is the ingredient that gives products their foaming and cleaning properties. SLS is an incredibly popular ingredient, and is found in many body and skincare products, as well as in dishwashing liquids and laundry detergents.
Why? Because it cleans. Really WELL! And it’s very cheap to manufacture.
However, there is a point at which cleaning too well, is not good for the skin. Our skin has a natural barrier which protects it from every-day stressors. The use of strong sulphated surfactants (such as SLS) disrupts this barrier by stripping the skin of natural oils and raising its pH level. This affects the natural microbes living on the surface of the skin, causing a stressed skin which struggles to function normally. Once the barrier is broken, the skin is exposed to the environment and many other skin conditions and irritations can occur. The skin can become prone to dryness, itchiness, inflammation, discomfort and can even develop conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
There are other concerns with SLS. Most products containing SLS are alkaline, raising the pH of the skin. Normal skin pH ranges from 4.5 to 6.5, which means it is always slightly acidic. This acidity of the skin is termed the “acid mantle” and is maintained by sebaceous glands, sweat glands and normal skin flora, amongst others. The acid mantle has many protective functions, one of which is the killing of unwanted bacteria.
Using a skin cleanser that is alkaline, like regular soap and body washes with SLS, can damage the natural barrier function of the skin, causing skin dryness and decreased antibacterial defence. This can occur after just one use, but the effect is cumulative, meaning it gets worse with repeated use. These effects will, of course, be more pronounced in people suffering from dermatitis, people who have sensitive skin, and in the elderly.
SLS is also an environmental pollutant. It is toxic to fish and other aquatic animals and takes a very long time to biodegrade.
There are far more gentle surfactants which do not have the same effect on the skin barrier. These include Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Decyl Glucoside and Lauryl Glucoside. Pure Beginnings only uses these natural, gentler alternatives in its body washes and shampoos.