Browse the supermarket aisles for personal care products such as face wash, shower gel and hand wash, and you’re likely to see ‘SLS’ in the ingredients list. But what is SLS and what does it do?
In short, SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) is a surfactant (short for ‘surface active agent’) and it’s responsible for combining water and grease to make the product more effective at cleaning our hair and skin. However, it’s also this quality that can strip our skin of its natural oils, causing dryness and irritability, leading to other issues including breakouts, dullness and greasiness, where the skin over-compensates after being depleted of its oils.
SLS also has an impact on the environment and is considered to be harmful to aquatic life in higher concentrations. There is also the issue of the materials used to make it, with SLS often being derived from petroleum.
Why is the skin-irritant SLS still being used?
Because SLS attracts oil when included in a product, it can be rinsed off cleanly with water, so it’s easy to use. SLS also helps create more lather, which gives the impression of thorough cleansing, when in fact all the SLS is doing is spreading the product more easily (rather than increasing its effectiveness).
Because SLS is cheap, this makes it an attractive ingredient for many beauty brands. However, as mentioned, it can also be an irritant, which means some people will have a negative reaction to it, especially if the product has frequent contact with the skin or is on the skin for a prolonged period. This can be particularly bad news if you suffer from eczema or psoriasis, for example. Many people also report how products containing SLS can irritate the eyes.
What are Bower doing differently?
Another ingredient you might see is SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulphate), which sounds similar to SLS, but is an ethoxylated version of SLS. In short, this means it’s still great at cleaning but is less of an irritant. This is a better option if you are concerned about upsetting your skin. You might also spot the ingredient ALS (Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate) in some products. This is another surfactant, usually made from a natural oil, such as coconut oil, and like SLES, ALS is less irritating to skin than SLS. This is because it contains larger molecules that are less likely to penetrate the skin and strip it of its natural oils.
At Bower, we have a wide range of products that are not only SLS free, but are free of other toxins, such as parabens. And all our products are cruelty free and vegan too. Our Bower Standard ensures non-toxic ingredients, and, wherever possible, our products are made from natural ingredients, which are safe for all the family as well as the environment.
Favourite Bower Collective SLS-free products
- Our Geranium & Grapefruit Sanitising Hand Wash is not only free from SLS, but it’s free from parabens too. The eco-friendly hand wash is ideal for everyday use, and comes in handy refill packaging for you to top up your existing container and avoid needless plastic clutter in your home.
- Keep hands always feeling fresh with Rosemary & Thyme Sanitising Hand Wash refill, with a natural SLS-free formulation designed to guarantee squeaky-clean skin the gentle way.
- Bower Collective’s Gentle Body Wash is perfect for sensitive skin, as it is also fragrance-free. Made in the UK, this vegan shower gel is made with 99% naturally derived products.
- If you’re looking to start your day with a zing, Bower’s Uplifting Orange Body Wash is the sustainable way to clean up without the need for SLS. Fragranced with essential oils, our best-selling shower gel is a favourite, naturally.