What Are Sulfates and Why Do I Care If Something Is Sulfate-Free?


Woman washing her hair on white tiles background.

Woman washing her hair on white tiles background.

Sulfates are a very common ingredient in most bath, hair and beauty products. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to Sodium Laureth Sulfates and Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (SLS), as they are the most widely used in these products. SLS are chemicals that act as emulsifiers, which basically mixes two liquids together, usually something fatty and something watery. It’s the ingredient that makes suds, when using things like shampoos. It’s a cheap way to make a product ‘act’ like a soap or a cleaner.

There’s a lot of controversy regarding the use of these substances, and this is a subject that should be researched further, by each individual. What is the controversy? Well, on one hand, it’s believed that SLS is not healthy for the skin because it’s derived from petrolatum, which is known to be a carcinogen (depending on who you believe). It’s also believed to cause hair, skin and organ damage, immunological problems, and damage to your eyes, AND it’s a non-renewable resource (if you consider yourself environmentally responsible, this isn’t a good thing).

On the other hand, there are people who believe everything organizations like the FDA and OSHA say…that SLS is NOT carcinogenic, and some say that the amount of carcinogen in these chemicals is very miniscule, so it is deemed harmless to the human body. As a devil’s advocate, however, in OSHA’s Material Safety Data Sheets, it’s stated, in one reviewer’s words, that ‘SLS can produce some rather nasty side effects if you inhale or ingest it, get it in your eyes, or leave it in contact with your skin for too long.’ In OSHA’s exact words, it says: Route Of Entry – Inhalation: YES Route Of Entry – Skin: YES Route Of Entry – Ingestion: YES Health Haz Acute And Chronic: ACUTE:CA– USES MILD IRRITATION ON CONTACT W/SKIN, EYES OR MUCOUS MEMBRANES. SKIN CONTACT COULD CA– USE IRRITATION OR ALLERGIC REACTION. MODERATELY TOXIC BY INGESTION. CHRONIC:TESTS ON LAB ANIMALS INDICATE MATERIAL MAY CA– USE MUTAGENIC EFFECTSSigns/Symptoms Of Overexp: SEE HEALTH HAZARDS. 

Tell me, is using an ingredient that produces ‘rather nasty’ side effects if you inhale or ingest it, a smart thing? if these side effects are a result of inhaling or ingesting, what’s happening when you put these things on your skin, which is your largest organ?

As Dr. Mercola states, and which is a fact, not an opinion: ‘when you put these chemicals on your skin, they are absorbed straight into your bloodstream without filtering of any kind, going directly to your delicate organs.’ Whether it’s true or not, about petrolatum being carcinogenic, the fact of the matter is, whatever chemicals are in a product, matter, because it will be absorbed by the skin and entered into the bloodstream immediately. And if that product is on the skin for a short time, like shampoo, over time, the absorption of those chemicals build up over time. This isn’t a good idea for ANYONE, whether you consider yourself a ‘health nut’ or not. This is why you should care.

Through your own research, you will come to a conclusion about whether or not to care about using products that contain sulfates. It is our belief and opinion, however, that as long as there are alternative products to use, that contain natural, non toxic ingredients, it’s best to use them, and avoid sulfates as much as possible. Putting chemicals on the skin, no matter if it’s proven to be cancer causing or if it’s just an overblown worry, is not a wise thing. Better to be safe than sorry. 

Renee Rubio
About me

Renee Rubio is passionate about health in all aspects. She's been keenly aware of the fact that it's not just about food and exercise, for most of her life. She wants to help teach others that there are other parts to the whole, of being healthy (and thus, knowing the true nature of happiness!). Growing up the child of an alcoholic, she knew from the beginning that substance abuse is a dead end street. As she grew older and worked through her emotional issues, growing spiritually, and dealing with weight issues (tied into her emotional issues), she finally discovered raw foods and the benefits of that type of eating. Deciding to change her diet to plant based first, in 2009, she transitioned to raw living foods in 2010. At times, she's been 100 percent raw, she's done several fasts, and adopted many of the lifestyle aspects of a raw, vegan foodist, and continues with it. She has never been healthier or happier in her life and has finally found the key to the foods that her body responds best to. She knows that she still has some ways to go, on her journey, and continues onward and upward. Her current focus is on learning more about hormones and parasite cleansing. She lives in Nevada with her soul mate and her Australian Cattle Dog fur baby. She loves being of service. One of her favorite activities is to coach others. She believes she is a natural born supporter and encourager. Among other things, she also loves to laugh, watch movies, and prepare healthy, beautiful and delicious food for her loved ones. Most of all, she loves learning, because learning never ends in this life, and it keeps things interesting :)

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