What's Commonly Used to Make those Fun Bubbles
When we laid down our requirements for our formulation, it was a no brainer that one without Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS) would be our main requirement. These sulfates are typically used as a surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as industrial cleaners. It is present in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents, and bath oils/bath salts. Many products contain SLS because it is cheaper, making it a more commercially viable option.
Even if some SLS sources sound natural (some originate from coconuts), the real problem with SLES/SLS/ALS is that the manufacturing process (ethoxylation) results in SLES/SLS/ALS being contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product.
SLS is the sodium salt of lauryl sulfate, and is classified by the EWG Cosmetics Database as a "denaturant, surfactant cleansing agent, emulsifier and foamer," rated as a "moderate hazard." Similar to sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is sodium laureth sulfate (short for sodium lauryl ether sulfate, or SLES), a yellow detergent with higher foaming ability. SLES is considered to be slightly less irritating than SLS. Ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) is another surfactant variation commonly put into cosmetics and cleansers to make them foam. ALS is similar to SLS, with similar risks. SLS goes by other names, including:
- Sodium dodecyl sulfate
- Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt
- Sodium salt sulfuric acid
- Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid
- Akyposal SDS
- Aquarex ME
- Aquarex methyl
Look at the list of names that we might not be familiar with. We could be thinking oh its safe! No SLS/SLES/ALS!
The Real Danger
If you do a search on google about the danger of SLS/SLES/ALS you'll see a lot of warnings that make you feel fearful about your next shower! Bear in mind that everyone showers at least once a day and we use these synthethic chemicals on our body daily. Here are the top 5 real risks of these sulfates:
1. They are skin irritants. Many cosmetics companies conduct laboratory tests to ensure their products are suitable for irritable skin. Prior to these tests, to get irritated skin, guess what they use? SLS.
2. Links Between SLS, Ethylene Oxide, 1,4 Dioxane, and Cancer.
The evidence linking SLS to cancer is a bit challenging due amount of conclusive scientific studies. However, carcinogenic effects are quite possible when you consider that SLS/SLES is often contaminated by two known carcinogens:
- Ethylene oxide (which is what the "E" in SLES represents). A return to the Skin Deep website for ethylene oxidereveals a rating of "high hazard," which appears as an impurity in thousands of personal care products. It is used to "ethoxylate" SLS and other chemicals, to make them less harsh.
- 1,4 dioxane, a byproduct of ethylene oxide, also receives a "high hazard" rating from Skin Deep and is associated with an even longer list of common personal care products. On the CDC site, 1,4 dioxane is described as "probably carcinogenic to humans," toxic to the brain and central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. It is also a leading groundwater contaminant.
3. It's also a pesticide and herbicide. Yes this is one of the many uses of SLS! It is commonly used to kill plants and insects. Makers of SLS recently petitioned to have SLS listed as an approved pesticide for organic farming. The application was denied because of its polluting properties and environmental damage.
4. Not only is the manufacturing process highly polluting, the end user also pollutes groundwater. During manufacturing, it emitting cancer-causing volatile organic compounds, sulfur compounds, and air particulates. A not so proper drainage system where the soap water goes to main source, it is toxic to fish and other aquatic animals and has the potential for bioaccumulation (meaning it accumulates in the bodies of the fish.) It also is undetected in many municipal water filters, getting into the tap water that you drink.
5. Penetration enhancer. SLS is a penetration enhancer. Once cells are compromised by SLS , they become more vulnerable to other chemicals.
"SLS penetrates into the skin and into the eyes, and is also held in the brain, heart and liver. A single drop stays in the brain and body for a few days." --"Doctor's worry: Is your baby safe?," By David L. Kern, "New Health And Longevity"
Foamy Shower No More?
Does it mean that all foaming products are bad? No.
We say - the power of information is in your hand. Our phones are never far away. Use EWG to check the safety of ingredients and understand them.
Having safe, foamy bubbles is possible. Look for products like Bare Nuhcessities' Bare Bubbly Baby Wash. It's safe foamy bubbles are derived from sugar. So foam away!