HomeA-Z of terms and ingredientsSLS and SLES


Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) are surfactants ("surface - active agent": a substance, like a detergent, which enables a liquid to foam), which are used in many cosmetic products for its cleansing and emulsifying properties.

An old internet rumour is routinely re-circulated, and is often perpetuated in media articles, alleging that SLS can cause irritation and may even cause cancer.

Safety is the number one priority for our industry. All cosmetic products are subject to a rigorous safety assessment before being sold.

The safety of SLS has not been questioned by the UK or European authorities, nor by the EU's expert advisory committee (the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, or SCCS).

The safety and toxicity of this ingredient was reviewed in 1983 by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel of the USA. They concluded that SLS was safe for use in cosmetic products. This conclusion was re-confirmed by the CIR in 2002, after an additional 250 scientific research studies were considered.

Although prolonged contact with high concentrations may cause irritation, this is not seen at the low concentrations of SLS used in cosmetics and personal care products, such as shampoos and toothpastes; which have a long history of in-use safety.

SLS has an excellent safety record and has never been found to be carcinogenic even though it has been investigated many times around the world. It is widely used because of its good cleansing properties and because it combines safety with efficacy. Consumers may continue to use and enjoy their cosmetic and personal care products with confidence.

Sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) is also is used in many cosmetic products for its surfactant properties. This widely used cleansing agent is perfectly safe for use on the skin; it is therefore not surprising that other industries would choose to use this safe, effective and biodegradable cleanser too.

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