These may seem like some of life's simple, innocent pleasures -- until you look at what is causing all that foam and lather. Once you find out, you may decide it's not so simple or pleasurable after all.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), and their cousins like Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Myreth Sulfate produce a lot of foam very inexpensively. But SLS is so strong that it's also used to scrub garage floors. And it has been proven to cause cancer in the long run.
SLS stays in the body up to five days. Other studies show it easily penetrates the skin and enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, liver, the lungs, and the brain. Yet SLS is found in most cleansing, foaming products -- and even in some toothpastes.
Did you know that putting chemicals on your skin can be far worse than ingesting them?
This is in large part because when you eat something the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help break it down and flush it out of your body.
When the chemical cocktail is delivered into your blood stream via your skin, however, it bypasses this built-in protective filtration process, so you have decreased protection against the toxins.
There are literally thousands of chemicals used in personal care products, and only a tiny fraction of them have ever been tested for safety. It’s impossible to cover them all in one article, but I’ve written numerous articles on a number of the most common culprits, and you can find them all by using the search engine at the top of this page.
Below I will touch on a few of them, but first, let’s take a look at sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), one commonly used chemical in personal care products designed to cleanse your body.
What You Need to Know About Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
SLS can penetrate your eyes and other tissues – In a study performed by the Department of Ophthalmology at the Medical College of GA, they found that SLS can penetrate into your eyes and other tissues such as your brain, heart, and liver. According to Dr. Green, lead author of the study:
“Four findings have ensued: first, SLS is rapidly taken up and accumulated by eye tissues. SLS is retained for up to five days in most eye tissues.
Second, SLS uptake is greater in younger rabbits with decreasing amounts with increasing age.
Third, SLS causes changes in the amounts of some proteins of eye tissues whether they are treated in the living animal or tissues are bathed in SLS while in tissue culture.
Fourth, SLS treatment extends the healing time of the corneal epithelium (the cellular surface layer of your cornea) up to 10 days, far beyond the normal two days.
Our findings lead us to call for more judicious use of detergents such as SLS by both manufacturers and users of soaps and shampoos. This is particularly true when possible accidental exposure to SLS could occur in infants…”
SLS produces nitrosamines – Nitrosamines are potent carcinogens that causes your body to absorb nitrates. According to one estimate, by Dr. David H. Fine, you may be applying 50-100 mcg’s of nitrosamine to your skin each time you use a nitrosamine-contaminated cosmetic.
SLS strips your skin of protective oils and moisture. In a 1959 study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, SLS caused hair and skin damage, including cracking and severe inflammation of derma-epidermal tissue, due to its protein-denaturing properties.
In a more recent study from 1998, SLS caused mild skin inflammation in most individuals six hours after topical application. After 48 hours, the responses were “considerably more intense,” diminishing again slightly after 96 hours.
Another study from 1983, published in the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, stated that:
“In absorption, metabolism and excretion studies sodium lauryl sulfate had a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties. High levels of skin penetration may occur at even low use concentration.”
SLS may damage DNA – According to Japanese studies, described in Judi Vance’s book Beauty to Die For (page 23), SLS can cause cellular DNA damage.
Other Cosmetic Chemicals You Definitely Want to Avoid
Many will shrug these findings off, thinking that their exposure to chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is “insignificant.” But the point is that you are exposed to thousands of chemicals from your personal care products, many of which will surely accumulate in your body—especially if your diet and exercise habits are poor.
This toxic burden can become a significant contributing factor to health problems and serious diseases.
Did you know it’s been estimated that if you use conventional cosmetics on a daily basis, you can absorb almost 5 pounds of chemicals and toxins into your body each year?!
Many of which have been linked to deadly side effects like cancer.
The list of dangerous ingredients is quite long -- the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has stated that nearly 900 of the chemicals used in cosmetics are toxic -- but here are some of the major ones that you will definitely want to avoid:
Paraben, a chemical found in underarm deodorants and other cosmetics that has been shown to mimic the action of the female hormone estrogen, which can drive the growth of human breast tumors.
Phthalates, plasticizing ingredients (present in nearly three-quarters of 72 products tested by the Environmental Working Group), which have been linked to birth defects in the reproductive system of boys and lower sperm-motility in adult men, among other problems.
Musks, used as fragrances, can accumulate in your body, and have been linked to skin irritation, hormone disruption, and cancer in laboratory studies.
Artificial fragrances, which are among the top five known allergens, and can cause asthma and trigger asthma attacks.
Methylisothiazolinone (MIT), a chemical used in shampoo to prevent bacteria from developing, which may have detrimental effects on your nervous system.
Toluene, made from petroleum or coal tar, and found in most synthetic fragrances. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus.
Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum, these products coat your skin like plastic, clogging pores and creating a build-up of toxins. They also slow cellular development, which can cause you to show earlier signs of aging, and are a suspected cause of cancer and disruption to hormonal activity.
I highly recommend using the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database where you can look up a wide variety of products and brands to find out what they’re really made of, and whether or not they’re safe.
It’s unfortunate, but even so-called “all-natural” or “organic” products have been shown to contain hazardous ingredients, so unless you opt for products that carry the USDA Organic seal, there’s no guarantee that they’re truly organic.
The USDA Organic seal is the international gold standard for organic personal care as the ingredients in USDA certified beauty products are certified organic for food, which must adhere to much stricter standards.
Last year I had our team develop one of only five USDA certified organic cosmetic lines in the US. I am constantly amazed at the consistently good comments I receive from friends and relatives that I have given this to as a gift.
A Do-It-Yourself Beauty Regimen
The absolute easiest way to ensure that you’re not being exposed to potentially hazardous agents is to make your own personal care products, using simple all-natural ingredients that many of you may already have in your home.
Here are a few of my recommendations:
All-natural moisturizers -- Pure emu oil is a great alternative to facial- and body moisturizers and lotions, as is pure coconut oil. It’s a fantastic moisturizer and a potent source of the beneficial fat lauric acid.
All-natural acne fighter -- Rubbing just a drop of oregano oil on a breakout can speed up the healing and prevent unsightly scarring without resorting to harsh commercial acne medication (remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards).
All-natural deodorant – I advise stopping ALL antiperspirants. Common soap and water works fine. If you still need further help then try a pinch of baking soda mixed into water as an effective all-day deodorant.
All-natural shampoo and soaps – You can find clean, non-chemical soaps at many health food stores.
Finding recipes for your own homemade beauty products is a breeze when you have access to the internet. Just Google “homemade cosmetics” for more than 400,000 pages of recipes and instructions. We recommend that you check out Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database for many healthy alternatives.
Last but not least, if you are concerned about the numerous toxic chemicals you are exposed to on a daily basis, I strongly urge you to read Our Toxic World: A Wake Up Call. The author, Dr. Doris Rapp, does a thorough job of uncovering the many ways we are exposed to toxic chemicals and how they take a toll on your health and contribute to many chronic diseases.