Sodium lauryl sulfate and it’s cousin, sodium laureth sulfate, are sneaky emulsifying ingredients found in almost everything designed for cleaning: soaps, shampoos, body wash, dish detergents, toothpastes, and more. They are basically what causes a product to lather. Although the scientific community is, as always, late to the game when funding research into exactly how dangerous these chemicals are, the International Journal of Toxicology recommends a concentration of no more than 1% in regularly used products. Unfortunately, the concentrations in most beauty and cleaning products are upwards of 20%.
SLS has been linked to skin, eye, and scalp irritation, issues with eye development in children, and hormonal imbalance. Less extreme, but equally annoying, haircare products with SLS have been linked to dry, frizzy hair, and even hair loss! SLES, though less of an irritant, is often contaminated with dioxane, a known carcinogen.
So I personally choose not to wait for the scientific community to fund more research, while we wait and slather on this harmful substance on a daily basis. I’ve gone totally SLS-free.
The one downfall of switching to SLS-free products is that you can lose some of that lathery goodness that makes you feel oh-s0-clean. I’m not gonna lie, I like a good lather, so I set out to find some awesome natural products that still lather up and clean like champs, but without the toxic after effects.
Here are a few of the products I’ve been using lately, and love:
- Ceramide Care Collection: This all-natural, sulfate-free haircare line is safe for color treated hair, and has a product for pretty much every hair type. I’ve been using the Curl & Frizz Shampoo & Conditioner, which has hair nourishing organic ingredients like arnica, chamomile, white tea and lavender, along with beautifying oils like shea, jojoba, and argan. It left my hair soft and smooth, and definitely healthier! They also have a clarifying formula for oily hair (fortified with rice protein which soaks up excess oil), a volumizing formula for flat, listless hair (with panthenol and golden barley protein to strengthen locks), and a fragrance-free formula for those with allergies or sensitive skin. Their shampoos work into a nice lather, which is great, and all of their formulas are totally safe for daily use, smell yummy (other than the fragrance-free version, of course), and come in 80% post-consumer recycled packaging. Win-win!
- Art Naturals Professional Series: I like to mix up my haircare products to keep my locks on their toes, so to speak. So the other product line I alternate with the above is Art Naturals. I love the Organic Argan Oil Shampoo, which is awesome for strengthening and hydrating hair, as well as battling issues like dandruff and split ends with 100% fair trade Moroccan argan oil, keratin, and a bunch of other nourishing oils. Once a week, I follow it with the Argan Oil Hair Mask, a rich and hydrating deep conditioner loaded with nourishing vitamin E and essential fatty acids. They also have an Organic Argan Oil Thermal Hair Shield, which I use on the days I heat style my hair.
- Earth Mama Angel Baby Body Wash and Shampoo: For baby’s delicate skin and hair, I only use all-natural products, and I LOVE Earth Mama Angel Baby. I use their whole line of baby care products, which are so much cleaner and safer than Honest Co. (which we started with). This pure castile soap has a heavenly natural vanilla orange scent that makes you just want to eat your baby up, and features organic plant extracts, shea butter and aloe, and kosher vegetable glycerin. It cleans great without over-drying baby’s skin and hair, and washes off easily without leaving any residue. It’s detergent free, non-toxic and made without synthetic fragrance, antibacterial chemicals, phthalates, parabens or, of naturally, harsh sulfates.
SLS-Free Soap and Body Wash:
- Nigel Anthony Organic Sunflower & Coconut Shower Gel: This natural shower gel lathers beautifully, smells divine, and gets skin super clean without overdrying. It features ingredients that are 98% naturally derived, and 82% organic, and is of course paraben and phthalate-free, as well as sulfate-free. Moisturizing coconut and sunflower oils and palm kernel work together to cleanse, hydrate, and smooth skin. And for those of you who love a good bubbly shower experience, this body wash won’t disappoint!
- Gaia Bodyworks Bar Soap: One thing is for sure: you want your bar of soap to lather up, clean deeply, and not dry you out. But honestly, that’s proven harder to find than I thought! So I love the handmade all natural soaps from Gaia. These beautiful soaps come in a variety of natural fragrances like lemongrass, lavender, and coffee, and some have awesome exfoliation built right into the bar. I like using them on my hands or in the shower, for a deep cleansing and exfoliating experience. And the ingredients couldn’t be more natural: moisturizing coconut and avocado oils, shea butter, exfoliating and detoxifying sea salts and epsom salts, and invigorating essential oils. That’s it. They lather beautifully, couldn’t be more clean and natural, and deep cleanse and exfoliate skin without any harmful chemicals!
- Puracy Natural Foaming Hand Soap: For the bathroom and powder room, nothing beats a good foamy hand soap. It’s light, lathery, and makes washing hands fun (which is great for teaching the kiddos good hygiene). I had to throw out my usual brands when I eliminated sulfates (they’re still lurking in most Mrs. Meyer’s and Method products), and it took awhile to find a hand soap I loved. But this lavender and vanilla foaming wonder is full of natural coconut-based cleansers and plant-based skin softeners, essential oils and vitamin E. It never dries out skin (as most soaps with sulfates do), smells heavenly, and cleans with the best of them. Love it.
- Earth Mama Angel Baby Body Wash and Shampoo: See above.
- Jason Powersmile: This natural, super foamy, whitening toothpaste has been a staple in our home for years. It deep cleans teeth with bamboo powder, calcium carbonate, and baking soda, whitens with silica, protects teeth from decay with grapefruit seed and perilla seed extracts, and freshens breath with natural peppermint. It’s free of fluoride, sulfates, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors, saccharin, and propylene glycol. And despite being all-natural, it totally foams up like a champ and tastes great. Love it!
- Xyliwhite: If you’re more into a gel than a foamy paste, than this toothpaste is for you. With protective xylitol, and whitening baking soda, silica and papain, and freshening mint oils this puppy is even safe for kids. It’s fluoride-free, sulfate-free, and formulated with super pure ingredients. Despite being a gel, it still foams up nicely to give you that squeaky clean feeling, without all the toxic crap!
- Jack N’ Jill Natural Toothpaste: This all-natural kids toothpaste tastes yummy in organic fruity flavors, and is the cleanest, safest kids toothpaste I’ve found. Better than Jason, Honest Co. and Tom’s. With only 7 ingredients, it deep cleans and protects little teeth with xylitol and silica, and also has organic calendula to soothe sensitive gums. It’s free of fluoride, sugar, artificial colors and flavors, and of course, sulfates. When little M is old enough, this is the only toothpaste we’ll use for her!
- Earth’s Best Toddler Toothpaste: When little M’s teeth started coming in, we started brushing those little suckers with a gum brush and this all-natural toothpaste. I like that it’s from a natural baby brand I trust, and that all the ingredients are safe for baby (which is important, because they swallow the toothpaste!). It’s got xylitol, beta-glucan, and oat bran that clean and protect those little chompers, and it comes with a little silicone finger brush that makes it easier to brush baby’s teeth!