SLS Free Shampoos

I’ve spent the last week, as promised in my review of The Toxic Consumer, looking for a non-toxic, affordable shampoo with a list of ingredients I can pronounce.  So what is so bad about conventional shampoos besides the fact their ingredients lists make my eyes hurt and brain boggle? What is an SLS free shampoo and why should we use them?

The main chemical nasties to look out for in shampoos are; parabens (preservatives), sodium lauryl sulphate or SLS (foaming agent) and methylisothiazolinone (a biocide.)  A survey of what was on offer on the supermarket shelves revealed that while some shampoo products no longer listed parabens,  all of them listed sodium lauryl sulphate (or sodium laureth sulphate which is SLS after it has undergone a process called ethoxylation) as the second ingredient after water.  My regular shampoo and a few others besides also contained methylisothiazolinone.  (I do not want to type that again and I’m pretty certain I don’t want to subject my scalp to it again.)

Most controversy centres around the use of the foaming agent Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, also present in toothpastes and bubblebaths, to name but a few.  SLS was originally used as an industrial degreasant.  It is claimed that SLS can damage the skin by stripping it of natural oils and leaving it prone to pitting and irritation. There is a worry that it may cause cataracts and improper eye development in children and that it can cause mouth ulcers.  SLS in conjunction with other chemicals present in cosmetics can form carcinogenic nitrosamines.

There are four types of paraben commonly in use; methy-, ethyl-, propyl- and butyp-paraben.  These are preservatives used in a wide range of cosmetics.  Theories linking parabens to breast cancer are as yet unsubstantiated though fears that parabens act as oestrogen mimickers should be taken seriously and they may be a source of endocrine (reproductive) disruption in both humans and wildlife.

Methylisothiazolinone, sometimes listed as MIT, is a biocide that kills moisture loving bacterium.  Even short exposure to high concentrations can lead to nerve cell destruction.  Adequate neuro-toxicity studies of the effect of this chemical on humans have not yet been undertaken.

Three of the best non-toxic, SLS free shampoos:

Best Value SLS Free Shampoo: Faith In Nature is a well established organic brand.  A favourite with our daughter because you can buy a chocolate scented one, you can’t eat it though!  It costs £4.47 for 400mls.  Available from Amazon here or click image for more details.

Most Popular SLS Free Shampoo: The intriguingly named Tigi Bed Head Superstar is the shampoo they are all raving about.  Unlike many SLS free shampoos it promises lots of foaming action!  Price is £10.25 for 750mls available here at Amazon also.

An SLS Free Shampoo Suitable For Younger Family Members: A very gentle shampoo suitable for babies and young children by Nature Babycare.  Currently on offer at £4. 98 for two 250ml bottles.  Available here from Amazon.

You might also want to read our article on SLS free toothpaste.

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