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Is Sodium Laureth Sulfate Dangerous?

Is Sodium Laureth Sulfate Dangerous?

Sodium Laureth Sulfate isn’t dangerous

Our second surfactant in our ingredient explanation series is sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).  A question we get a lot is sodium laureth sulfate dangerous?  The last post discussed the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate and the same benefits apply here, so if you want to see what they are, go back to the previous post.  I’m going to try not to be too technical on the differences between the two, but in order to tell you the difference I’ll need to get into the weeds a little bit.  Basically, sodium laureth sulfate goes through an extra processing step called ethoxylation.  It makes the molecule slightly bigger by adding the group (CH2-CH2-O)x onto the fatty portion which in this case is lauryl alcohol. Usually the x in the case of SLES is 2 or 3, which means that many times the (CH2-CH2-O) repeats.  It’s not that different.  However, by doing that process, a few things happen.  The molecule is less irritating.  It foams slightly less.  It becomes more water soluble.  This is why you see both SLS and SLES used in conjunction in several formulas.  They help each other out to give the maximum benefit of foaming, mildness, and viscosity building.  The best formulations in the world are used with SLS and SLES as the base surfactants, and that’s why we chose to use them as well.  Using anything different would be scientifically unsound.

What is 1,4-Dioxane?

There’s one added problem with SLES that people point out and it differs from SLS.  Remember the ethoxylation process mentioned above?  That makes a by-product called 1,4-dioxane.  It’s currently on the list of California Prop 65 chemicals.  That means it’s suspected (and that’s the key word) to cause cancer.  They have a safe harbor limit (which means under that, there’s no significant risk), and it’s 30micrograms/day.  Let’s do some quick math.  The SLES we use contains about 10 parts per million (ppm).  We use around 10% (to make the math easy) in our shampoo.  That means the finished formula contains 1ppm of dioxane.  Someone with a lot of hair might use 5 grams of shampoo, but most would use less.  We’re going to start dealing with a lot of zeros at this point because I don’t want to confuse those that don’t know scientific notation.

How much 1,4-Dioxane is in SLES?

Is sodium laureth sulfate dangerous?  To figure that out we’ll have to calculate the amount of 1,4-dioxane.  30 micrograms a day is 0.00003 grams.  1 part per million is 0.0001%.  Using these conversions we can calculate the grams of 1,4 Dioxane in the formula.  If you use 5 grams of shampoo that contain 1ppm of dioxane, then it contains 0.0001%.  Therefore, 5g x 0.0001% = 0.000005 (5 micrograms).  This means you’d need to use over 30 grams of shampoo a day to get to that level.  That’s about 1/8th of a bottle of Phique.  Nobody would ever want to use that much.  The foam would be too much to handle!  Even if you use a body wash with SLES and shower a couple times a day, you’re still not over the no significant risk (NSR) level.

I know this post was a bit technical, but it was needed to show that there’s really no safety issue with using any SLS or SLES containing shampoo.  Also, you know the difference between the two and why they are used together.  We love SLS and SLES, and you should too.  To see full list of Phique shampoo ingredients, click here.  If you want some light reading on the full CIR assessment, click here.  Sodium laureth sulfate dangerous? We say no.

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