Our skin and hair care products contain a rather interesting declaration which we are quite proud of. Our packaging declares that our products are free from SLS, SLES, Parabens and other synthetics including (but not limited to) chemical fragrances, colours, thickeners, fillers, foam boosters and any other weird substance you could think of.
My post today will focus on the first 2 weird substances which are mentioned in our declaration: SLS and SLES. I will, by presenting facts commonly present in the public domain and anecdotal evidence, demonstrate why I believe that these 2 ingredients should NOT be present in any personal care product. I will end my post, as always, with brilliant natural alternatives you can choose to completely avoid using these 2 ingredients at home.
What are SLS and SLES? Why are they so commonly found in cleaning products?
Detergents, car washes, pet washes, shampoos, baby washes, face washes – if something foams a lot, and comes from your favorite brand of hair/skin/home care (other than Krya), the chances are it uses Sodium Lauryl Sulphate or Sodium Laureth Sulphate as a surfactant.
The original surfactant all cleansing products used in the past was soap. Soap has a hoary old history and we have archeological evidence of the Babylonians making it in 250 BC. Soap isn’t the greatest or gentlest product you could use on skin – but it is a through cleanser, and something you could use with minimal damage if you are in need of extremely thorough cleaning.
Soap & candle maker in medieval times – Project Gutenberg
After the world war, the use of old fashioned soap started to go down as synthetic detergents derived from petroleum started taking over in all cleansing products. Synthetic detergent surfactants like SLS and SLES were cheaper than soap, made thicker and denser foam, were much stronger degreasers, and did not react with calcium present in water to form soap scum or “soap rings”.
SLS and SLES started out purely in detergents. As their popularity grew, they appeared in personal care products like shampoos, body washes, face washes, products used on babies and even toothpastes.
It’s safe to say today that if you are using any kind of synthetic foaming product, it almost definitely contains SLS, SLES or some form of sulphate surfactant.
5 reasons why you should ditch SLS / SLES in your personal care product:
- Dry skin and hair every time you wash
Dirt on skin and scalp sticks to the natural oil layer secreted by the body. This oil layer, called the sebum, helps naturally moisturize skin and creates a protective barrier keeping it free from harmful micro organisms.
SLS and SLES dissolve this sebum layer and strip skin of all its natural oils leaving you with dry skin and hair. “The lathering power of liquid soaps is actually an enemy. It can bubble the oil out of your skin” says Dr. Marianne O’Donoghue, associate professor of dermatology at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Aggressively oily skin and hair sometime after you wash
Skin below 35 years reacts aggressively to this systematic stripping of sebum. With the increased use of Sulphate containing product, you may find your skin and scalp becoming oilier, creating a vicious cycle where you are compelled to wash more frequently.
“My hair would feel like a wrung out oily papad or samosa, a day after washing with a synthetic shampoo” – verbatim quotes from Krya consumers complaining about the after effects of using a synthetic shampoo
This is very common among users of shampoos that contain SLS and SLES. If you find that your hair is getting greasy and oily a day after shampooing, then you need to investigate your shampoo – the excessive harshness of this product usually forces a defensive skin reaction where the scalp starts to aggressively produce sebum to make up for the loss every time you shampoo.
Of course this will only prompt you to use more shampoo to counter this greasy defense – the result damaged and dry hair and scalp.
- Aggressive washing can harm your body’s natural micro biome layer
Our skin contains more than 1000 species of micro organisms that live in it. Nearly a trillion bacteria are estimated to be a part of this rich and complex micro biome layer. A study by the National Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland found that there was also a large fungal diversity across the body. The human heel alone, hosts 60 different species of fungi and nearly 40 species just between the toes!
The human microbiome – a wonderful, natural shield that envelopes our skin protecting us – source Nature.com
In their natural state, these beneficial bacteria almost act as an invisible shield on our body. They prevent harmful bacteria from colonizing our skin, and even stimulate our immune system’s response in case there is an attack on us. The bacteria present in our sweat, secrete lactic acid that helps keep our pH at a range between 4 – 4.5. This acidic pH of our skin is one of the major ways in which our skin prevents the entry of harmful micro organisms.
Under alkaline conditions, (for example when you use a soap, which is a known alkaline product), the bacteria on our skin are detached and removed easily. Our skin also swells under alkaline conditions, opening up and allowing embedded micro organisms to float and move out of its surface. This also leaves the cell structure open and naked, shorn of its protective micro biome layer.
When the microbiome is destroyed – extent of devastation after a simple bath or hand washing with synthetic soaps
Intensive use of alkaline products, aggressive surfactants (SLS, SLES) or the use of antiseptic liquids and soaps can lead to a higher degree of infectious attacks by gram negative bacteria as your beneficial micro biome layer is ripped apart.
- Skin irritation, cankers , and cavities
SLS is a knownskin irritant. Constant exposure to SLS irritates skin. Animal studies indicate that it can irritate eyes as well on contact. It can also aggravate skin problems when skin is already sensitive.
In toothpastes, studies show that the incidence of canker sores increase with the use of SLS based toothpastes. Separate studies also indicate that SLS interferes with the fluoride pathway in teeth, preventing the deposition of fluoride on tooth enamel – fluoride deposition helps keep teeth stronger and cavity free.
- Possible carcinogenic activity due to contamination with 1,4 dioxane
SLES is the ethoxylated compound of SLS. During the process of ethoxylation, SLES can get contaminated by 1, 4 dioxane, which then shows up in products that contain SLES, (sometimes upto 279 parts per million). The US National Toxicology programme classifies 1, 4 dioxane as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”. It is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 2B carcinogen: “possibly carcinogenic to humans as it is a known carcinogen on animals”.
There is no known safe limit for this possible carcinogen. Testing by the FDA has found 1,4 dioxane being present in even children’s shampoos upto 85 ppm – Remember this is an ingredient that should be to be completely absent in any skin or personal care product.
To sum up:
What are my options? And why shouldn’t I use soap to clean my hair and skin?
A reader may be excused for feeling alarmed now that the foam has been wiped away. We’ve just made SLES and SLS extremely unattractive options to clean with. We’ve also firmly told you to get rid of your bar soap, unless you are super filthy.
What is one supposed to do without soap, you may question, rather indignantly.
Recorded history suggests that the Babylonians were making soap around 2800 BC and the Phoenicians definitely knew about soap making by 600 BC. The first “hard proof” of soap making is in Roman times. The Pompeii ruins have a soap factory complete with finished soap bars.
Despite their knowledge and use of soap, the Romans did NOT use soap to bathe in. They instead used a mixture of olive oil and sand to scrub their body. A scraper called “the strigil” was then used to scrape off this mixture along with any dirt, grease and dead cells from skin. The roman “bath” was the finished off by moisturization using herb infused salves.
Even Galen did not recommend soap for all purpose bathing by everyone – he recommended the judicious use of soap ONLY in certain skin conditions which required the harsh but through cleansing that only soap can give.
Our solution: grain, clay and herb based cleansers
If you trace bathing and hygiene across warm and tropical climates, you will find a consistent use of herbs, oils, muds and clays to keep skin clean. In these areas, bathing frequency was higher and skin diseases arose as a result of sweat, and the pervasive nature of insects, and micro organisms which flourished in these warm climates.
Traditional Indian systems document hundreds of herbs that can be used in combination with grains, lentils and clays to make safe, effective skin and hair cleansers.
Here are 5 grains / herbs and clays you should be exploring to substitute SLS / SLES personal care products:
- Mung Beans – Traditionally used in skin care India, the Mung bean is an excellent skin cleanser. It exfoliates and gently lifts away dead cells from skin, yet is gentle and safe enough to be used evn on a very small baby, as it is even today in traditional Indian homes.
Wash, sun dry and powder organic whole Mung beans to form the base of your daily skin cleansing product. It can also be used as an excellent hair cleansing base for young children.
- Rice Powder – Fabled in traditional Japanese culture for its skin lightening and exfoliation properties, rice powder is another invaluable ingredient in your skin care arsenal.
Wash, shade dry and powder finely, organic Rice powder. Add this to your face and body cleanser to give your skin an even tone and texture. Limit usage if your skin is extremely dry.
- Amla / Indian Gooseberry – Amla also called Embellic myrobylan is one of the 3 great Myrobalans in Ayurveda, Siddha and traditional Tibetan medicine. It is a kayakalpa herb, that rejuvenates, revitalises and regenerates body tissue. It is tridoshic and satisfies all 6 rasas / tastes, according to Ayurveda.
A small amount of cleaned, washed, cored, sun dried and finely pounded Amla powder is a fantastic adition to skin and hair care products. It helps keep the pH of the product in the acidic range, and is a strongly cleansing and toxin removing ingredient.
- Cyperus rotundus / Nutgrass / Mustha – Nutgrass also called Nagarmotha or Mustha in Sanskrit and Cyperus rotundus in Latin, is a gorgeous underground tuber that is used in Ayurveda and Siddha for various ailments. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with a nut, and is a starchy underground tuber that has been eaten by many ancient civilisations. Cyperus rotundus is native to Africa, Southern & Central Europe and Southern Asia.
Its pharmacological properties include anti inflammatory action, anti pyretic and analgesic action. Nutgrass is one of nature’s deodorizers – which makes it a great addition in a body wash product.
Look for forest collected (and not cultivated or sprayed) nutrgass. Scrub the tubers thoroughly to remove traces of clay, sun dry and powder finely. Add this to your bodywashes for a refreshing , naturally de-odourizing product.
- Fuller’s Earth / Multani Mitti – Clays (of different kinds) have been used across various cultures to cleanse and care for skin and hair. Depending on their origin, different clays are good for different kinds of skin. The international skin care world has already gone gaga over Rhassoul clay and French green clay. In India, we have the sandal coloured, fine multani mitti available.
Multani mitti is an oil adsorbing clay and works very well on oily skin and greasy scalps. It is a very gently cleansing alternative to foam based surfactants and can be used effectively in both skin and hair care products.
When used on hair, ensure it is used on oiled, or already greasy hair. Do not let it settle on scalp as it becomes harder to wahs off hair as it dries. Look for unadulterated, Multani mitti – buying clay blocks and powdering them yourself help check any contamination or adulteration.
9 Krya alternatives to SLS / SLES :
1. SLS + SLES + Paraben + Synthetic free face washes – Try our grain, lentil and herb blended face washes with aromatic herbs like liquorice and peppermint. Tested and researched for over a year, our face washes work gently to cleanse facial skin without stripping it of moisture. Explore more here, there, and there. Also, here’s one for Men (yes, you do deserve to look after your skin).
2. SLS + SLES + Paraben +Synthetic free body wash – The all new deodorizing Krya bodywash uses herbs like Lemongrass, and Palmarosa to give you delicately scented and smooth skin – no SLS/SLES, no sebum stripping
Explore more here.
3. SLS + SLES + Paraben +Synthetic free hair washes – Try our gently foaming, scalp loving range of hair washes. Our shampoo gently lifts dead cells and dirt from scalp and hair without destroying hair’s cell structure or its acid mantle. Leaves hair feeling cleanse, light and alive.
4. SLS+SLES free home cleansers – Try our all natural detergent and dishwash, made from soapberries , and other herbs like lemongrass. We use only organic and forest collected herbs and both our cleansers work great on clothes and dishes, help save water and are gentle on skin.
We are on the warpath against SLS, SLES and all the nasties that go into stuff that we are supposed to use on ourselves. We think we deserve to use better products.
Do you think so to? Do you have a story to share or a comment for us? Write to me : firstname.lastname@example.org
A happy, toxin free, nourished and clean day to you.