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Can Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Cause Hair Loss?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is an ingredient found in most hair shampoos that are used as a lathering agent or for creating the foamy bubbles which help us clean our hair. Almost all shampoos, including the most popular brands sold by major consumer hair product companies, include Sodium lauryl sulfate. It is one of the main reasons for hair loss. In this article, we will discuss Sodium lauryl sulfate in detail and will analyze its effects on human hair and skin.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, also known by its acronym SLS is a chemical surfactant. Surfactants are chemicals that can reduce the surface tension of a liquid and are more popularly known as detergents. SLS can easily bind with the dirt and oil in your hair due to its unique chemical properties and also produces lather or foam.

Why is it used in Shampoos?

The unique chemical structure of surfactants such as SLS makes them ideal as cleaning agents. That is because they bind with the dirt present in our hair and then create the lather which can be washed away. Almost all hair shampoos use one or other types of surfactant as removing dirt from hair without a surfactant is practically impossible. SLS or sodium lauryl sulfate is the most common surfactant used in shampoos.

Dangers of SLS shampoos

Out of all the surfactants available, SLS is considered to be among the harshest one as it affects human skin and can cause hair loss and skin irritation. Due to its strong bonding properties, SLS can also remove the naturally found oils released by our body from the hair and scalp. That isn’t good because it can increase the dryness of skin along with the feeling of irritation.

Sulfates, on the one hand, allow us to remove dirt from the hair along with dead skin cells. Their drawback is that they also lead to skin issues and in some cases, even lead to hair loss. For people with a sensitive scalp and hair, the use of SLS based shampoos may further compound the problem as these people often feel redness, irritation, itching, and dryness after using shampoos. Too much dryness of the scalp is usually the primary reason for hair loss. Many people have noticed hair loss after using shampoos containing Sodium lauryl sulfate or any of its derivatives.

Is there a way to reduce SLS damage to hair?

Our skin can tolerate a minute presence of sodium lauryl sulfate in the shampoo which researchers suggest should be around 1-2% of the ingredients used in the shampoo. Most shampoos, on the other hand, contain approximately 15% sodium lauryl sulfate, which is too high a ratio even for people who don’t have a sensitive scalp and hair.

SLS Ingredients in hair shampoo.

The only way to reduce the damage caused to hair by sodium lauryl sulfate is to avoid shampoos that contain SLS. Many companies have now started offering SLS free shampoos that use other surfactants than SLS. You can prevent the damage caused by Sodium lauryl sulfate by switching to a sulfur-free shampoo. It’s also important to read the label on the shampoo to identify the presence of Sulphur as SLS has several other derivatives that are used in hair shampoos.

Don’t buy any hair loss shampoo which lists any of the following as an ingredient:

  • Dodecyl Sodium Sulfate
  • Dodecyl Alcohol
  • Dodecyl Sulfate Sodium
  • Dodecyl Sulfate Sodium Salt
  • Hydrogen Sulfate
  • Lauryl Sodium Sulfate
  • Lauryl Sulfate Sodium
  • Lauryl Sulfate Sodium Salt
  • Monododecyl Ester
  • Monododecyl Sodium Sulfate
  • NALS
  • Natrium laurylsulfuricum
  • Natriumlaurylsulfat
  • Sodium dodecyl sulfate
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Sodium salt
  • Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt
  • Sodium monododecyl sulfate
  • Sodium monolauryl sulfate
  • Sodium n-dodecyl sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl ether sulfate

These are just other names for SLS as due to writing conventions or slight differences in chemistry, different companies may use a different word for SLS on their label.

Final Thoughts

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate has been used in shampoos for decades, and only recently, people realized the harmful effect it has on human hair. In some extreme cases, it can lead to rapid and irreversible hair loss. So, it’s better to avoid using a shampoo, conditioner, any other hair care product which uses sodium lauryl sulfate as one of its ingredients.

Many companies are now offering sulfate-free shampoos due to rising demand for such products among the consumers. These shampoos are mostly free of sulfate or any other harsh surfactant and are much better for hair care than their SLS based counterparts. Here on, we have reviewed many Sulfate-free Shampoo and Conditioners. You can read them if you are looking for hair growth. The content in this blog post is not professional medical advice but just some research and information from my own personal experience.


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