Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (commonly known as SLS) is a widely used and inexpensive chemical found in many mainstream personal hygiene products such as shampoos, toothpastes, mouthwashes, bodywash, soaps, detergents and body wash , along with Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS).
SLS is a detergent and surfuctant which essentially means it breaks surface tension which separates molecules and allows better interaction between the product and your hair for instance. This in turn creates a lather which makes products such as shampoo and toothpaste more effective cleaners. So effective and so inexpensive is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate that it’s found in a number of industrial cleaning agents such as engine degreaser and industrial strength detergents. It is also widely used as a skin irritant when testing products used to heal skin irritations.
So, what are parabens, you ask? You may have heard rumors and saw news reports about how you should avoid parabens in the personal care products you buy, but you might be wondering why you should do so. After doing some research, I decided to no longer purchase any products that have parabens in them. Parabens can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, deodorants, shaving gels, tanning lotions, sunscreen, cleansing gels, personal lubricants, topical pharmaceuticals and toothpaste, while they are also used as food additives in processed meats such as sausages. (Damn, who doesn’t love sausage?) A large percentage of the products we buy for everyday use contain some form of paraben, so it can be difficult to find products that do not use them. But what are parabens and what can they do to us?
What Are Parabens?
Parabens are a chemical compound of para-hydroxybenzoic acid and they are used as preservatives that’s why they are found in so many products. They are used to fight bacteria and fungus, are widely available, and cost very little to manufacture and use. Nearly all of the parabens used as preservatives are man-made and not naturally occurring. Naturally occurring parabens have been found in blueberries, of all places!
Why Are Parabens Bad?
Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, I know that there have been studies on both sides of the argument about what parabens are and whether parabens are bad or parabens are safe. But because there have been studies that say that it is potentially dangerous and that have linked parabens to various cancers, I have chosen to take the precautionary route and not use products containing them when I can help it. Whether or not they are as bad as some say they are, I would always rather err on the side of safety when it comes to my body and health. If there is a more natural alternative, I routinely choose it instead.
Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancers. Researchers have found parabens in breast tumors and believe there is a relationship between parabens and tumors. And in the July 2002 issue of the Archives of Toxicology, Dr. S. Oishi of the Department of Toxicology, Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health reported that exposure of newborn male mammals to butylparaben “adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system.” If a causal link between a chemical and cancer is not enough to avoid a product that can easily be avoided, I don’t know what is. There are a lot of other reports available all over the internet, but most of them are all related to reproductive health in some way or another.