What are SLS and Parabens?

If you flip over most shampoo bottles or bars of bathing soap from the supermarket, you’re likely to come across these two terms listed among the ingredients – SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and Parabens.

These are essentially a group of preservative ingredients used in cosmetics, personal hygiene products, and even food products. They are added to the product formula to prevent spoilage, extend shelf life, and increase foaming.

But both parabens and SLS can harm your skin, and their side effects far outweigh their potential benefits.

Let’s understand why.

What are parabens?

These are derived from para-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA). They occur naturally in several fruits and vegetables (cucumbers, cherries, and olives) and in the human body (formed by the breakdown of specific amino acids).

Parabens can also be artificially made and were first added to products in the 1950s to prolong shelf life and prevent bacterial growth. Parabens may be used in makeup, moisturizers, soaps, shampoos, and shaving products. They are most often present in product labels under butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben.

Artificial parabens added to skincare products come with side effects. Dry and itchy skin, rashes, and in some cases, swelling, tenderness, or blisters result from parabens. Some studies also suggest that parabens may disrupt hormones in the body, harm fertility and reproductive organs, and result in hair loss. In addition, they are easily absorbed through the skin, thus drying and irritating your scalp.

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)?

SLS is a surfactant that lowers the surface tension between ingredients, in this case, soap and water, thus resulting in a rich lather. It is used because it is low cost and available in abundance.

Some products containing SLS include shaving creams, lip balms, hand sanitizers, exfoliants, soaps, and shampoos.

While SLS can give you an excellent frothy lather, it has several side effects. SLS tends to strip the skin of its natural oils. It can result in dry skin, irritation, and allergic reactions such as eczema and dermatitis. It can also be irritating to the eyes. A study in Germany found that it was an irritant to around 40% of those it was tried on. Although SLS is a strong and effective detergent, it’s one of the harshest and most irritating surfactants when it comes in contact with the skin.

Do natural handmade soaps use parabens and SLS?

Some of them do, some do not. So you need to choose carefully. 

Choose natural soaps made with 100% natural and pure ingredients such as coconut or olive oil that help moisturize and hydrate the skin; flowers and herbs that replenish and nourish the skin; and oatmeal and seeds that exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin.

These natural ingredients are just as effective and a lot safer. Coconut and olive oil, for instance, can give you a rich lather without the use of corrosive cleaning and foaming agents.

Only some handmade soaps are chemical-free, cruelty-free, and environment-friendly. They are anti-bacterial, do not cause rashes, itchiness, dry skin, and offer therapeutic benefits. They can also be customized to suit your skin’s needs. So, again, choose your soap after scrutinizing the ingredients mentioned.

SLS and paraben-free handmade soaps use ingredients like shea butter (naturally moisturizing), goats’ milk (helps control acne), glycerin (hydrates skin), honey (a natural anti-bacterial) to give you a luxurious bathing experience. Handmade soaps offer pure natural skincare and are crafted keeping in mind the sensitivity of the skin, which is the largest organ in the body, and your first line of defense against external agents.

Love your skin. Invest in your skin.