A few years back, I made the decision to stop straightening my hair with heat tools and to begin wearing it naturally curly in an attempt to be healthier, even if it just began with my locks. It took some work, but after studying about how to keep my hair healthy, shiny, and thriving in its natural state, I am now a self-proclaimed expert on shampoo bottle labels and conditioner contents.
One of the most important rules for achieving healthy curls is to go sulfate-free! I was informed that sulfates can dry out your hair, irritate your scalp, and create a need to overcompensate with moisturizing products.
So you can imagine how mortified I was when I discovered that the number one ingredient to stay away from in hair products was in my toothpaste! And here I was brushing it all over my teeth. It was time for a change!
The ingredient is called SLS and it is hiding in the mix of many of the toothpastes out on shelves right now.
Are you interested in keeping your teeth healthy, shiny, and thriving in their natural state, too? Keep reading to remove all the guesswork and find out why it is important to use a toothpaste without SLS.
What is SLS?
So what is this taboo ingredient, exactly? And why was it such a big deal to find it on my toothpaste label?
It’s called SLS and it’s short for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a surfactant found in certain foods and also cleaning products. That doesn’t sound too tasty, does it?
Surfactants can also turn liquids into a foamy state, as well as creating a bond between oils and water, while trapping dirt and allowing it to lift from surfaces and wash away easily. Basically, they give that nice fluffy cleaning effect.
Where is SLS Used and Why
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can be found in many of the everyday products in our homes. If you check out the labels of items in your cupboards and cabinets, you will likely find that many items contain SLS. It does make sense that SLS is used in certain products, but there may be concerns for its use in others.
Some of the most common products containing SLS are:
- Hair and Beauty Products like hair dye, make-up remover, shampoo, hair gel, conditioner, foundation, and hair-removal products
- Toiletries like hand sanitizer, hand soap, shaving cream, shower gel, body wash, facial cleansers, exfoliants, bubble bath, and bath salts, sunscreen
- Oral Hygiene Products such as mouthwash, at-home whitening kits, and toothpaste (but you knew about that one already)
- Skincare Products like anti-itch creams, moisturizing hand creams, and face masks
Besides being used as a surfactant, for foaming-up and lifting away dirt, SLS may also be used as an emulsifier to help thicken and stabilize solutions, giving them a more uniform texture. Furthermore, its low cost makes it common among conventional toothpastes and other mass-produced products.
Why You Shouldn't Use SLS in Toothpaste
While Sodium Lauryl Sulfate has been deemed safe by the ADA for use as a food additive, and concerns regarding it being a carcinogen have been put to rest, you may want to reconsider allowing it into certain products, specifically your toothpaste.
Here are some issues surrounding toothpaste that contain SLS:
Some companies may boast using all natural ingredients, even though their products still contain SLS. This is possible because SLS is a derivative of coconut oil. However, SLS is contaminated by a toxin during its manufacturing process.
SKIN AND MOUTH IRRITATION
SLS has been determined to be a moderate allergen and skin irritant when used as an ingredient in certain products, including toothpaste. If used in appropriate amounts, and quickly rinsed away (as in face or body wash, for example) SLS can be safe and non-irritating.
However, if used undiluted, it can cause nausea, skin and eye irritation, and vomiting, if ingested. As part of a toothpaste formula, SLS can increase the occurrence of canker sores which may lead to the presence of cavities.
Having a sensitivity or allergic reaction to SLS can reveal itself in the skin in or around the mouth to become dry and flaky, with possible cracks. One of the more common places someone may experience this cracking is at the corners of the mouth.
As SLS wicks away dirt and oils, it can be very drying to the skin. This translates into oral issues by its hindrance of saliva production. For this reason, there is concern regarding a possible link to gum disease, as healthy saliva production is essential to rinsing the mouth of harmful bacteria that may build up on the teeth and gums.
A preliminary, double-blind study done on the desquamative effect of sodium lauryl sulfate on oral mucosa showed that toothpaste without SLS did not result in any reaction, while toothpaste containing “1.5% SLS showed desquamation (or “the shedding or peeling of the epidermis in scales”) in 60% of its subjects.”
Another issue with SLS in your toothpaste is that it can hinder the benefits of using fluoride. The issue lies in the fact that SLS bonds with the fluoride, making it more difficult for the fluoride to bond to your teeth, which is what protects your enamel, and that is what fluoride is intended to do! Don’t dilute the great benefits of using a fluoride toothpaste, by using one that also contains SLS. You’re better off leaving that out of the mix altogether.
If you’re among the many that prefer ingredients that are cruelty-free, you may be interested to know that SLS has also been tested on animals. In this sense, it is not vegan-friendly.
Can Toothpaste Be SLS Free?
Absolutely. The market has made positive moves in the direction of consumers desiring chemical-free products, and that certainly includes toothpaste.
It is possible to find a toothpaste that doesn’t use SLS, while still effectively cleaning and protecting your teeth.
Toothpaste products achieve this by using more natural ingredients, in place of SLS. You may notice less of the foaming effect in these more natural options, due to not having a surfactant, but overall the performance of these toothpastes can be very comparable, without the added gum irritation that may come from using SLS toothpaste.
Twice’s Invigorating Wintergreen and Peppermint toothpaste, and it’s counterpart, Calming Vanilla Lavender Mint, are solid choices for toothpaste without SLS. And, they also check every health, safety, cruelty-free, and vegan box!
Here are some other key benefits that make our toothpaste better than the rest, all while remaining vegan and SLS-free:
- Teeth Whitening
- Cavity Prevention and Enamel Health
- Sensitivity Relief
- Triple Antioxidant Complex: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E
- Botanical Extracts for pain reduction, fresh breath, gum hydration and soothing
You can see from this list that a toothpaste can have all the high-quality ingredients needed to support your oral care routine, without the unnecessary addition of SLS.
We know that it is important to be gentle on our teeth, so we use soft bristled toothbrushes, scrub gently in small circular motions, and treat our enamel and gums with TLC. So to use a toothpaste containing SLS, which doesn’t take as much of a gentle approach, doesn’t make sense. Give up the overly foamy sensation for a healthier toothpaste.
If you want to avoid the use of sulfates in the products you put in or on your body, you are making a wise decision. Thankfully it is much easier to find products that do not contain SLS than ever before - and products that are effective, at that.
So, be cautious when toothpaste shopping. It can be difficult to detect the use of SLS in your toothpaste, because the ingredient may be listed under one of the following labels:
- Aquarex methyl / Aquarex ME
- Sodium salt
- Dodecyl sodium sulfate
- Sulfuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt
The best way to ensure that you are not purchasing a toothpaste with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is to find a trusted brand that clearly lists its ingredients and explains what they do.
Here at Twice, we never use SLS, PEGs, parabens, sugar, carrageenan, triclosan, sulfates, or alcohol. We only use what you need for good oral hygiene, and nothing more.
We’re so sure you’ll love our toothpaste, you can try out two mini tubes of Twice toothpaste for only $5!
There has been controversy surrounding the safety of SLS over the years. The answer to whether or not SLS is safe for use in toothpaste and other products that come into contact with the body seems to come down to the correct formula. Rather than wonder if a company is using a “safe” amount of SLS, you may desire to forego the ingredient all together. Happy brushing!