We know what SLS and SLES are and what products they are in. So why are they bad for your skin?
Well, these chemicals fall into a chemical group called surfactants. Surfactant is a substance that can bridge the barrier between oil and water.
SLS & SLES break down most fats and grease due to their surfactant qualities. That includes the natural grease that your skin produces called sebum.
SLS & SLES are bad for the skin because they strip them of its natural grease, which naturally fills the gaps between skin cells. This allows water to escape causing dry skin and eczema.
When you use products with SLS, SLES or any chemically produced surfactant on your skin, hair or body they can cause your skin to dry out, especially if used consistently i.e. washing hands.
Products such as liquid soaps, shower gels and shampoos usually contain the highest concentrations of these ingredients.
Skin naturally loses water and the top layer (the epidermis) is the final barrier to water loss. This allows water to exit at a rate that you can replenish from drinking water or other beverages.
When you wash or apply products with these surfactants, you allow the natural grease which ties the skin cells together to be washed away. As such, it leaves gaps between skin cells, allowing water to escape.
If your skin cannot produce the natural grease fast enough to plug the gaps or is continually washed away, water will escape at a much faster rate than your body can replace in the affected section of skin.
What are SLS & SLES?
In this article we’re going to talk about SLS and SLES, the two ingredients that are part of our daily lives. They are found in a large amount of personal care products and cosmetics that we use on a daily basis and we think you should know what they are and what they are used for.
1. SLS（Sodium Lauryl Sulfate）
A surfactant is a chemical compound that lowers the surface tension between two materials. In super simple terms, it makes things slippery.
The main reason that it is used is for cleaning products because it is a great cleaner and SLS is a degreaser. This means that it can break down fats and grease so they are easily washed away
2. SLES（Sodium Laureth Sulphate）
SLES is Sodium Laureth Sulphate, a chemical very similar in make up to SLS. SLES is actually made from SLS that has been put through a process called ethoxylation.
Ethoxylation is the process of reacting ethylene oxide with a chemical to make it less harsh and is commonly used in surfactants in the cosmetics industry.
Ethylene oxide is a colourless gas with a sweet smell. It is primarily used to produce other chemicals such as SLES and antifreeze. It can also be used as a pesticide and sterilizer because of its ability to damage DNA, which is why it is listed as a carcinogen.