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Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Hair Loss

by
author image Jackie Lohrey
Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Hair Loss
Thorough rinsing is necessary to prevent SLS deposits from causing hair loss. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Most of the time, hair loss is a gradual process that occurs because of genetics. Genetics, however, is usually not to blame when hair loss occurs suddenly or progresses rapidly. This type of hair loss most often occurs because of stress, a medical condition or even something as simple as excessive shampooing. If hair loss is due to excessive shampooing, Healthy-Communications.com, a website devoted to healthy alternatives and safety conscious product information, says the culprit could be a common detergent ingredient called sodium lauryl sulfate.

Identification

Sodium lauryl sulfate, also called SLS, is a chemical called a surfactant, or more commonly, a detergent. In addition, SLS has emulsifying properties that allow it to bind with dirt and oil in your hair and foaming properties that create lather. Shampoo manufacturers commonly use SLS as the detergent ingredient in shampoo because, according to PersonalHealthFacts.com, it is inexpensive, lathers well and with added salt can become thick.

Significance

SLS is a harsh detergent. As such, you can often find it as an ingredient not only in personal care products such as body wash and shampoo, but also in commercial cleaners and degreasers. Because SLS is so irritating to the skin, scientists and cosmetic manufacturers often use it as a control substance when testing potential product ingredients. According to a report published in the "Journal of the American College of Toxicology," although the potential for skin irritation increases in direct relation to how much SLS is in the product you use, any concentration over 2 percent will cause some degree of skin irritation.

Effects

Improper use of shampoos containing SLS can lead to hair loss, according to the National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation. According to the NTEF, hair loss can be the result of poor rinsing that leaves SLS deposits in your hair follicles. These deposits penetrate your scalp and corrode the hair follicle, causing hair loss. MaximumHair.com reports that SLS also affects the rate of new hair growth, which occurs at a rate about eight times slower than normal. In addition, Personal Health Facts reports that NaCL, the salt used as a thickening agent is drying to your hair and, by increasing the potential for breakage, also contributes to hair loss.

Prevention/Solution

Careful and thorough rinsing is essential to make sure no shampoo remains in your hair. Another way to prevent hair loss is to stop using shampoo that contains SLS or alternate between a shampoo that contains SLS and one that uses another detergent ingredient. According to HairLossJunction.com, sodium laureth sulfate is a safer, less irritating detergent ingredient.

Misconceptions

Information you may read relating to SLS as a potential carcinogen is, according to the NTEF, false. The NTEF reports that the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an independent review committee comprised of industry experts performed a thorough investigation before publishing an opinion disputing this claim.

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