Let’s talk Sodium Lauryl Sulphate aka SLS. You might also have heard of Sodium Laureth Sulphate, which is a derivative. SLS is a very common ingredient in our shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, body washes, face cleansers, and dishwasher and laundry detergents.

SLS is a chemical foaming agent and creates the lather we all love in our shampoos and soaps. It’s an anionic surfactant (detergent) that I avoid at all costs. Why? What you may not know is that, when combined with other ingredients, SLS is potentially toxic. Think about this for a moment – our skin is a major route by which substances can enter the body. So when we use a cleanser or shampoo that contains SLS, we are vulnerable to toxic substances being absorbed by our skin or through our ears, nose, mouth or eyes (just think about the number of times shampoo has found it’s way into your eyes and stung the bejesus out of them).

A frightening fact is that a single drop of SLS can remain in the body for 5 days. Don’t believe me? Well, you can draw your own conclusions by reading this, this and this for a start. Continual exposure to SLS may cause liver and kidney damage. There are arguments to say that SLS is quite safe but I’m taking no chances thanks very much.

In fact, there’s quite a long list of ingredients to avoid apart from SLS – parabens, any ingredients with MEA, DEA or TEA, talc, propylene glycol, mineral oil, aluminium (aluminum) – to name just a few. It’s confusing but you need to take the time to read ingredients listed on all products you use.

I don’t use shampoos, soaps or cleansers with SLS nor do I use a deodorant that contains aluminium. As much as possible, I’m keeping it as natural as I can.

So I thought it might be useful in today’s post to talk about the shampoos, soaps and deodorants that I’ve found that contain no nasties. I’m sure you might know others, so feel free to leave a comment. Let’s start with shampoos:

  • The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance haircare range is free of silicones, sulphates, colourants and parabens. I’ve talked before about this range and I use the shampoo and conditioner for coloured hair. Because the range contains no foaming agents, you need wet your hair thoroughly and mix the shampoo with a little water in the palm of your hand first. The smell is divine and reminds me of bilberries. I think I’m into my fourth bottle. A front-runner for me.
  • Moroccanoil Extra Volume shampoo and conditioner – sulfate, phosphate and paraben-free. I very much like the citrus smell of this shampoo and it has a lightweight, creamy gel-like consistency. It’s a costlier shampoo (around NZ$42.00), and like all SLS-free shampoos, you need to use more water than shampoo. Using lots of water is the key. I’d certainly buy this shampoo again and I eke out product life by using The Body Shop shampoo more often.
  • Giovanni 50:50 Balanced Hydrating-Clarifying shampoo and conditioner. Despite the Italian-sounding name, Giovanni is an American brand. This shampoo has zero sulfates and I tend to use it as a clarifying shampoo to remove product build-up. I wouldn’t say it’s a great shampoo; I prefer the Body Shop but it does leave the hair silky soft. The conditioner has a light floral scent and thick consistency. Of the two, the conditioner is the better product. I doubt I’d buy this range again – although it does an adequate job, I don’t think Giovanni is as good as The Body Shop or Moroccanoil.
  • Sante Naturkosmetik Henna Volume shampoo. Sante shampoos and conditioners are from Germany and are available at some health food stores in New Zealand. The main ingredients are organic honey, beer and colorless organic henna extract. The beer is the volumizing agent but, frankly, not much can boof up my super fine hair….except a hero product, which you can read about here. I’ve just started using this shampoo but I must say it’s very mild on my hair and has an unexpectedly pleasant scent. I thought it would smell a bit nasty hippy herbal but it has a sort of soft citrus smell. The one thing I did notice was the shine it gave my hair. The Sante range is based on precious plant-sourced active ingredients, from certified organic cultivation.
  • Pureology Pure Volume shampoo and conditioner. The sulfate-free shampoo contains oat, soy and wheat with conditioning plant extracts of lemongrass, papaya and ginseng. This shampoo and conditioner went with me to Sweden recently as I find the bottles very travel-friendly and not prone to surprise leakages. It lathers extremely well and does seem to extend the life of my colour. A tiny bit of shampoo goes a very long way. I can’t really describe the smell – it’s vanilla with a touch of lavender, soy and oats. Weird I know but quite pleasant. This is my second bottle of the shampoo and I’ll be repurchasing.

As you can see, I use a range of shampoos and conditioners because I like to give my hair variety. Since using SLS-free hair products, I have definitely noticed my hair is shinier and feels less heavy. It’s also behaving itself better – less bad hair days. The key to using SLS-free hair products is water. Use a good amount of water on your hair before using the shampoo.

I don’t need to use hairspray anymore but I think this is due to my hero-product – David Babaii Bohemian Beach Spray (also free of sulfates, parabens, petrochemicals and animal products). I discovered this wonder product about a year ago. Unfortunately, all this SLS business means I may have to give up my all-time fav conditioner, L’Oréal Elvive Re-Nutrition Nourishing Creme Conditioner with Royal Jelly. I need to look at the ingredients list but I’m sure it will have SLS, darn.

Moving onto soaps, I only use one soap these days – Sabun Olive Oil soap – and I’ve reviewed it before. It’s amazing despite not being the prettiest bar of soap you’ve ever clamped your eyes on. It’s made from bay laurel oil and is a 100% natural moisturising cleansing bar that has been hand-made in Syria for more than 500 years. I recently laid my hands on the Rose oil-scented bar and it’s gaw-jus. Love.

As far as deodorant is concerned, I swapped to natural solid crystal stick deodorants over 10 years ago. For ages, I’ve used Deo-Nat crystal stick deodorant and one of these lasts for nearly a year. I prefer the crystal stick to the sprays. I introduced El Hubs to it too. You simply wet the crystal and slap under the arms. No fuss, no rashes. Fantastic.