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  4. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

Removing dirt from clothing, dishes and our skin is an important part of daily life. From soaps and toothpastes to laundry detergents many products foam when used to unlock their cleaning action.

washing hands with soap

The ingredients which help make this happen are called surfactants. When used with water they foam and give a product the ability to remove dirt. Two surfactants that help products clean in this way are called sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).

SLES and SLS have an excellent safety record and have been used for many years. Prolonged contact by our skin with concentrated SLES or SLS may, however, cause irritation. We therefore take great care when formulating our products to minimise potential irritation and still deliver effective cleansing action.

Your questions answered

Are products containing SLES and SLS safe to use?

The safety of SLES and SLS have been the focus of many scientific studies. The results show that concerns expressed by some linking them to cancer are unfounded. None of the lists of carcinogens compiled by respected bodies such as the World Health Organization, the International Agency for the Research of Cancer or the European Union include SLES and SLS.

Scientific reviews by the independent US Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel found SLES and SLS to be safely used in cosmetic and personal care products. They have also been reviewed as part of the Human and Environmental Risk Assessment (HERA) initiative on ingredients in European household cleaning products. HERA, which delivered impartial, transparent and scientifically-assessed safety information. HERA concluded they are safe and are not a cause for concern with regard to consumer use.

Are SLES and SLS safe for the environment?

SLS and SLES biodegrade rapidly and completely. Our environmental assessments, which take into account their widespread use globally, show there is no concern about current levels of use.

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