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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

Ask Dr. Desai ~ Tips for buying green personal care products

Apr 09, 2014 03:48PM
This is the fourth article in this series on which ingredients you need to avoid in products. This month: Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).

What is Sodium Laureth Sulfate?
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) is a synthetic surfactant that is derived from ethoxylated lauryl alcohol.

What is the purpose of SLES in personal care products?
SLES is a synthetic foaming agent and emulsifier considered to be a gentler version of the harsher detergent called Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). The gentler version is produced via an ethoxylation reaction and hence the presence of “–eth” in the name.
What kinds of products is SLES found in?
SLES has been used in a wide variety of personal care products such as shampoos, body washes, makeup foundations, toothpaste, cleansers, laundry detergents, liquid hand soaps, etc.

What health risks are associated with SLES?
Ethoxylation results in impurities like 1,4 dioxane which has been classified by the EPA as a Group B2 probably human carcinogen. Detergents like SLES are also linked to toxic effects to the brain and central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. The Cosmetics Ingredient Review (CIR) an industry panel, acknowledges that SLES is an eye and skin irritant, however concludes that they are safe to use. While impurities such as 1,4 dioxane can be removed through additional processing such as vacuum stripping, most consumers would have no way to know if the SLES used in their product had gone through such additional processing. Thus, it is best to avoid products that contain ethoxylated ingredients. These can be identified by ingredients that have an “eth” in their names: such as laureth, myreth, oleth, ceteareth, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, and polyoxyethylene.

Dr. Desai will be speaking at the MindBodySpirit Expo on Saturday, May 3 in Somerset. Visit for additional details on his talk called “What’s In Your Cosmetics and Personal Care Products?”

Dr. Vinay Desai is a naturalist and a pharmaceutical scientist with a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and an MBA, and is the co-founder and CEO of Dr. Desai Soap, premium all natural goat’s milk ayurvedic herbal skin care solutions. Dr. Desai Soap is a Green America Approved business. Through community awareness programs, Dr. Desai has helped educate people in the sustainable practices of using solar power and green personal care products.

Do you have a question about natural personal care products? Please send your questions to [email protected] or call 908-236-6742. For more information, visit

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