Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Causes Hair Loss: True or False?

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

slsSodium Lauryl Sulfate is a common ingredient in hair products, which include soaps, shampoos, and even conditioner. It works mainly as a foaming agent. It is a synthetic chemical derived from petroleum and coconut and palm oils.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a detergent surfactant, which means that it breaks up surface tension and separates molecules in the solution for better interaction between the product and your hair. This is what causes the “lather”, which makes the cleaners more effective.

Why Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

Our friends at Wikipedia have this to say:

SDS is mainly used in detergents for laundry with many cleaning applications.[7]  It is a highly effective surfactant and is used in any task requiring the removal of oily stains and residues; for example, it is found in higher concentrations with industrial products including engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soaps.

In lower concentrations, it is found in toothpastes, shampoos, shaving creams, and bubble bath formulations, for its ability to create a foam (lather), for its surfactant properties, and in part for its thickening effect.[8]

latherSo, this sulfate chemical is so powerful that it’s used as engine degreaser. Think about that for a minute.

Because it’s so good at removing oils from surfaces, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is also widely used as a skin irritant when researchers are testing products used to heal skin conditions.

We expect our cleaning and soap products to lather, and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate gives manufacturers an inexpensive way to make that happen.

Dangers of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Skin Irritation

skinHigher concentrations of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in products can cause severe irritation and even corrosion of the skin.

The International Journal of Toxicology provided a safety assessment of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and recommends concentration levels of no more than 1% in everyday household products with prolonged use. This is disturbing when you realize just how much Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is in these everyday cleaning products, sometimes as high as between 10-20% and in extreme cases over 30%.


Allergic reactions to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate  have been associated with scalp itchiness and dry, cracked, itchy or flaky skin. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate may make your skin become sensitive, even if it wasn’t sensitive in the past. As an ingredient in toothpaste, SLS has been associated with physical reactions including cracks at the corner of the mouth or the development of canker sores.

How to Avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

labelsThe names and labeling of different chemical compounds in beauty products can be confusing. Because Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can be made from palm or coconut oil, some products containing it will be labeled and marketed as “all natural.” This is misleading if you’re looking specifically for Sodium Lauryl Sulfate-free products. Sadly, the only way to make sure a product contains no Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is to read the entire ingredients list.

What does this mean for hair loss?

Irritated, itchy, “degreased” and corroded skin on your scalp is not an optimal environment for hair growth. The follicles need nourishment and space, two things that are more challenging for skin to provide under extreme stress.

If you’ve never considered whether your normal, everyday hair products (ones that almost certainly contain SLS) might be responsible for your thinning or fragile hair, it’s worth finding out. Eliminate every product containing SLS from your bathroom and kitchen. Use only products containing no Sodium Laryl Sulfate (or other sulfates) for six to eight weeks. If you see an improvement in your hair strength and growth, you have your answer.

Hair Products Without Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

These are all in the $10-$20 range/bottle – nothing that breaks the bank. I have tried some but not all of them. Based on the glowing reviews, it’s really encouraging to see so many quality sulfate-free hair products out there on the market.

Christina Moss Naturals Shampoo 

Pura d’or Premium Organic Anti-Hair Loss Shampoo

Art Naturals Organic Moroccan Argan-Oil Shampoo

Tea Tree Shampoo for Moderate Dandruff by Maple Holistics

Yes to Carrots Nourishing Shampoo

Fundamental Shampoo by Fundamental Earth

Carols Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Sulfate-Free Shampoo

OGX Nourishing Shampoo, Coconut Milk – note, all OGX products are sulfate free.


Do you have any thoughts on sodium lauryl sulfate? I’d love to hear from anyone with a known allergy, or who’s tried total sulfate elimination for hair loss treatment. As always, I look forward to your comments!


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5 thoughts on “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Causes Hair Loss: True or False?”

  • 18
    Krystle on April 18, 2017 Reply

    Really informative post! Now I know to check out the products I buy and see if SLS is a part of it. My boyfriend uses Art Naturals Organic Moroccan Argan-Oil shampoo and conditioner, but I use something else. After I finished your article, I’ve decided that I’m going to just finish off my bottles of shampoo and conditioner and use the same one as him. =) I always find a lot of my hair just getting pulled out when I brush it, so I’m wondering if it is mostly caused by the products I use or if it’s just me.

    • 19
      Penelope on April 18, 2017 Reply

      Exactly, it’s good to just experiment with the obvious potential causes before spending too much money on hair loss solutions (because trust me, it adds up!) And for us women, hair loss has so many different causes, both internal and external, it’s easier to start with the external stuff that goes on our heads every day before we go get bloodwork or see a nutritionist! thanks for the comment 🙂

  • 20
    Peter on April 18, 2017 Reply

    Very useful information on the ingredients that cause baldness. It’s one thing I’ve been trying to prevent for a long time and I’m glad to have found some kind of answer. I think those shampoos you’ve mentioned are a great alternative that don’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Thanks for the advice!

  • 21
    Paulina on June 1, 2017 Reply

    Wow, I never thought that using my regular shampoo might damage my hair. I checked my shampoo now and it says that it contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate, is it the same SLS? Would you suggest I start using a different shampoo?

    • 22
      Penelope on June 2, 2017 Reply

      Thanks for the question! Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate are very similar shampoo additives, that do the same thing (promote lather). However, Sodium Laureth Sulfate is even a bit worse, as it also contains a known carcinogen, 1,4 dioxane. I would highly suggest using and supporting shampoos and beauty products that don’t involve these additives.

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