The Truth in Our Cosmetics : SLS and Paraben

Many health-conscious consumers today worry about body products and one of their main topics of concern is the use of allegedly dangerous ingredients in the formulation of many brands. Sodium lauryl sulfate and parabens both fall in this category.Over the years, women use some form of makeup on almost daily bases. Cosmetic brands are a multibillion-dollar industry and women are willing to spend any price for beauty. Unfortunately, many of these cosmetics may contain toxic ingredients with potential harmful health effects. The price may not be paid until later in life with different degrees of sensitive skin and other health problems. Are these ingredients really dangerous or have they received a bad rap? Or does the answer lay somewhere between these two extremes?


Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS; also known as sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS): Is a synthetic detergent obtained by treating lauryl alcohol with sulfur trioxide or other sulfur compounds. SLS is a coarse powder that is often used as a foaming agent or detergent in soaps. Commercial SLS is often a mixture of other alkyl sulfates, dodecyl sulfate being the main component. Sulfonate cleaners like SLS do not form insoluble precipitates in hard water and for this reason, they have become a popular choice for cosmetics, household cleaning and personal care products. SLS can be found in a variety of products including, laundry detergents, liquid soap, all-purpose degreasers, shampoos, and toothpaste. In medicine, sodium lauryl sulfate is used as a laxative in enemas, and as an excipient in some dissolvable caplets. SLS can also be found in candy

How bad is it for our skin?

SLS irritates facial skin after prolonged and constant exposure (more than an hour) in young adults. SLS may worsen preexisting skin conditions in individuals with chronic skin hypersensitivity. According to a report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983, concentrations as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation. The report concludes that “Tests show permanent eye damage in young animals from skin contact in non-eye areas. Studies indicated sodium lauryl sulfate kept young eyes from developing properly by possibly denaturing the proteins and not allowing for proper structural formation. This damage was permanent.”


Parabens are a family of small organic compounds derived from para-hydroxybenzoic acid that are obtained industrially by esterification. Para-hydroxybenzoic acid is a natural compound synthesized by all plants. Among the members of the family methyl and propyl parabens are the most common but definitely not the only ones with industrial applications. The structure of parabens is somewhat similar to benzoic acid and its derivatives. Both parabens and benzoates can be used to inhibit microbial growth. Parabens are found in nature in berry grains like barley, onions, carrots and peaches. Parabens can also be found as food additives in cheese, vinegar, soft drinks and beer. Parabens are used frequently in many pharmaceutical and cosmetic applications because of their low cost. Although all industrial parabens are synthetic, their structure in some cases is identical to those found in nature.

What do parabens do?

Parabens inhibits micriobial growth and for this reason parabens are commonly used as preservatives in many pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulas, extending the shelf life of products. Parabens are known to have low toxicity and there is no evidence of accumulation after ingestion or direct application on the skin. These acute test show only mild irritation when applied to the skin. Methyl paraben and Propyl paraben are stable, non-volatile compounds and have been safely used as antimicrobial preservatives in foods and cosmetics for over 50 years.

How bad are parabens for the skin?

At the concentrations used to preserve cosmetics and medicines, parabens may sensitize and cause topical contact dermatitis. It is believed that persons sensitive to parabens may develop dermatitis from parabens in food and medicines. A study also found when applied on the skin, methyl paraben can react with medium wave ultraviolet radiation and increase DNA damage and skin aging.


As consumers, we should push for legislation leading to more stringent research protocols that would determine the effects of these and other chemicals that technology has placed in our path but we should also be mindful of the integrity of the research professionals dedicated to carry out the studies. Hence, we Asian Potions are always dedicated to only give the very best to our customers by ensuring all of our products are SLS, Paraben and Petrochemical free. These not only causes skin irritation, but are sometime absorbed into the bloodstream as well.

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