Back in 1999, before anyone gave much thought to the harmful chemicals in shampoo, I began making an SLS free shampoo for my family and friends. That formula became the first in a line of safe and natural hair and skin products that has become a family business which I still run today.
Here’s how it all began.
My husband and I were renovating the garage so the kids would have a place for art and research projects. Before the floor could be painted it required cleaning with a chemical to remove the oil stains. The cleaning agent was toxic and carried warnings to wear gloves and to keep the space well ventilated.
The fact that it contained toxic ingredients was not the reason I read the floor cleaners ingredients list. I’d been reading labels since I learned how to read. My mother worked for a grocer so she read labels, and she explained certain things, like ingredients are listed in order of volume with the most abundant ingredient listed first.
After reading the floor cleaner label, and after the arduous floor scrubbing, I took a shower. And true to my habit, I read the ingredients label on the shampoo bottle. To my amazement, the second ingredient in my shampoo (the first being water) was the major chemical I had used on the garage floor.
At first I thought it couldn’t be the harmful ingredient. It could not be the problem ingredient in the floor cleaner — the one that made it carry a warning label because no manufacturer would be so irresponsible to include a known harmful ingredient in shampoo. Even if they were so inclined, the government agency which monitors these things (you know the one) would never approve a dangerous chemical in shampoo, or so I believed.
But it did make me wonder. So I looked up SLS and found that it’s a surfactant (in other words it makes suds), and it falls under a “moderate hazard” classification. This meant that it wasn’t the devil ingredient in my floor cleaner, but now I was on a research roll, and I did a little more investigating which turned up two important facts. It was the second fact that pretty much put an end to my false confidence in the chemical industry.
First of all the above said agency does not approve cosmetics before they go to market. I’m basically a believer in less government control so I was okay with that.
Secondly, I found some medical research reports by reputable scientists on the chemical sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). The important points are these: when used in shampoo it can create weakened hair follicles which leads to premature hair loss. But it gets worse than that. SLS tends to build up in the cornea and can over time cause cataracts. It tends to build up in organs and it can affect the nervous system as well as the endocrine system.
The manufacturing process of SLS (ethoxilation) is also problematic because in it the SLS becomes contaminated with dioxane, a carcinogenic* by-product.
But the information left me with a problem — I didn’t want my family using SLS shampoo, so I had to find one that didn’t contain it. SLS goes by many names** but this was where my label reading skills came in handy. Although, after spending a lot of time in stores pouring over ingredients lists (even health food stores), I couldn’t find even one shampoo that didn’t contain SLS. So, I made my own, and since them I’ve been an ingredients geek.
© 2013 Christina Moss All Rights Reserved
*Carcinogens help produce cancer
**Other names for SLS: Sodium dodecyl sulfate, A13-00356, Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, Akyposal SDS, Sodium salt sulfuric acid, Aquarex ME, Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid, Aquarex methyl.
You can find my all natural products at http://www.ChristinaMossNaturals.com.