Why Sulphate, Paraben and SLS-free?

While we’ve recently been seeing an increase in products with labels “sulphate, paraben and SLS-free”, most of us still don't really know why they're bad for us or why we tried to avoid them in our skin and haircare. What are these harmful chemicals, and why are they considered to be so bad anyway?

Sulphates & SLS

Sulphates are chemicals used to create that foamy, lathering effect we all love. Ones you may commonly see on your ingredients list are Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES). Unfortunately, they’re especially used in bath products to create that extra bubbly experience you love in the evening. In haircare, sulphates are used to remove oil and dirt from your hair. You may now be wondering, isn’t that what we need a shampoo to do?

Sulphates can actually irritate the scalp and hair, they’re particularly strong for individuals suffering from sensitive scalps and hair, or other sensitivities such as rosacea, dermatitis and eczema to name a few. Above all, sulphates create the most damage for individuals with dry or fine hair as it’s the most fragile hair type and can therefore strip out all the natural oils needed to keep hair healthy and strong [1].

However, you may look at our ingredients list and think ‘… what?’. Do not be confused with Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSA)! The only common features between SLSA and SLS is that they both create bubbles and lather, however SLSA is made out of sustainable coconut and palm oils, making it safe for the scalp and hair. The scientific difference is that SLSA molecules are significantly larger than SLS molecules, making them too large to penetrate the skin, and as a result, causing less chances of irritation and other negative results [2].

Parabens

Parabens are also unfortunately harmful chemicals found in a lot of skincare and haircare products. The American Chemical Society conducted a study that found that “parabens are in about 85% of personal care products” [3]... Shocking, right? Ones you may commonly see on your ingredients list are methylparaben, ethylparaben and propylparaben – all identified with the ending ‘paraben’. They’re commonly used as preservatives to extend the shelf life of products. Always wondered why more natural products have shorter shelf lives? No parabens!

So what’s the issue with this preservative, why is it so bad? Aside being known for being associated with allergies and skin sensitivities such as dermatitis [4], research suggests that they can cause three very serious conditions. Firstly, parabens can suppress the immune system, causing detrimental effects. Secondly, they can lower testosterone levels, resulting in infertility issues, and lastly, studies have shown that they can penetrate the skin and mimic estrogen activity. Long exposure of such activity can lead to increase risk of breast cancer [3]. There’s no denying that parabens are known to be drying, irritating, and harmful to the scalp, but did you know the effects were this detrimental?

We'd love to hear your thoughts on Sulphates, Parabens and SLS in the comments below. Are you staying away or is it debatable?