Let’s begin with what are SLS and SLES, and what they are used for.
SLS and SLES are surfactants which are the actual soaping ingredients found in all personal cleansing products including shampoos.
Sulfates are the most common surfactant and offer a great balance of excellent cleaning properties without being harsh.
All shampoos use some form of surfactant to capture oil and dirt and clean it off your hair. Surfactants are also responsible for the creamy lather you get when you shampoo your hair.
In fact, sulfate-free shampoos are NOT surfactant-free shampoos— sulfates are just being replaced by a different type of surfactant.
But are they safe?
SLS, SLES and your health
While there are a lot of diverging opinions on the internet, independent reviews of safety and toxicity from scientists around the world have shown SLS and SLES have excellent safety records.
As with other ingredients, the safety of SLS and SLES all depends on the quantity in which it’s used. Like all other soaps or surfactants, prolonged exposure to high concentrations of SLS and SLES may have an irritant effect. This is even the case with sulfate-free formulas that contain different type of surfactants.
Therefore, we define a ‘safe range’ – the quantity that is safe to include within our product – using the same scientific process as the FDA, EPA, WHO and EU among others. We also double check the final formula of our product, to make sure the safe range is met during use. Finally, we make sure that surfactant-containing formulas are gently removing dirt from the hair fiber.
That’s why sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are included in our shampoos. These safe, effective, and bio-degradable ingredients help deliver the cleansing and dandruff-fighting performance that you expect from Head & Shoulders.