Check Your Face Wash For Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

My acne treatment product of choice is Exposed Skincare. Simply because they have the best formulation I’ve seen. A few days back I went traveling with my friends for a couple of days. I didn’t want to pack the whole Exposed system as there are a lot of bottles to lug around. I figured I’ll get some face wash from 7-11 for the few days I’m traveling.

I got this face wash that contains green tea. But after using it my skin felt really, well, squeaky. Like when you draw your finger on your skin it almost makes squeaky noise. And you can feel that all the oil from the skin has been stripped away.

This can happen with cheaper face washes and I figured it’s just glycerin, as it tends to strip the skin clean. I checked the label for ingredients and was shocked to see sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) there.

I wrote about SLS before. It’s a common skin irritant and I found out that it was largely responsible for my persistent scalp acne. Why they want to put a known skin irritant into an acne treatment product eludes me. Perhaps because it’s cheap and also gets rid of the oil from the skin, and it creates the foaming effect people desire.

Have to chuck this experience to the ‘lessons learned’ category. So check the ingredients in label in your acne treatment and skin care products. It’s possible that the very product you use to treat acne makes it worse.

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About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.

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11 thoughts on “Check Your Face Wash For Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

  1. Changing shampoo eliminated my back and chest acne by 100%. It took about a week for it to heal and hasn’t come back since I changed. The only exception is when I travel and use hotel shampoo. Didn’t do anything for my face though. Thanks for a great blog!

  2. Hii

    Shall we use Ammonium Lauryl sulphate in the place of Sodium Lauryl Sulphate…. in face wash preparation..

    • Now that I look back, I was probably a bit too alarmistic in this post. SLS can irritate the skin, but most people have no problems with cleansers that have some SLS. If you notice redness or itchiness after washing your skin, then you might have a cause for concern.

  3. Hello!

    I am curious, what types of face washes do you recommend?
    Currently I use Burt’s Bees Sensitive Cream (soap and SLS free).
    It’s expensive, doesn’t seem to wash my makeup off fully, and doesn’t have any acne fighting ingredients.
    What products in your experience do a good job cleaning but not stripping the good oils?

    • Honestly, SLS is probably not a problem for most people. I was mistaken when I said it caused my scalp acne. SLS can irritate the skin, but in normal face washes the contact time with the skin is so short, it probably causes no problems.

      All face washes dissolve oils from the skin. That’s the reason we use them. I don’t think it really matters what face wash you use. Because of the short contact time, they have little to no therapeutic effect on acne. As long as the cleanser doesn’t irritate your skin, feel free to use the cheapest thing you can find.

      Neutrogena, CeraVe, Eucerin and Cetaphil all have non-irritating cleansers formulated for sensitive skin.

  4. Hello, I am worried because for about 9 months, I have used sls shampoo on my face (because I have a beard), regrettably. But what really worries me is that I would leave the shampoo sitting on my face for a minute or two, do you think that will have an effect on my skin?

    • It’s possible. The only way to know for sure is to stop using it for a few weeks and see if that helps. If SLS irritates your skin, the skin usually becomes red, itchy and possibly dry.

  5. Thanks Seppo, I’ve already stopped using it for a few months now, and my skin seems ok. My main worry is if it has done permanent damage that I would see in the future, beneath my skin. I’m asking because I read that it can get in your body, and because I would leave it in for a minute or two, I feel as if maybe it might have been more exposure time than it should have been. If I already stopped using it, did the SLS already get out of my body, or does it accumulate?

    Thanks again.

    • I haven’t looked at whether SLS is absorbed through the skin and makes it to systemic circulation. However, I seriously doubt that. I doubt that regulators in just about every country would allow a chemical that is absorbed through the skin and accumulates in the body to be so widely used. It’s not impossible, but I seriously doubt it. I would take most things you read online about chemicals with a huge heaping of salt. There seems to be an endless supply of scientifically illiterate beauty and natural health bloggers who ‘reveal the shocking truth about dangerous chemicals’. Most of it is utter nonsense. I wrote a post some time back where I talked about some common chemical myths.

      The concern with SLS is that it strips the protective layer of fat from the skin, which leaves the skin vulnerable. Also, is SLS comes in contact with proteins under the topmost layer of the skin, it can cause skin irritation.

      To answer your question, no I seriously doubt SLS causes any long-term harm. The negative effect, if any, is likely to be limited on the areas of the skin you used it on. It should pass within a few weeks of stopping SLS.

  6. Thanks for the reply, Seppo. So then the main concern was the protective fats being stripped, but that must have been fixed after I stopped using it on my face. I did know that shampoo strips natural oils, but I thought that putting it on my face was whole other story since it’s meant for the scalp.

    What you wrote makes sense, I may have worried too much. Thanks again!

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