Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Enemy or victim?

All right kids, let’s start this debate.

Does it, or doesn’t it?

For those unfamiliar, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a chemical surfactant that is added to products such as toothpaste, shampoo, and detergents to help it foam and lather.  It’s a salt compound (hence the “sodium”) and is highly effective at removing oils and stains.

Jeff Goldblum - The Fly

Jeff Goldblum after using SLS toothpaste.

It’s also irritating to the skin if left on it for long periods of time.

So let’s see… in toothpaste… ground against teeth, gums, tongues, and other mouth skin… highly irritating if left on skin… combined with people whose mouths break out in open sores if they breathe in wrong…

Yeah.  Not so good.

A study in 1996 was performed and states it like so:

The aim of the present clinical double-blind crossover study was to investigate the effect of two different toothpaste detergents, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and cocoamidopropyl betaine (CAPB), as compared with a detergent-free paste, on 30 patients with frequent occurrences of recurrent aphthous ulcers. The study consisted of three 6-week periods during which the patients brushed twice daily with the different test toothpastes. The localization and number of new ulcers were assessed. A significantly higher frequency of aphthous ulcers was demonstrated when the patients brushed with an SLS- than with a CAPB-containing or a detergent-free placebo paste. An SLS-free toothpaste may thus be recommended for patients with recurrent aphthous ulcers.

And luckily, sodium lauryl sulfate is in EVERYTHING!  It’s the high fructose corn syrup of the oral health care world.  They make toothpicks out of the damn stuff.  The feeling of being totally screwed.  I has it.

I certainly won’t argue with science.  However, I will say that I tried an SLS-free toothpaste once and didn’t see any difference at all.  I looked high and low for a toothpaste that didn’t have it and at the time there wasn’t much to go by.  I wound up using a Tom’s natural toothpaste.  For me anyway, the ulcers continued unabated.

But I’m trying it again.  On the advice of a reader, I’m giving Biotene a try.  I’ve just started using it, and I have to say, I miss the foaming stuff.  This just feels like I’m brushing my teeth with Play-Doh (and believe me, I know what that’s like).  But I’m going to test this one more long-term and see if it makes any kind of difference.

Recommended Posts
Contact Us

Got a question? We're here to help.

Not readable? Change text.

Start typing and press Enter to search