Do you know what makes regular toothpastes foamy?
Let’s learn about: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
SLS is an inexpensive detergent and foaming agent that is added to pretty much every conventional soap, shampoo and toothpaste. It can irate skin and eyes, otherwise a widely used, safe agent.
The foaming caused by SLS in toothpaste gives you the ILLUSION that the toothpaste is working better. But in truth, foaming plays no role in the act of cleaning your teeth, skin or hair.
It’s safe – but in the reality it can be not so safe.
There are 2 reasons why you hear concerns about SLS (or SLES) the first has to do with contamination with the carcinogen, 1,4 dioxane. These are the man made, petroleum based ethoxylated surfactants which are commonly contaminated with this concerning chemical. (Not all, but some and you don’t know the source. So it can be in any product containing the petroleum based agent – or not, the problem is WE DON’T KNOW if it’s contaminated or not.)
The other reason is that when it’s not man made it’s often derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.
The problems with palm oil are also not so secretive. Palm oil is in nearly everything – it’s in close to 50% of the packaged products we find in supermarkets, everything from pizza, doughnuts and chocolate, to deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and lipstick.
But. Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. This forest loss coupled with conversion of carbon rich peat soils are throwing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. There also remains some exploitation of workers and child labour. These are serious issues that the whole palm oil sector needs to step up to address because it doesn’t have to be this way.
Luckily, it’s not so hard to avoid SLS these days. Eco-friendly toothpastes and toothtabs do not contain it for a start. (Fact: toothpaste tablets don’t produce foam. They turn creamy when chewing on them.) Same applies for all eco-friendly skincare, cleaning products and food. All you need to watch out in the ingredients that the palm oil is is sourced sustainably or it is replaced another oils like coconut.