Question: Do you think that certain petrochemicals such as SLS in skin care increases the chance of getting breast cancer? If so, what skincare alternatives would you recommend?

  1. Hi michaela, thanks for your question!

    As far as I know, there isn’t any evidence linking sodium lauryl sulphate – I think this is what you mean by SLS- to breast cancer. I haven’t really found any studies linking other petrochemicals to cancer either, but as there are many kinds of petrochemicals, we would have to look at each of them individually to see if there were any studies done or any toxic effects. So for now, if it’s ok, I’ll only answer your specific question about SLS in detail 🙂

    It’s unlikely that SLS causes cancer. SLS is what is known as s surfactant – it breaks up the surface tension of water. Think of a drop of water on a leaf -you’ll know how the water holds its own shape, forming a droplet. The force that holds this shape together is called surface tension. Surfactants like soap and detergent help break up this surface tension so that it is easier to wet things. You’ll find it easier to wet and clean a glass, for instance, when you have a bit of detergent in the water. It also helps shampoos, detergents and soaps to foam. It’s used mainly in detergents,soaps and shampoos. It’s true that it can be an irritant, but many ordinary substances we have – for example, vinegar, which is acidic, or sodium bicarbonate, which is alkaline – can be an irritant if you use too much of it, use too high a concentration of it, or use it too often. SLS isn’t found in huge concentrations in soaps and shampoos, and we use soaps and shampoos only on the surface of the body, if at all. If SLS were used concentrations at which it was irritating in the shampoos and soaps, No one could use them. So it isn’t used toxic levels to cause harm to people, though some people might find soaps and shampoos slightly irritating, they have very, very sensitive skin.

    If SLS were a cause of breast cancer, pretty much anyone who used soaps and shampoos would get breast cancer. The incidence of cancer is not that high for it to be a real cause of cancer. Also, cancer is caused by mutations in the DNA of cells, causing them to divide rapidly and out of control. SLS is not known to affect DNA. If it did, we would not be allowed to use it in any product.

    This article explains the issues surrounding SLS very well and better than I can!:

    We would have to carry out studies on each petrochemical individually to see if they caused cancer.But even if a substance is toxic, the way that you use it mean it can be used safely without causing harm to the body. Most toxic petrochemicals would not even be used in products ingested by humans.