Sodium Laureth Sulfate and its close cousin Lauryl sulfate are from a family of compounds that is used in many personal care products (soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, shaving foam, bubble bath etc.) because they’re an inexpensive but effective foaming agents, which helps them to dissolve grease and oil.
It is used in fairly low concentrations in cosmetic products and toiletries, but may cause irritation similar to many detergents – the stronger the concentration, the stronger the potential for irritation. It can also cause a drying effect on skin.
Shampoos are among the most frequent products reported to the FDA including eye irritation, scalp irritation, frizzy hair, tangled hair, or swelling of the hands, face and arms. When Sodium Laureth Sulfate is absorbed into the skin, it can mimic the estrogen hormone, which is why it is being studied for its role in health issues such as PMS, menopause, declining male fertility and breast cancer.
Given the uncertainty of the evidence, health-conscious consumers may wish to seek products without Sodium Laureth Sulfate.