Are you worried that you might have a Sodium Lauryl Sulfate allergy? You're definitely not alone. Internet users search on this topic with startling regularity. But I'm here to tell you it's time to stop worrying.
And here's why...
Over the years, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) has gotten a bum rap on the web. It's been cited as causing cancer (not true) and vision problems in children (also not true). It's been cited as a skin irritant (true... if a strong enough formulation is used and it's left in contact with the skin sufficiently long) and as an eye irritant (it's a detergent... duh!). But one of the things it won't do is cause an allergic reaction.
Sulfur is one of life's essential building blocks. It has a wide variety of applications ranging from medicine to gardening to food preservation to soaps and cosmetics. With one exception, however, none of these forms will produce an allergic reaction.
The one form of sulfur which may produce an allergic reaction is Sulfonamide antibiotics. Sulfonamide antibiotics can cause allergic reactions, including mild to severe rashes and even anaphylactic shock. If you've ever had a reaction to one of these antibiotics, it's only common sense and good medical practice that you should avoid the others.
Elemental sulfur powder, sulfites, and sulfates may produce irritations, but the will not produce allergic reactions. As you can see, there's no such thing as a sodium lauryl sulfate allergy.
Having said that, however, there are good reasons for avoiding SLS. In fact, according to the Cedars-Sinai Health Info Center, you may want to trade in your toothpaste... Why? Because SLS, a common ingredient in many commercial toothpastes, has been linked to canker sores:
"Several reports have found sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a component of some toothpastes, to be a potential cause of canker sores. In one trial, most recurrent canker sores were eliminated just by avoiding toothpaste containing SLS for three months. Positive effects of eliminating SLS have been confirmed in double-blind research. SLS is thought to increase the risk of canker sores by removing a protective coating (mucin) in the mouth. People with recurrent canker sores should use an SLS-free toothpaste for several months to see if such a change helps." (http://healthinfo.cedars-sinai.edu/library/healthguide/en-us/Cam/topic.asp?hwid=hn-1180004)
In addition to canker sores, toothpastes which contain SLS can also cause or aggravate bad breath. How? Toothpastes containing SLS can contribute to dry mouth. When your mouth is dry, there is less oxygen-rich saliva to help keep anaerobic bacteria under control. When anaerobic bacteria are allowed to reproduce freely, bad breath is very often the result.
So as you can see, even though you do not have a sodium lauryl sulfate allergy, there are good reasons to avoid its use, even without buying into all the anti-SLS hype running rampant on the web.