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Perioral Dermatitis and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Allergies

Updated on March 9, 2016

You Might Be Allergic to Soap, Shampoo, or Lotion

I believe that I may well have an allergy to sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), which is a common ingredient in many of our basic beauty products. More and more people are ditching their lotions, shampoos and soaps in favor SLS-free products.

Why are companies now advertising they are SLS free? Why are people becoming pickier about these products?

Consumers are increasingly concerned about these harsh synthetic chemicals being applied to their bodies.

As for me, I was not concerned in the least about my soaps and shampoos until I developed perioral dermatitis. This condition appears as a rash around the mouth, eyes, nose, and forehead. Now, I no longer have the choice. If I use any products with SLS, I develop a very bad outbreak. It does seem to matter how high SLS is on the ingredient list. Is it the SLS itself, or another substance combined with the SLS? I don't know, but avoiding products with this ingredient altogether has really cut down my outbreaks.

Confused by all the different sodium lauryl ingredients out there? You are not alone. Initially I avoided products with sodium lauryl-anything in it. I've since found that only products containing sodium lauryl sulfate cause my skin to react.

Here is an explanation of the various ingredients. Although, I was able to find a definition in the dictionary for SLS, I was unable to find good information for the other ingredients. I found information on other sites (listed) but if anybody has a better one, please, let me know:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate is a caustic detergent useful for removing grease. Although commonly included in personal care items (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) it can irritate skin and should not be swallowed. (OneLook Dictionary)
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate is derived from coconut and palm oils; a safe, skin-friendly surfactant (foaming agent) for both skin and hair. This mild plant derived surfactant creates a rich, luxurious lather that effectively removes surface oil, dirt and bacteria, without stripping or drying sensitive skin. Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate is also hydrophilic. This means it is attracted to water, which enables it to dissolve more readily in water, thus providing superior rinseablility. (Alba)
  • Sodium lauryl lactolate is derived from palm kernel and sugar; a safe, skin-friendly cleanser for both skin and hair that effectively removes surface oil, dirt and bacteria, without stripping or drying sensitive skin. (Alba)

Some Popular SLS-Free Product Lines


Burt's Bees

According to the Burt's Bees website:

All Burt's Bees products are:

  • Paraben Free
  • Sulfate Free (SLS-free)
  • Petrochemical Free
  • Phthalate Free


According to the website:

Every shampoo and conditioner is made with advanced blends that are enriched with vitamins, certified organic herbs and pure plant proteins. Gentle, pH balanced formulations treat hair and scalp with tender loving care. None of the shampoos or conditioners contain sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates, or other harsh chemicals found in many popular salon brands.

Jason Natural Products

According to the website:

Each line is enriched with conditioning essential oils and botanical extracts to nourish and revitalize for radiantly beautiful, stylish hair. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate and Paraben Free

The products shown below are found at Amazon. If a product interests you, take a moment to read the reviews and check out the ratings. Many of these products can be found in the natural food sections of your local stores. If you have Amazon Prime, sometimes they have the best deals.

One of My Favorite Shampoos

I have experimented with various sulfate-free shampoos and can now say, hands down, Bed Head has the best. I have been using the Superstar Sulfate-free Shampoo and Conditioner. My hair is probably the healthiest it has been in many years. Also, I have long hair so many of the sulfate-free shampoos make my hair difficult to brush out. This shampoo is much easier on my hair with leaves far fewer tangles. Sometimes you can find this shampoo in your local CVS or grocery store. You can also find it online at Amazon.

Share Your Experiences

Do you suffer from perioral dermatitis? Are you avoiding SLS for another reason? Your product recommendations will help others who may be going through the same thing. Please, feel free to share your experiences or concerns in the polls and comments below.

Have you tried one of these shampoos?

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Have you tried one of these lotions or creams?

Which brand of SLS-free lotion or cream is your favorite?

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Which is Your Favorite Bubble Bath?

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Have you tried one of these Detergents?

Which brand of detergent is your favorite

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Have you tried one of these toothpastes?

Which brand of toothpaste is your favorite?

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I'd love to hear from you.

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    • profile image

      Lola 3 months ago

      Thank you for writing this. I discovered my SLS allergy about 10 years ago on my own, no help from dermatologist, who just prescribe topical steroids (horrible). I'd like to encourage people not to choose products that have Palm Oil as the growing of Palm Oil is becoming one of the greatest contributors to deforestation in the Amazon. I tend to think ingredients close to nature and that do not require destroying nature work the best for our wellbeing and beauty.

      I have been traveling internationally and have had to rely on what ever products are available and after a decade, my dermatitis is back with a vengeance. There is zero doubt in my mind that SLS is toxic. As are so many other chemicals used in beauty products but SLS shows up on our skin and we are alerted to it.



    • profile image

      Stonecoldsew 15 months ago

      i am in my early 60's. When I was a teenager I discovered Crest toothpaste caused what you refer to. I switched to Colgate. As an adult I have always had sensitive bleeding gums. Every time I would brush my teeth or have them cleaned, my gums would bleed. Six months ago I was having a reoccurring canker sore in my mouth in the same exact spot. As soon as it would clear up within a couple of days it was back. I googled and found out about SLS. I switched to brushing with baking soda..and guess more canker sores. ....and NO more bleeding gums. SLS is bad for us!! I have ordered some SLS free toothpaste, body wash, and shampoo. Since I have cleared up my mouth, I want to see if it is the SLS in my shampoo causing the huge moles and keloids in my scalp. And the moles on my skin.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 16 months ago

      Not sure what would cause this. Maybe they use some sort of shaving cream, lotion or soap that you have an allergy to? You might want to ask what facial products they use and see if they'd be willing to switch. You could see if that stops the breakout.

    • profile image

      April 16 months ago

      I notice I have really bad breakouts with certain guys I'm dating. It's only happened to me with two guys. I get itchy, red bumps on my nose, under my nose on both sides, and on my chin. It's been hard for me to figure out why it's only happened with those two guys. I have noticed that sometimes I will get small red bumps above my lips and that always concerned me, but I've been doing research and I think it's because of the SLS. I get these same red bumps on my shoulders as well. I always thought it was because of my necklace. I'm trying to figure out a way to be able to date and not have to worry about breakouts. I dated someone this past summer and never got one breakout until I got back together with an ex a month ago that used to make me breakout. Any ideas??

    • shay-marie profile image

      Shay Marie 3 years ago from Southern California

      I was surprised to learn that Toms is NOT SLS free (bummer!). Sensodyne is a great SLS free toothpaste. They sell it Costco too.

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