Is your toothpaste toxic?

Before your next minty fresh experience, be sure to investigate the safety of your toothpaste.

Did you know that even “natural” toothpastes from the health food store could contain chemicals that are harmful to your health?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are chemicals used in many body care products including toothpaste as foaming agents.

SLS is used in cosmetics as an inexpensive degreasing agent. However, according to a report in The Journal of Toxicology, even as much as .5% concentrations of SLS could cause skin irritation. Higher amounts, 10-30%, could cause major irritation. It is not uncommon for soaps to have up to 30% SLS.

Other health risks of SLS/SLES

  1. Can cause permanent eye damage (even if exposure wasn’t to the eyes).
  2. Immune system disruption.
  3. Skin roughening and disrupted biological function of the skin.
  4. Potentially carcinogenic when paired with dioxane and formaldehyde.
  5. Can retard proper eye development in kids.

How is it that SLS/SLES is still used in our toothpaste, shampoo, soap and many other products? The International Journal of Toxicology concluded that these chemicals are safe in products designed for “brief, discontinuous use followed by thorough rinsing”. Daily use of several products containing these chemicals was not studied in their report and so the safety issue remains unclear.


There are a number of non-toxic options. It is encouraged to use the EWG cosmetics database to double check products before you buy them. Many chemicals have different names that may appear on the label making it next to impossible if you aren’t a chemist to determine if it’s safe or not.

Weleda, Jason, Herbal Choice Natural Tooth Gels, and some Tom’s of Maine (not all) are a few non-toxic brands. You can also make your own toothpaste (for example, baking soda, water, peppermint essential oil, and a small amount of hydrogen peroxide).

Take care when choosing other body care products like lotion, shampoo, and soap as well since they can also contain SLS and other chemicals.

Non-toxic products can be found in most health food stores in the Bay Area including New Leaf Community Markets, Staff of Life, Rainbow Grocery, Way of Life, and Whole Foods.

For more information on natural toothcare, check this out.

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