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Perioral Dermatitis and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate Allergies

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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)

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.

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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 lotions or creams?

Have you tried one of these Detergents?

Have you tried one of these toothpastes?

I'd love to hear from you.

Shimmergirl on August 19, 2019:

Biotene gentle mint toothpaste is all i can use. Anything else causes an outbreak and burns my mouth intensely

Kay (author) on December 06, 2017:

So sorry you are going through this. I'm glad you finally figured out the cause. I think this dermatitis is a lot more common than we realize.

Amanda on December 05, 2017:

Took me about 6 months to figure it out with NO help from the docs I went to... steroids are terrible! Also was diagnosed initially with ringworm and started using an anti-fungal shampoo.. which all have sls!!! Lost a lot of hair. Since I cut them out my skin has been so clear!

Lola on March 13, 2017:

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.



Stonecoldsew on March 15, 2016:

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.

Kay (author) on January 30, 2016:

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.

April on January 29, 2016:

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 from Southern California on February 21, 2014:

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

anonymous on November 20, 2012:

One of my daughters gets small spots on her back. She uses SLS free soap on her face, but I am wondering if it is her shower gel. I had never made the connection before but I bet if I go and check, it has got SLS in it.Thank you for a very interesting page :)

LouisaDembul on November 19, 2012:

We don't have any kind of allergies, but I try to choose the right products anyway. SLS can cause a lot of problems.

anonymous on October 28, 2012:

Ive been told I have Perioral Dermatitis by my dermatoligist. I had been experiencing a itchy red rash with pustules on my chin. I knew it was not acne because this was totally different. I naturally have dry skin around my nose and combination skin and hormonal acne but this was just way different. She prescribed me metrogel and said if this didn't clear it then I might need to consider an antibiotic. I have been using metrogel for about a week now and no big improvement. My skin is still flakey and itchy. I would really like to avoid takign antibiotics as this will cause yeast infections for me and this specefic antibiotic did not make me feel very well in the past. THey said it could take 2-3 months to even start to work and I just feel that it is so harsh on my body. I am getting married next October and I would really like to figure this out. Some different things I did was I switched to Listerine mouth wash, CREST 3D vivid white and had a lavendar scent laundry detergent. My derm said to get rid of the crest 3d and mouthwash and opt for toms of maine or sensodyne, something more natural because there are ingredients in it that can cause it. I have no idea where the PD came from unless it was from these ingredients. I have gotten rid of them as of today and I guess we will see. Do you have any ideas for me? I would really like a more natural way (non antibiotic atleast) to get rid of this... please help!!!!

Normyo Yonormyo on September 30, 2012:

Thanks for the information, good to know that not all SLS are bad.

Heidi Vincent from GRENADA on September 15, 2012:

Very useful information. SLS products really dry my hair and scalp.

RinchenChodron on September 01, 2012:

They harp on us all the time at Youngliving meetings about how terrible SLS is.

anonymous on August 11, 2012:

I was reading your recommendations for detergents and saw that the ones you recommend have "natural" ingredients derived from coconut or palm oil. Did you know that SLS is derived from coconut or palm oil? It can be obtained from other sources, but the vast majority of producers use coconut oit.

Suzi63 on August 07, 2012:

Great topic for a lens & great info. I did know most of what is here as this is one of my pet subjects too along with all the other unnatural stuff that is in virtually everything these days and the implications they can cause to ourselves, the planet and especially our children even before they are born.

anonymous on July 19, 2012:

WOW!!! I love your page, I have developed perioral dermatitis from the use of betamethasone for my eczema spots...I stopped using the betamethasone 3 days ago and my skin is soooo red, it's really ugly...I've been using a metronidazole cream as well as minocycline, but this cream is drying my your page has been really helpful to me! I will try the apple cider vinegar today :) Hope it clears up by next week because I just got a new job! Anyways, thank you for the amazing page! Love and light to you! Xx

SteveKaye on July 02, 2012:

I'm pleased to find articles on topics like this. I have sensitive skin, which becomes sore when exposed to the chemicals in most popular products. So I've been very interested in knowing about natural products, such as the ones in this lens.I'll add that the dyes, fragrances, and other chemicals put in personal and household products also harm the environment.Thus, we can help ourselves and the environment by buying products made with natural ingredients.

anonymous on June 06, 2012:

I have extremely oily skin, and as a pharmacist, I decided to invent my own "concoction" to alleviate my oily skin. I mixed corn starch, kaolin, and Mary Kay loose powder. It seemed to work very well for my oily skin. After a few months, I developed the rash around my mouth and nose. I began using steroids on my face and changed everything about my daily routine over and over again to try to get some relief. Nothing helped. I finally made an appointment with a dermatologist. I was diagnosed with seborrhoic dermatitis. I was given ketoconazole cream and Protopic. The Protopic helped as long as I used it every day. Makeup of ANY brand made it worse. I returned for a follow-up appointment today, and I was diagnosed with PD. After browsing the pics online, I am convinced the diagnosis is correct this time. I was given a prescription for doxycycline today as well as some "natural" fluoride free toothpaste. I have been thinking all along that I was allergic to something, but I couldn't figure out what it was. I am going to try SLS free products to see if it helps. I am not sure I can tolerate the smell of the ACV. I have also had an issue with my scalp, which leads me to think all of it could be related to our city water. All of my problems surfaced after moving to town after living in the country and using well water for 4 years. Does anyone have any suggestions on any cosmetics brands that they have had good luck with? I am paranoid about everything that touches my skin now.

LynetteBell from Christchurch, New Zealand on June 06, 2012:

I have to be careful about what shampoo I use. Thanks for the great information:)

anonymous on June 04, 2012:

Hi Kay,I found your page really helpful. I've been trying to figure out my allergy situation for over a year now. I was diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosis, but after having a biopsy the dr now doesn't know what I have. I started being extremely sensitive to shampoos and things too. I wrote down the common ingredients in all of them and it is sodium lauryl sulfate. I thought it was really interesting as one of the things my obgyn had perscribed for me was estrace cream which made me immediately have a terrible reaction and was the onset of what they then thought was lichen sclerosis. Estrace cream has parabens and SLS in it! We eat mostly organic and watch chemical use in our home and we normally only clean things with backing soda or vinegar so we couldn't understand what was wrong with me. I also can't drink red wine anymore and someone on another blog linked the sulfate allergy with sulfites that are in wine unless you get the sulfite free kind. My toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent, and many creams all have SLS in them. I hope I'm on to something here. Thank you so much for sharing your information. It has really been helpful. I just bought Ecos laundry detergent too and Trader Joe's toothpaste seems to be SLS free as well.

aliciamaggie54 on May 30, 2012:

I did not know there was an allergy for this. This type of sulfate is pretty strong especially for those with sensitivities. Thank you for the information.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on May 23, 2012:

This is very good information for those with sensitive skin. That can be such a problem.

anonymous on May 04, 2012:

After suffering for the past 18 months, my doctor has finally diagnosed me with Oral Dermatitis!! I am totally desperate to clear this up, and am so relieved to have found this information! I will be looking for Fluoride-free toothpaste this afternoon, along with SLS-free shampoo etc. Many thanks to everyone who has shared their experiences on here - there is now light at the end of the tunnel for me!!

anonymous on April 29, 2012:

I've had Perioral Dermatitis for years. It would flare up and go away on and off. About 2 months ago it flared up and kept getting worse. I've tried EVERYTHING my Dermatologist recommended both orally and topically and nothing worked. I recently did some research online and tried several things other recommended. I have not tried the SLS free products but I plan to after reading your blob because Ill do anything to keep the Dermatitis in check. I switched to a non-fluoride toothpaste and started using California Baby calendula Body wash and everyday lotion. My face that had been broken out for 2 months, cleared up in a week. Just wanted to pass the info along incase others want to try it.

anonymous on April 25, 2012:

My normally hard nails began to split in deep cracks down the nail and I had recurring mouth ulcers. Since using Retardex toothpaste I have had no problems and even have had less placque. Use SLS free hand washes but if I visit anyone without my own handwash I get immediate problems again, so I now carry my own.

Einar A on April 25, 2012:

I discovered several years ago that SLS in toothpastes was the cause of the mouth sores I would sometimes get, so now I make my own tooth powder from baking soda and salt, and occasionally buy an SLS-free toothpaste. Great article!

anonymous on April 19, 2012:

Is it the same as sulfonamides?

Natalie W Schorr on April 11, 2012:

Well researched - thank you!

anonymous on March 16, 2012:

Hi, Great site! I just wanted to add one product range that I think gets ignored: Pears Soap and Shower Gel. It's non comedogenic, SLS& paraben free and it's a good price! I am currently in the process of replacing all my products for as cheap as possible. I am finding it hard to let the foundation go!! Another point is that a lot of cleansers, moisturisers and face masks can be made from what you have in your cupboard..I made a moisturiser the other day with lemon, olive oil and egg yolk - it works very well!

Kay (author) on February 27, 2012:

Hi Jillian. I have not had any issues with foundations. I am still using Estee Lauder. I can basically wear any makeup as long as it is not a lotion. I just have to be cautious with lotions.

anonymous on February 27, 2012:

I have just been diagnosed with Perioral Dermatitis, they are hoping to have it resolved with antibiotics and a topical lotion, I am also looking for toothpaste with out Flouride. Reading what you have put together has been a great place for me to start!

anonymous on February 27, 2012:

Your list was a LIFE SAVER. The only thing missing is SLS free make up. Does anyone know what foundation might be best?

AnonyMom on February 08, 2012:

I also have POD and found my way here looking for answers. I've dumped EVERYTHING from my beauty routine and am starting fresh. What scares me most is how the exposure to so many chemicals over the years can affect us. I was only driven to make changes because my physical appearance was affected. But I also have Lupus and wonder what types of things I've exposed myself to that brought THAT about. **sigh** Thanks so much for the information! I'm hoping for an equally successful outcome.

BlackBoxCosmetics on November 19, 2011:

Great lens for raising awareness to this allergy.

Kay (author) on November 29, 2010:

Thank you so much for the feedback. Allergies are just terrible things. This is a newer allergy and, unfortunately, seems to, all of a sudden, be getting worse. Sigh...

ChemKnitsBlog2 on November 29, 2010:

I know people who are allergic to even the adhesive used on spot allergy tests! You provided a lot of great resources for others who are in your situation.

I-sparkle on November 28, 2010:

I don't have any kind of allergies as far as I know. Your lens was really interesting and the information was presented well. That's hard to do with such serious subject matter. Congratulations on your lens. It was very well done.

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