We Hate to Burst Your Bubble, but Bubbles Ruin Everything

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Bubbles are supposedly the gentle, harmless playthings of children and fairy godmothers. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have a nasty streak. In fact, the nastiest ones are some of the most common—those bubbles we’ve come to expect from shampoos, body washes and toothpastes. They’re produced by a detergent called sodium lauryl sulfate, a.k.a. SLS, and, as Monica Belsito, DSC’s skin-care expert and all-around ingredient nerd, explains, “It’s definitely not the chemical you want to be using on your body.” It won’t leave you frothing at the mouth, just at the gums, among other assorted ailments. Such as…

One Long, Perpetual Bad Hair. “SLS is harsh,” Belsito explains. “So harsh that it’s in engine degreasers and tile cleaners. Which means that while it might do a good job of cleaning your hair, it also penetrates your scalp and corrodes your follicles.” And damaged follicles, she adds, not only lead to hair loss, they also cause new hair to grow about eight times slower than usual. To prevent SLS from making you all George Costanza-like, Belsito suggests using an ultra-hydrating conditioner. Just make sure its ingredients don’t include—you guessed it!—SLS.

A Constant Itch to Scratch. “Soaps with SLS strip your skin of natural oils, which protect you from harmful elements like the sun and the wind,” Belsito says. “Without those oils, your skin will become irritated and dried out.” If you insist on using soaps with SLS (but don’t want to look and feel like you have a chronic case of chickenpox), Belsito recommends supplementing your skin’s protective layer by slathering yourself with moisturizing lotions containing natural ingredients like shea butter or coconut oil right after taking a warm shower.

A Dirty, Dirty Mouth. “SLS is in tons of toothpastes, and while it isn’t necessarily bad for your teeth, it will ruin your gums,” Belsito explains. It decreases your saliva production—which plays a tremendous role in keeping your teeth, gums and tongue clean—making your mouth a breeding ground for bacteria, gum disease and canker sores (so kissable!). But if all-natural toothpastes aren’t minty enough for you, don’t fret. Belsito says regularly rinsing with a mouthwash labeled “dry mouth relief” should be enough to maintain proper gum health, even if you can’t kick the SLS toothpaste habit. Still, if your mouth isn’t clean as whistle, Belsito drops some knowledge that you probably already saw coming—NO MORE SLS. “Nothing compares to your body’s natural oil and saliva balance,” she says. “So using products that are SLS-free is ultimately the best way to keep yourself looking and feeling healthy.”