Is Soap, Soap?

Soap is an everyday cleaning agent for most people at home and work. Mixing oils, water, and lye create a chemical reaction called saponification. Saponification is what makes soap. Not all soap is true soap. Some of it is full of detergents and not even soap.

Chemical filled soap that is made with detergents requires the maker to wear full PPE gear when using the chemicals. This is a photo of a lady in full PPE gear.

Lye (sodium hydroxide) is a foundational ingredient in soap. Oils used in soap can be of many different kinds. Each type of oil adds other properties and qualities to the soap.

Little Dragon Soaps uses natural and organic oils to make soap.

Is store-bought soap really soap?

Possibly. We will not call out specifically which soaps are, in fact, soap and which are detergent soap products. Many soap manufacturers do not make soaps at all but rather detergents. Many of the detergents made by these companies use products such as gasoline and kerosene, such as SLS. These companies use SLS in their products to create a nice foamy lather. As a result, SLS is in face washes, hand soaps, shaving creams, toothpaste, and more…

Many product studies on SLS have shown that SLS has been deemed safe to use but can be a skin irritant. These studies on Sodium Lauryl Sulfate have demonstrated that use is safe for brief, non-continuous use, of which they are rinsed thoroughly off of the skin.

Soap makers that use SLS should wear full PPE.

Signma-Aldrich released some precautionary statements on SLS (Signma-Aldrich, 2021):

  • Flammable solid;
  • Harmful if swallowed or inhaled;
  • Harmful if swallowed or inhaled;
  • Causes skin irritation;
  • Causes severe eye damage;
  • May cause respiratory irritation;
  • Toxic to aquatic life; and
  • Harmful to aquatic life with long-lasting effects.

In addition, inhalation is dangerous as well as skin contact, clothes contact, and the risk of explosion if the product enters the drain. Goggles, gloves, splash contact guard, and respiratory protection are necessary when working with SLS. Studies have not shown SLS to be carcinogenic; however, it does require a full hazmat suit. Studies on SLS have shown it to be toxic to rats in high doses and concentrations.

Little Dragon Soaps does not want to make soaps that include SLS or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Even though these chemicals are safe to use in our products, we choose not to.

SLES, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, also known as Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate.

While it sounds similar to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, it is different. The biggest issue with SLES is that to be sure that SLES does not contain another chemical, a possible carcinogen called 1.4 dioxane, it needs to go through a process called ethoxylation. Read more about 1,4-Dioxane on the CDC. Companies do not add Dioxane to consumer products on purpose but end up being present due to the manufacturing process of SLES. Read about Dioxane on the Technical Fact Sheet – 1,4-Dioxane from the EPA. The FDA recently released a note about Dioxane in cosmetic regulations.

The FDA randomly samples cosmetic products. In 2018 they found that approximately 2% had Dioxane above 10ppm; they recommend manufacturers use the ethoxylation process to vacuum strip to reduce any potential 1,4-dioxane from their products (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 2022). “The FDA continues to monitor information about 1,4-dioxane and its levels in cosmetics. If the FDA were to determine a health hazard, it would advise the industry and the public. It would consider appropriate actions to protect consumers’ health and welfare” (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 2022).

PPE requirements in manufacturing ensure adequate ventilation, tightly fitted safety goggles, possible face-shield, protective gloves, and clothing. Sodium Laureth Sulfate does not require any special respiratory protection, according to Chemistry Store (Chemistry Store, 2014).

Little Dragon Soaps does not use SLES / Sodium Laureth Sulfate in our products.


Signma-Aldrich. (2021, December 27). Safety Data Sheet – Safety Data Sheet. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2022, March 3). 1,4-dioxane in cosmetics. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved May 14, 2022, from

Chemistry Store. (2014, June 25). Material Safety data sheet sodium laureth sulfate – chemistry store. Material Safety Data Sheet Sodium Laureth Sulfate. Retrieved May 14, 2022, from