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Last Updated on March 17, 2017 by Diane Hoffmaster
Washing hands keeps you healthy, right? That's what all the doctors tell us. But what if washing your hands actually makes you sick? Have you ever looked at the back of your bar soap package and read the list of soap ingredients? Do you recognize any of them? Are they words you are familiar with or are they chemical names you can't pronounce? If you have sensitive skin or are concerned about the beauty products you expose yourself to, understanding soap ingredients is incredibly important. Is your bar soap neon green? Does it make the entire bathroom smell like freshly cut grass or some other ridiculous sounding smell? Chances are, those products contain soap ingredients that are probably not all that healthy for you.
Today, I am heading over to my local soap crafter to buy some all natural, hand made soap. Is it cheap? Nope. Not at all. Am I still going to buy it? You bet I am! I trust the soap ingredients he uses and that is worth every penny in my mind! So, how do you choose a safe and healthy soap? Keep your eye out for the following soap ingredients and if you see them listed, put that bar down and find a new one!
Soap Ingredients You Should Avoid
- Triclosan. This is a chemical often found in soaps labeled 'antibacterial'. Which is really a ridiculous concept because soap itself along with some warm water will kill most bacteria. Triclosan may actually be increasing the number of bacteria in our world that are resistant to antimicrobial products. And due to some chemical reactions it undergoes, it creates dioxin as a byproduct which is a carcinogen. Dioxin has been found in human breast milk and may effect the endocrine (ie hormone) system. Definitely NOT something you want to expose yourself to every single time you wash your hands!
- Sulfates. This is what makes the soap you use bubbly. Look for SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate). They strip the skin of natural oils which can lead to overly dry skin. Sulfates are also irritants and are especially bad for people with sensitive skin or eczema.
- Parabens. Nasty little soap ingredients that actually mimic estrogen in the human body. And yes, what you apply TO your skin gets INTO your body. Messing with estrogen is not a good thing. Symptoms of too much estrogen include decreased muscle mass, increased fat deposits, early onset of puberty as well as a few others.
- Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is often included in soap ingredients to act as a preservative. BUT, it weakens the immune system, leading to a reduced resistance to disease and an assortment of other symptoms ranging from headaches to respiratory problems. Not good stuff to put in your soap.
- Fragrance. Who doesn't want their soap to smell good, right? Well, constant exposure to artificial fragrances has been shown to negatively impact the central nervous system. And since the FDA considers 'fragrance' a trade secret, it doesn't require that companies actually list those ingredients. Kindof sketchy! That freshly cut grass aroma isn't as amazing as you thought.
So, now that you know what sort of nasty soap ingredients to AVOID...how do you find soaps that are actually better for you? Here are a few tips:
How to Choose Safer Soaps:
- Read the ingredients: Chances are that safer soaps will have an ingredient list that is relatively short. You will probably be able to pronounce the soap ingredients as well!
- Natural sources: The fats used in soap should come from natural sources. Yes, soap is actually made from fat of some sort that undergoes a chemical process to become soap. Olive oil, animal fat, and many others can be used to make soap. Choose something you are familiar with rather than a chemical compound.
- Essential oils: Make sure your soap is scented with essential oils rather than 'fragrances'. They smell much more natural and won't create so many health issues.
- Avoid 'antibacterial' soaps: By it's very nature, soap kills bacteria. Avoid any soap that adds additional antibacterial agents to it's soap ingredients. It is completely unnecessary.
- Soap shouldn't be blue: Soap does not clean any better just because artificial colors have been added to make it blue, purple, green, etc. Skip the fake colors! Your soap will clean your body just as well as the blue stuff.
We have to wash our hands. Human beings will always need to bathe occasionally. My teenagers could stand to use a bit more soap...especially the boy child! But know what is in that soap you are using. Choose soaps with natural ingredients whenever possible. Toxic soap ingredients do not make you cleaner so there is no reason to have them in your shower! Check out The Environmental Working Group for more information about safer soaps.
Do you ever look at soap ingredients?
Diane is a professional blogger and nationally certified pharmacy technician at Good Pill Pharmacy. She has two college aged kids, one husband and more pets than she will admit to. She earned her BS in Microbiology at the University of New Hampshire but left her career in science to become a stay at home mom. Years of playing with LEGO and coloring with crayons had her craving a more grown up purpose to her life and she began blogging and freelance writing full time. You can learn more about her HERE.