By Lisa Jackson
Several years ago, I developed an allergy to several varieties of store-bought soap. My symptoms were persistent rough, dry, itchy and irritated skin. In an attempt to obtain relief, I decided to take a closer look at the ingredients in these soaps to see what might be causing the problem. What a revelation that turned out to be! What ensued was a time of reevaluation that led me to compare the difference between artificially created products versus more “natural” old-fashioned skin and hair care.
As it turns out, most, if not all, of the commercially available soap that we buy at the grocery store is a breathtaking brew of toxic chemicals. In many cases, the so-called “soap” can’t really be described technically as soap, but instead is more of a synthetic chemical detergent with artificial fragrances and colors derived primarily from petroleum. This revelation quickly caused me to question all of the products we had been traditionally using. In the process of examining all of our personal care products, I discovered that, typically, store bought soaps, shampoos and cosmetics use the following chemicals: (1) Imidazolidinyl and Diazolidinyl Urea (Used as preservatives, which are a primary cause of contact dermatitis, it also releases formaldehyde, which is toxic and carcinogenic.), (2) Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethylparaben (Used as inhibitors of microbial growth and extends shelf life. Causes many allergic reactions and skin rashes. All four of these closely related chemicals are known to be toxic.), (3) Propylene Glycol (Usually a synthetic petrochemical mix used as a humectant, it has been known to cause allergic and toxic reactions.), (4) Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (A synthetic substance used in many “natural” shampoos for its detergent and foaming properties. Causes eye irritations, skin rashes, hair loss, scalp conditions similar to dandruff, and allergic reactions.), (5) Stearalkonium Chloride (Originally developed by the fabric industry as a fabric softener, it is used in hair conditioners and creams. Causes allergic reactions and is toxic), (6) Synthetic Colors (FD+C or D+C) followed by a color and number (These are all Cancer causing agents.), (7) Synthetic Fragrances (Contain over 200 chemical ingredients, which are labeled simply as “fragrance”. These cause headaches, dizziness, rashes, hyper-pigmentation, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritations, and the list goes on…), (8) Triethanolamine (TEA) (Used to adjust pH and to make stearate, which is a base for cleansers. Causes allergic reactions, including eye problems, dryness of the hair and skin, and becomes toxic if large amounts build up in the body over time.), (9) Triclosan (This is the active ingredient in many antibacterial soaps. This chemical belongs to the chlorophenol class of chemicals, which are thought to cause cancer in humans. According to the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) triclosan is officially considered a pesticide and has been given high scores both as a human health risk and as an environmental risk.), (10) Phythalates (These industrial compounds are used in a wide variety of hairsprays, perfumes and cosmetics. Animal studies on some phthalates have shown that the chemicals may cause a variety of health problems, including reproductive and developmental harm, organ damage, immune suppression, endocrine disruption and cancer.) You should also be aware that the government does not actually regulate what the term “natural” means in your personal care products, so commercial soaps, shampoos, creams, etc. can claim to be “natural” while still being primarily synthetically derived. I found this list rather sobering and worrisome.
Another surprising fact is that, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 57 percent of baby soaps, which are considered to be the most pure and gentle of soaps, actually contain 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen, which readily penetrates your skin! You may ask yourself, “How can this be?” The answer is that, contrary to what you may have been led to believe, the U.S. government does not currently require safety testing on any of the ingredients in your, or your children’s, personal care products, so the companies that produce these widely available consumer products are not required to meet any safety standards what-so-ever. When you consider the fact that our skin absorbs up to 80% of what you put on it, toxic (and unnecessary) additives can be easily absorbed into the blood stream and bio-accumulate in the body where they influence your immune system and overall health. This certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, and it gave me pause to consider that I had been bathing my family with these products for years. Armed with this knowledge, it seemed important to search for better options to protect my family’s health.
From what I have learned, the primary difference between store-bought commercial (synthetic chemical) soap and handmade soap lies in the specific nature of the ingredients that are used in their production. Based on the toxicity of the ingredients listed above, it appears that the less synthetically derived ingredients there are in a personal care product, the better. Products with simple, naturally occurring ingredients seem to be the best choice when searching for soaps, shampoos, lotions and creams to use on your family.
There are a variety of handmade personal care products available from Organic and family businesses that are made the old-fashioned way with simple, safe, non-chemical ingredients. The ingredients used are certified organic oils, herbs, spices, botanical concentrates and grains, and they rarely use any animal by-products except for honey and goat milk. These ingredients naturally moisturize and condition the skin because they have a high glycerin content and no free alkali present. Generally speaking, handmade soaps should never contain artificial preservatives, artificial colors, detergents, alcohols, d-limonene, or artificial fragrances. Using these much gentler products regularly should improve the condition and health of your skin and hair and lower the amount of toxic chemicals you absorb through your skin.
I suggest that you might want to take a careful look at the soap, shampoos, deodorants and cleansers that your family uses. You can also try going to http://www.alkalizeforhealth.net/Ltoxiccosmetics.htm and http://make-up-cosmetics.com/cosmetics/toxic-chemicals-cosmetic-products.html and compare the chemicals in your personal care products to their lists. If the products that you regularly use contain any of the posted ingredients, you might want to rethink whether or not you should be using them.
At Greenliness.com, we offer soaps that we believe meet our criteria of being truly natural and handmade. You can find them on our website.