For years now we have been told, always wash your hands, the following list is from the NHS telling us when we should wash our hands, however what are you washing your hands in and are you actually doing yourself more harm than good by using the wrong type of soap ?
When I started this story I was’nt expecting to be as disturbed as I am now. Prepare to be scared.
When to wash your hands
hand wash advice (taken from the NHS)
Wash your hands before you…
Prepare or eat food
Treat a cut or a wound
Visit a hospital ward (remember alcohol-based hand wash is also provided)
Wash your hands after you…
Use the bathroom
Handle uncooked foods, particularly raw meat, poultry or fish
Blow your nose, cough or sneeze
Touch animals or animal waste
Take out the/handle rubbish
Change a nappy
Work/play in the garden
Touch a sick or injured person
Visit a hospital ward (remember alcohol-based hand rubs are also provided)
I am not suggesting you do not wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap when you go to visit someone in hospital, these soaps contain biocides which are the bacteria-killing chemicals in disinfectants and antiseptics, are universally used in hospitals to clean surfaces, sterilise medical instruments and equipment, and decontaminate skin before surgery, however as with any chemical based soap I would not recommend using daily
I started this post as one day while I was sat in the bath (no I didn’t shout eureka) and made the mistake of reading the ingredients on the liquid soap I was using. Big mistake, most of the ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce let alone know what they were.
So here is the good and the bad with soaps and unfortunately most of it is bad.
These are the four basic ingredients needed to make natural soap not including natural scents
copha or coconut oil
Modern day soaps
These are the sort of ingredients added in modern day soaps
- Synthetic Scents – Soaps may contain fragrances which are synthetic compounds that can lead to drying out or irritation of your skin. More so, fragrances can also be a triggering allergen that usually has hidden ingredients such as phthalates. Phthalates is a chemical linked to serious reproductive problems in studies of people and animals.
- Triethanolamine – is an ingredient common to branded soaps. Studies made by EWG say that this is one of the most toxic ingredients. This is a possible human carcinogen that is linked to other health problems. When this ingredient is present, three other chemicals also go along with this: sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, TEA-stearate and tocopherol. All these do not exempt from causing mild to serious health problems.
- Artificial Colors – These are mostly petroleum based chemicals. Be reminded that petroleum makes the skin porous and locks the skin’s pores, thus not allowing unnecessary substances in the skin to be excreted.
- PEG-6 and sodium PCA – These chemicals are usually found in cleansing bar soaps, they may contain harmful impurities that are linked with cancer to other health problems. PEG-6, in particular is known to be linked to breast cancer.
Chemical surfactants –
Sodium lauryl sulfate is usually added to increase the lather quality. According to, The Journal of The American College of Toxicology (ACT) in 1983, concentrations of sodium lauryl of as low as 0.5% could cause irritation. Here’s something to disturb you: Studies have shown that numerous soaps have concentrations of up to 30%. The ACT has reported this to be highly irritating and dangerous.
- Propylene Glycol – a common ingredient in soaps, is a penetration enhancer. All these previously mentioned can be further activated, stimulated and enhanced by propylene glycol. This chemical poses risks of other health concerns, however is considered generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine – possibly carcinogenic to humans
Nitrosamines – Most likley carcinogenic – will let wikipedia make you feel ill on this one as its an extensive read.
PARFUM – The word “fragrance” or “parfum” can be one or more of 200 chemicals. Companies don’t have to disclose the actual components of each fragrance, under the guise that their fragrances are trade secrets. Fragrance has been known to cause many side effects, including headaches and allergic reactions.
Tetrasodium edta – is a preservative that’s made from the known carcinogen, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. It is also a penetration enhancer, meaning it breaks down the skin’s protective barrier, going right into your bloodstream. Many companies trying to be “natural” will use Tetrasodium edta instead of parabens to preserve their products.
CL 77891 – Alternative name for Titanium Dioxide
Lauric Acid – Is a naturally occurring fatty acid common in coconut oil. It is also found in human breast milk and cows milk.
Sodium Isethionate – an organic salt.
Aqua – Water is generally safe.
Sodium Stearate – Stearic Acid (Naturally occurring fat) and lye. Another loophole to avoid listing lye as an ingredient.
Lye – commonly the alternative name of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or historically potassium hydroxide (KOH). Sodium hydroxide is often used to make solid soap, while potassium hydroxide is used to make liquid soap. In common with other corrosives, the major safety concern with lye is its potentially destructive effects on living tissues (e.g., skin, flesh, and the cornea). Solutions containing it can cause chemical burns, permanent injuries, scarring, and blindness—immediately upon contact. Lye may be harmful or even fatal if swallowed; ingestion can cause esophageal stricture. Moreover, solvation of dry solid lye is highly exothermic; the resulting heat may cause additional burns, or, ignite flammables.
In common with other corrosives, the major safety concern with lye is its potentially destructive effects on living tissues (e.g., skin, flesh, and the cornea). Solutions containing it can cause chemical burns, permanent injuries, scarring, and blindness—immediately upon contact. Lye may be harmful or even fatal if swallowed; ingestion can cause esophageal stricture. Moreover, solvation of dry solid lye is highly exothermic; the resulting heat may cause additional burns, or, ignite flammables.
Suffice to say the list goes on and on and on with the vast majority of the chemicals added being toxic and/or carcinogenic. Also something to be aware of is companies have a tendancy to rename some of the chemicals to other obscure and meaningless names so then you have even less of an idea what you are ‘cleaning’ yourself with.
WARNING – Many shops and manufactures often claim to sell ‘Natural soap’ quite often with ‘From an old family recipe’ added to entice you in the door, however many of these claims are in essence blatant lies and the ingredients above will show you the difference between ‘natural’ and ‘un-natural’. I recently looked at a store that made these very claims expecting to see the four basic ingredient and was to be quite honest angry when I checked out their own links to the ingredients to every soap bar in their catalogue. Below are the links that the store provided to their supposed natural soap collection :
I chose the Dove picture because they are one of the most trusted brands due to their claims of ‘Pure and clean’ which they are most definitely not, their ingredients are as toxic (if not more so) as practically all modern day soaps. The savon de MARSEILLE natural SOAP was selected purely because it was the first one that came up in my search for a natural soap and it quite plainly is not.
Information collected from several sources. I tried to avoid obviously biased sites as I wanted facts and not conjecture. If you feel that there are errors please contact me, however check your own facts first and don’t go to the manufacturers web site to get them as they are extremely biased.