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A quick look at the ingredients in commercial soaps

Just for the purpose of comparison. If you don’t want to know best not look.

Ingredient Comparison

Top brand “Natural” bar soap

Ingredients (INCI):

Sodium Palmate, Sodium Tallowate, Sodium Oleate, Aqua, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Parfum, Sodium Chloride, Pentasodium Pentetate, Pentaerithrityl Tetra-di-t-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Sine Adipe Lac, Olea Europaea Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Gel, Benzyl Salicylate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Coumarin, Limonene, Linalool, CI 77891, CI 47005, CI 61570


Top brand liquid hand wash

Ingredients (INCI):

Aqua, Sodium C12- 13 Pareth Sulfate (*A) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (*B), Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Lactic Acid, Cocamide MEA, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Parfum, Sodium Salicylate, Sodium Benzoate, Glycol Distearate, Sodium Hydroxide, Polyquaternium-7, Tetrasodium EDTA, Laureth-4, Poloxamer 124, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Citric Acid, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool, CI 47005, CI 42090

Natural Pure Soap

Bentonite Clay & Aloe Vera Soap

Ingredients (INCI):

Sodium olivate, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice, Sodium cocoate, Sodium palmate, Sodium castorate, Shea butter (in its natural state), Bentonite clay, Sodium lactate, Tocopherol (Natural vitamin E oil).  Unscented.


I could go on with links to the chemicals in those lists, check out the rest if you’re so inclined, but after clicking a few you’ll get the idea that some of the stuff that’s added to the products we use are not good.  More telling is the information regarding the common impurities in some of those chemicals - they’re really not good at all.  I really don’t like that they’re tested on animals. I really don’t like the thought of spreading animal fat on my skin either - though apparently tallow makes a nice soap, but that’s a personal choice.

I can buy a lot of those ingredients with potential risks associated with them but I really see no need for them in the soap and quite frankly they make me uncomfortable.

I use Natural Vitamin E (Tocopherol) in three of my soaps, it acts as an antioxidant and is great for skin, as most people know. So given the choice of antioxidants - Tocopherol or Pentaerithrityl Tetra-di-t-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate which one would you be more comfortable with?  There seems to be some disagreement as to whether Pentaerithrityl Tetra-di-t-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate is an environmental toxin and is persistent or bioaccumulative in wildlife or not, if you look at the report on Skin Deep (in the link). With so many experts not being able to reach a definitive conclusion you’d wonder how it could be allowed to be an ingredient in the soap above and in many other personal care products.  Apparently none of the rabbits or guinea pigs died in the testing of the chemical so maybe it’s okay - but I still prefer tocopherol.

I don’t and won’t put anything in the soap that I wouldn’t use on my family or myself. I was asked to make soap that smelled of some berry or other but that would mean I would have to use synthetic fragrance oils - so I just said no. If I have to start using synthetic ingredients to sell the soap I don’t want to do it anymore.

In the safety assessments of some of those chemicals some are said to be ‘Low risk’, some are above ‘Moderate risk’ but are used anyway (though there’ll be limit set on how much).  Some are stated as ‘Not thought to be a carcinogen’,  ‘Classified as not expected to be potentially toxic or harmful’ - not expected to be?  Is it or isn’t it?  ‘Suspected to be an environmental toxin’, and so on. With so much vagueness you have to wonder what the point of reporting them is.

My principle is that if an ingredient has no real benefit to the end user then it needn’t be in the product. I’m not writing all this as a scare tactic marketing strategy, I’m just pointing out that there are things in personal care products that are best not used on skin. It isn’t a secret and there’s plenty of information on the internet - some of which I supply in external links on the Links page.  There is plenty of mis-information out there too, I’m aware of that and so check sources carefully before posting my thoughts and where there’s no consensus I conclude it’s best avoided.

A balanced view

To bring some balance - not everything will absorb through the skin and get into the blood stream and settle in the tissues, even with penetration enhancers present. Some things are molecularly too big to do that and the skin is remarkably good at keeping most of the outside world outside. But some things do absorb to a level where the chemical meets blood vessels. Where there’s a doubt about the toxicity of the chemical I’d rather not take the risk, low or otherwise, particularly when it can be easily avoided. The skin is an amazing organ, it deserves to be treated with respect, as do we.






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