What’s on your labels?

Grab the body wash or shampoo in your shower and read the ingredients carefully. What do you see in that mega-listing of multi-syllabic words?

Do you see something called Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)? Its use as as a detergent is mainly found in shampoos Did you know it’s an endocrine disruptor and mimics estrogen? It can also cause increased allergic responses to other allergens and toxins that cause hives, rashes, and more. No only does this affect you as you use it all over your skin, which is the largest organ of your body, taking in everything in your environment, but it also runs out the drain and into the water run off system which eventually gets into the ground water and the lakes, streams and rivers of your community. This in turn will get into the system of the animals that live in that environment, causing disruptions to their systems in a very detrimental way, upsetting the fragile balance of the ecosystem.

Commercially mass produced body wash
Commercially mass produced body wash

Do you also see something called sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)? This can often be found in such things as toothpaste, shampoos, mass produced ‘soaps’ (they might be labeled as body bars, facial bars, or complexion bars) or body wash/bubble bath. SLES is a known carcinogen. It enables other chemicals to enter through your skin deeper than without its presence, and even into the bloodstream. It too mimics estrogen, and causes disruption of the endocrine system in you and that of the animals as it enters the environment.


Commercially massed produced shampoo
Commercially massed produced shampoo

Now look again at your label. Perhaps there’s something further in listed as methylparaben, propyl paraben, ethylparaben, or butylparaben. These are found with alarming frequency in cancerous tumors and cells. All parabens have been linked to breast cancer as a result of tests run on the cells samples taken from cancer patients. Why is it there? These compounds are used as preservatives in many bath & body products. There are much safer methods of preserving bath & body products around, and though there are a few that state they’re totally natural, they’ve not withstood the stress test of preserving under all conditions, so natural is not always best.

Contamination of bath & body products is a part of the nature of their use. They’re placed in extremes of temperature and humidity, touched by unwashed hands, used throughout the house and all over your body, so there is a need for something that will hold up to such challenges.

Some liquid soaps and household cleaners are produced with borax. Most of us know what borax is. Our grandmothers probably used it as their mothers before them did as well, and if often used today to thicken liquid soaps or stabilize them to prevent separation. However, borax known to cause rashes in babies up through the age of about 5 or so and is even restricted in the EU (European Union) due to be very irritating to the skin.

Many products around in the bath & body products are very likely to have something called diethanolamine, cocomide diethanolamine, oleamide diethanolamine, or lauramide diethanolamine, otherwise know as DEA. This gives you that bountiful rich creamy lather that body wash & commercial shampoos are know for. What it also does that they won’t tell you is it also works with other elements of the product that increases its ability to produce cancer due to the ease by which its absorbed by your skin.

I’ve noticed a new trend in body washes and shampoos, and I’m sure you have too. They’re now including ingredients that we soapmakers have been doing for years and that is including oils, butters or other natural ingredients to entice you to buy and try their product. Don’t be fooled by this tactic. If you read their labels, you’ll still see these things I’ve already mentioned above, but they’re wrapping it up in a shiny, pretty package with something on the bottle’s label to convince you it’s better for you. It still isn’t. It’s just hiding behind the popular appeal of Moroccan Argan Oil or Natural Cocoa Butter. Nothing has changed in the basic construction of that product. They’ simply added one new item to appeal to your senses more with its touted benefits to smooth, sooth or moisturize your skin, or make your hair stronger, shinier, sleeker or smoother.

Now look at a label from our body wash and it will read like this (and I’m copying an actual label here)
Ingredients: Vegetable glycerin, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grapeseed) oil, panthenol (B vitamin), silk amino acids, fragrance. Optional items I may include – or not – would be fragrance and anhydrous caffeine. Why the fragrance omitted? Some are sensitive to fragrances be they essential, natural oils, or synthetic fragrance oils, so there’s the option to leave fragrance out completely if you prefer. Why caffeine? It’s often used in shampoos to stimulate the scalp and improve your hair’s overall health. Not so much to prevent sleep, but it’s enough to help your scalp feel invigorated. These are not in every batch, but the labels always reflect exactly what’s in the product you are using.  Another aspect of our labels versus theirs is our is much shorter.  Even when we list our ingredients by their scientific names, our labels is still drastically smaller in content than theirs.  Why?  Because we stick with oils either refined or organic, water, natural vegetable glycerin,  the colour and fragrance when used, and of course a preservative, because yes, it’s genuinely necessary to use something strong enough to kill off the bad bacteria that can build up in a solution that contains water somewhere in its construct.  I could easily claim ‘all natural’ or free of this and no use of that and if it becomes contaminated or moldy, you’re not going to want it again, so it’s far better for you and me if I use the right kind of preservative in the first place, even if it costs me sales due to its inclusion of a less-than-natural preservative.

ingredients of liquid soap
ingredients of liquid soap

One thing you must remember about soap making. In making soap, REAL soap, whether it’s a liquid or a solid bar soap, is that you CANNOT have soap without sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, otherwise known as lye. The rule is no lye, no soap. This is a truth that’s inescapable. If someone’s saying it’s lye free, then you’re not getting a real honest-to-goodness soap. I can’t speak for what others out there are doing when they makes such claims, but I know from my own education in this field that soap cannot be made without the use of some form of lye.

Another aspect of soapmaking is testing. Do you really know with any level of confidence that the store-bought product you adore so much is NOT tested with horrifying results on animals in a lab somewhere? I can promise you this is not the case with our products.  I test it for pH safety, then test it on myself and often my husband will chime in.  My sons and their partners will also offer input as to how something performs and what needs to be changed, tweaked a bit or just eliminated altogether if necessary as a part of our product testing and development process.  Once it passes muster with my family and then myself, then and only then, it will be found on the web site for you to enjoy.  There have been a couple of occasions when something got under the radar and later on down the road something came to my attention with regards to a product’s performance, and this product was then promptly pulled from inventory.  I’ve even dropped suppliers at certain points to ensure that my products are of the safest and highest level of safety, satisfaction for the user, and offers no negative aspects upon use.

I’m adventurous sort of soap maker and love exploring new things for use in our soaps and other products, but I will never compromise the quality of the end product.  That is my goal, my promise to mycustomers as well as to myself.  If it ever comes to a point where I cannot provide that same level of quality, I will bow out of this industry, but I sincerely hope that day never comes.  It brings me endless joy to give my customers something useful, wonderful to the senses, and a bargain to boot.


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