If you have ever stood in the shower, soapy haired, and thought about just where exactly all these complex ingredients on the back of the bottle came from, then you are definitely onto something.
Personal hygiene is important. Staying clean prevents the spread of bacteria and germs, whilst taking care of your body means being able to operate physically and mentally at your peak. Every person on this planet deserves to feel clean and with so many beautiful fragrances in nature why would we not choose to make our bodies the vehicles for one aroma or another.
Whilst we all want to look and smell our best it’s essential that we really pay attention to what substances we are rubbing into our skin and hair. So many soaps, shampoos and shower gels are packed with parabens and others which as well as not being cleansing or soothing are actually harmful chemicals. We become used to them after using them for so long, but once you remove them from your life the smell of them on others awakens you to the reality: they are unnatural and unpleasant. Some of these chemicals have been linked to cancer and other damaging affects on hormone production, the nervous system, the skin itself, respiration and other bodily process in medical studies! Not to mention the pretty extreme methods of sourcing these ingredients and the environmental impacts they have.
In this post I will suggest alternatives and tell you about my personal favourite brand; Dr Bronner’s, who are waving the flag for a sustainable and open future, not only in the world of soap but also organic food, hygiene, environment and human rights.
Watch how you wash:
I think people should really be aware of what they are rubbing into their bodies. The modern hygiene market is a multi million dollar industry worldwide and with people so eager to be accepted and be verified as attractive they will buy anything to give them an extra edge.
Although there are certain standards which dictate what levels of chemicals and which compounds can be put into products for human consumption (arguably industry led and not human health oriented), you’d be wise to choose products with as natural a foundation as possible. Even some of the most well known brands though claiming to contain all natural products, actually are not good for you, or the planet.
Here are compounds, some typically byproducts of industrial processes, you’d be wise to avoid rubbing against your head, arm pits or anywhere else for that matter:
- Parabens (propyl, methyl, butly) in shampoo – cause hormone imbalance
- Sulphates (Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate) – skin irritant which degrades quickly: toxic and corrosive and is used as a pesticide in non organic food growing. It also increases the body’s penetrability to other substances.
- Alcohol – dries skin
- Formaldehyde -skin irritant linked to cancers
- Phtalates – plastic based colour fixative which interfers with body’s endocrine system.
- Petroleum – can trigger allergies, irritations and headaches.
- Ethanolamines in soaps, shampoo and conditioners – linked to cancer
- Triclosan & triclocarban in soaps – endocrine disruptors linked to allergies & eczema
- Heavy metals like mercury, lead, arsenic and aluminium – damage to nervous system
- Ammonium Chloride – irritant, harmful when inhaled or swallowed
With the potential risks which these chemicals pose to us, you would have to think the chemicals present in our modern society would have to be scrutinised. The fact is that the industry is definitely only beginning to catch up to the affects of such ingredients, which is why there is now a greater movement towards organic and natural products.
As consumers we have a role to play, we have the power and we should make intelligent decisions. Let’s stop washing our bodies with chemicals. Simple!
Mother Earth: Because you’re worth it:
Besides the obviously distressing health information above regarding the impact of all these chemicals on us as individuals we have to ask the questions about the affects of these chemicals on our society and the environment.
SLS which is used as a surfactant in many shower products is used because it lathers well and carries away dirt. There does appear to be confusion around whether SLS is toxic for aquatic life though the general consensus seems to be that it is not ideal to be applied directly to your skin, but is sustainable (when naturally sourced). As a rapidly degrading compound which poses little threat to the aquatic life, SLS seems to be acceptable though I choose not to buy such products.
In any case, my main concern is the hormonal changing compounds and parabens which have been linked to cancer. Clearly when you wash yourself with these products and then allow them to drain off into the municipal water system, the sewage, these chemicals become part of the ecosystem and can therefore affect other humans, animals and plant life.
Triclosan is also toxic to aquatic life; accumulates in the environment and has resultantly been found in the bodies of fish and even in human breast milk.
Phthalates, a parent chemical widely used in shampoos has been linked to reproductive problems in men and has been reported to build up in the bodies of animals.
The use of products such as petroleum and non sustainably sourced Palm Oil in personal hygiene products obviously promotes and supports industry which do not have the best interest of our planet at heart and are linked with immoral exploitation of land, humans and wildlife.
Animal testing is also a massive issue. Personally I cannot fathom what possesses humans to create new artificial chemical compounds for beauty, hygiene and well-being products and try them on innocent animals! For life saving medicines and vaccines is a completely separate issue perhaps worth discussing. However for health and beauty, this is just wrong, and many of the companies who use these previously unknown concoctions of oil byproducts will happily experiment on animals before releasing them onto the market looking to maximise profits. If we aren’t sure that it’s safe, let’s avoid using them at all.
What alternatives do we have?
I would have to say using natural products themselves will always be the best solution! I personally recommend using aloe vera for almost anything. Moisturiser, cleanser, even scar tissue healing; I can attest to its healing properties so many times over it’s unreal. There are also coconut oils, jojoba oil, castor oil: many, many options.
We often overlook the fact that our skin, hair and even the scent of our natural body odours (they are not all bad, look up pheromones!) are made up by what we put into our bodies. Diet is a critical part of hygiene and well being. It would be daft to think that you can have a terrible diet but apply certain products and have clear, healthy skin and hair! Your body will show you externally what is being put into it. The concept of castile soaps which are based on vegetables oils are nature’s longstanding answer to the questions around the risks of chemical cleansing and the harmful substances found in many soaps.
There are many lines of products and brands which are available on the market today which place natural ingredients, responsibly sourced with minimal environmental impact among their key business objectives.
Dr Bronner, is a company with a history holding these issues at it’s core for much longer than most.
Initially founded in Germany back in the 1940s the company has risen to popularity over the past couple of decades, having ventured into organic food products and switching priority back to soaps.
Watch this interactive video below to find out more about the company:
Dr Bronner’s Magic All in One Soap:
The company have several appealing recipes for 18 in 1 soap products which are non-toxic, naturally sourced, ethically grown and fairly-traded. Their products are, lo and behold, actually good for you and your body!
Dr Bronner’s even invest and promote issues around organic and Fair Trade growing initiatives and are actively known across sustainability and health forums for their part in campaigning for labeling on GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods in the United States.
Certified Fair Trade Oils, fully biodegradable natural products are used in all of their products to remove any threat to environment or human.
Take a look at this Sustainability Assessment from students of the University of Vermont comparing Dr Bronner products to another sustainable ‘competitor’. They outperform them across all fields.
Due to the non-toxic, non-irritant and non-cancer linked ingredients the castile soaps come with an 18 in 1 use recommendation, from shampoo and body wash to household cleaning to fruit and veg wash! That the ingredients are so non harmful means you can even brush your teeth with it! I cannot even imagine using industry leading shampoos or body washes to clean my teeth…
A Fresh Perspective:
I think if we take a critical look at what we are doing to ourselves and the planet in terms of the products we use and support, we will quickly be able to identify where we can improve. We have been fed lies and sold ideas of happiness in order to pump up cosmetic and hygiene industries which are inherently misleading, and actually dangerous.
Now, in the 21st Century we have realised the truth and are looking at new ways of keeping ourselves and the planet clean.
Dr Bronner’s Magic Soaps are waving a wand of sustainability over the self-hygiene sector. I would recommend spreading the word to those you care about, for their health and that of the planet. Try it for yourself! I love the almond soap but don’t just take my word for it: