If you’re like most people who watch their health, you’re dialed in on what you eat. You watch your processed foods and you eat in healthy proportions. You might even be a person who’s concerned with your weight and you’re on a restrictive diet of limiting your carbs and/or calories. All of that is good. It means you’re mindful of what you take into your body and you’re not oblivious to the importance of good nutrition. But do you do the same for the outside of your body? Are you aware that it’s possible to increase the toxicity of your body by what you put on it and not just in it?
The skin barrier
Many people would be completely shocked to learn that their skin isn’t a total barrier. The skin is porous and absorbs whatever is put on it. The American Journal of Public Health looked into the skin’s absorption rates of chemicals found in drinking water. The findings were shocking. The study found that the skin absorbs an average of 64% of total contaminant dosage. Other studies found the face to be several times more permeable than broad body surfaces and an absorption rate of 100% for underarms and genitalia! An additional peer-reviewed study found that the face will absorb up to 100% of what’s put on it as well.(1) Anything that your skin is going to absorb starts to be taken in within 28 seconds after contact. The findings are clear. What you put on your skin is directly related to the level of toxicity in your body. Yet millions of people use commercial soaps, shampoos, makeup, and sunscreen daily absorbing into their systems high levels of toxicity without giving it a second thought.
I could go on all day about all the different products we use that impart toxic elements into our bodies, but I’ll focus on one product that not only has the potential to deliver toxic ingredients directly into your body, but has been modified by commercial producers for gain and profit to cheat you in the process – soap. Commercially made soaps are one of the most lucrative skin care products produced because they make money for manufacturers in two ways. Soap is made by combining an alkaline with a base. Without getting too scientific, this means that oil is combined with a salt – usually sodium hydroxide, to produce real soap. Real soap contains loads of glycerin, a natural byproduct that works to moisturize your skin by attracting moisture to it. Commercial soap manufacturers leech the natural glycerin out of real soap and re-sell it as an ingredient in moisturizing creams and lotions. Yes, it’s true. The very element that is so beneficial in all natural soap that moisturizes and softens your skin, its natural glycerin, is taken out of commercial soap and used to produce other products for more profit. Some soap manufacturers then have the audacity to claim they add a moisturizer into their soap to help your skin, never telling you they took it out in the first place!
On top of taking out one of the most beneficial attributes of natural soap, commercial soap manufacturers add other ingredients to their soaps that are potentially toxic to your skin like detergents and cleansers that are not only toxic, but will leave a potentially harmful toxic delivery film on your skin that can cause itching, dryness, and even bothersome skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. It’s no wonder we all need those moisturizing creams and lotions after using commercially made bar soap. They’ve got us coming and going.
Harmful ingredients in commercial soap
The old saying about not eating foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce holds true for soaps as well; don’t use something on your skin you can’t pronounce, or that you don’t understand. Here’s a listing of ingredients commonly used in commercial bar soaps that are not good for your health.
Triclosan: Studies have increasingly linked triclosan (and its chemical cousin triclocarban) to a host of not only adverse health issues, but also negative environmental effects. Triclosan has been linked to skin irritation, endocrine disruption, bacterial and compounded antibiotic resistance, and to the contamination of water and its negative impact on fragile aquatic ecosystems.(2) With Triclosan, you get the double benefit of toxicity to the body, and to the environment
Dioxane: Dioxane is used as a solvent, and is listed as a “trace contaminant” with the CDC. The CDC also reports that dioxane affects the liver and kidneys.(3)
Parabens: Parabens are potential edocrine disruptors. Endocrines conduct the normal function of the hormone system. While the jury is still out on parabens, many health professionals are issuing warnings on their use. If the soap you use contains parabens you could be at risk. James G. Wagner, associate professor of pathobiology and diagnostic investigation at Michigan State University told Teen Vogue: “Because up to 70 percent of breast cancers express the estrogen receptor, there is a concern that parabens may contribute to the development of breast tumors.”(4)
Triclocarban: Along with Triclosan, Triclocarban is considered carcinogenic and has been banned by the FDA recently. About 40% of the soaps produced commercially today include triclocarban.
All natural soap
Now that we know the downside to commercial soap, we can look at the benefits of all natural soap. While all natural soap is often more expensive than detergent based, chemically charged commercial soap, it’s also loaded with good ingredients and has none of the bad chemicals that are often found in commercial soap. All natural soap contains high levels of natural glycerin because it’s not taken out to make other products. All natural soap by its very nature is extremely good at cleaning as well. It works by reducing the surface tension on your skin to help release dirt and grime when washed with water, and yes even bad bacteria gets carried away. All natural soap has natural anti-bacterial properties that help not only clean your skin, but also sanitize it. Real soap has no need for artificial anti-bacterial chemicals to sanitize your skin.
Natural soaps often use quality oils such as olive oil and castor oil that impart softening properties to the skin, and no detergents or other harmful chemicals are used in their production. In short all natural soap cleans your skin, moisturizes it, softens it, and completely washes away with water leaving your skin clean and treated without any nasty chemicals being left behind to enter your blood stream.
Why all the fuss?
You might be telling yourself that this is silly. People have been using commercial soap for a very long time, so why all the fuss now? The truth is that with the manufactured hysteria over the need to use anti-microbial soaps, commercial soap has become a lot more dangerous. Soap companies have invented a mini crisis with regard to microbes and are using that ploy it to gain further sales. The truth is that real soap; the kind of soap that contains none of the carcinogenic chemicals often found in commercial bar soaps is a natural anti-microbial. It removes germs from the skin by carrying them away. Think about that. If soap needs to “kill” the germs on your skin as some manufactures of anti-microbial soaps claim, then you need to ask yourself why? Shouldn’t the soap be cleaning your skin by removing all the undesirable elements that are on it? Isn’t that why you’re washing your skin with it? The idea that hand soap needs to “kill” germs is ludicrous, since the job of any soap is to carry away undesirable elements, not kill them like a pesticide. But make no mistake; the chemicals used in commercial soap do kill. They help kill the environment as they end up in our ecosystem to do their damage.
Additional benefits of all natural soap
Natural soap is usually made with plant-based oils that impart all the good qualities of those oils to your skin. For instance, olive oil is known to be a great moisturizer and conditioner for your skin and it’s often an ingredient in natural soaps. Another ingredient often found in the more luxurious natural soaps is goat milk. Goat milk is rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals that won’t dry out your skin and can help keep it healthy. Many natural bar soaps, especially those made by small home artisans, contain herbs and other botanicals that enrich the product and can even act as exfoliants to help rid your skin of dead cells and other unwanted material.
The war against natural soap
Major soap companies want you to think that natural soap will dry out your skin and is bad for it. It’s simply not true. As said before, natural soap is loaded with glycerin, a natural humectant that will only attract moisture to your skin and impart the good traits of natural ingredients to it. The big soap makers, like Unilever who make Dove soap have spent millions trying to convince you that granny’s old fashioned lye soap will ruin your skin, but the opposite it true. It’s the detergent and chemical laden soap you need to avoid. The best thing for your skin is not the commercial detergent bars that are on the market today that try to convince you that PH is important. Hint – neutral PH for your skin is just a marking tool. Any soap that claims it helps your skin because it’s a “neutral PH” is selling you a bill of goods, since after using it your skin will return back to its natural PH state within a matter of minutes. The PH gimmick is just that, a gimmick. The best soap is all natural soap. It’s been that way ever since granny made it out behind the woodshed! Your best bet is to find soap for you and your family that’s made with all natural ingredients not detergents and chemicals. Give natural soap a try. Once you do you won’t be happy with store bought commercial soap ever again. The results you experience will speak for themselves.
 Robinson et al. The Importance of Exposure Estimation in the Assessment of Skin Sensitization risk. Contact Dermatitis 2000; 42:251-259
 Kasting and Kretsos.Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2005;18:55-74