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Last updated on December 3rd, 2016
Have you ever tried to read the ingredients on a liquid soap bottle? You may have, but I have a feeling you might have given up after you had seen a seemingly unending list of words like “Sodium Coco PG Dimonium Chloride Phosphate.” Unfortunately, this is what it has come down to – you have to be a chemist to understand your soap label. Even chemists probably struggle with this information, though, because there is no health-related data for 85 percent of the approximately 20,000 chemicals introduced since the mid-1970s. As disturbingly, 67 percent have no data at all (read more about the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 in here).
Here are a few examples of liquid body soaps that have met my strict criteria – they contain only organic ingredients, because they are made with only organic ingredients, except for an alkali (which is a chemical that is necessary for the soap-making process, but that does not remain in the final product).
Most liquid soaps are made with synthetic surfactants (cleansers) that come in a great variety. From what I have seen, most synthetic surfactants are problematic. They might have impurities (and we can’t really be sure whether they have any); they might be toxic to the environment; and they might have long-term health effects or at least cause skin irritation. Unfortunately, there is a large number of synthetic surfactants that have not been fully studied for safety.
Often companies also use synthetic preservatives, foaming boosters, thickening agents, colors, anti-microbials, and undisclosed artificial fragrances that add the same concerns to the products and do not belong in safe liquid body soap. Why even bother to go that route and spend your valuable time deciphering and double guessing? While underlying philosophy behind the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (the law that governs 82,000 chemicals in US commerce) is that until a chemical is proven guilty, it is innocent, mine is that a chemical is guilty until proven innocent.
So which liquid soaps do I recommend? Soaps are made by the process of saponification – where an alkali is reacted with an organic vegetable oil. Yes, an alkali is toxic and dangerous, but after the reaction is performed there is no alkali left in the finished product. Instead of synthetic preservatives, the following soap makers use natural preserving properties found in some plants.
Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap
This is not the first time I have recommended Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap. This safe liquid body soap is your basic liquid soap that you can use in a number of different ways. In fact, Dr. Bronner lists 18 different ways its soap can be used, including as a body soap. It is made with organic oils, olive oil, hemp oil, jojoba oil, and coconut oil, which makes a rich lather and prevents drying of the skin. For preservatives, Dr. Bronner uses natural Vitamin E and citric acid, both of which are non-toxic. The reason Dr. Bronner’s soap is not certified as organic is that it is highly concentrated (according to Dr. Bronner’s it is 3 times more concentrated than other liquid soaps), which makes it a great value. The high concentration increases the percentage of alkali, so it can’t be certified as organic. This safe liquid body soap comes in a variety of scents (lavender, peppermint, tea tree, and lemongrass), and it comes unscented (which my husband uses to wash the wine glasses).
Where to buy and cost: You can buy it in many places, including Amazon, at $16.29 for 32 oz, making it $0.51 per ounce.
Shikakai Liquid Soap
Dr. Bronner also makes Shikakai Liquid Soap that has additional ingredients such as organic shikakai, organic white grape juice, and organic sucrose. These ingredients have great moisturizing, conditioning, and foaming properties. Their presence also permits this safe liquid body soap to be certified as organic as their presence brings down the proportion of alkali. This safe liquid body soap comes in different scents and unscented.
Where to buy and cost: It is a little more expensive ($.73 per ounce).
Vermont Castile Liquid Soap
One of my clients recently asked me what I recommend for someone with an allergy to hemp oil (as Dr. Bronner’s uses hemp oil). I did some research and found this great safe liquid body soap. It has similarities to Dr. Bronner’s soap. Also it can be used in a lot of different ways and is made by the process of saponification. It has no preservatives and no questionable ingredients. Like Dr. Bronner, Vermont Soap saponifies olive oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oils – all of which are organic. Unlike Dr. Bronner, Vermont Soap does not use hemp oil. The Vermont company uses rosemary extract to prevent oils from going rancid. Another difference is that the Vermont soap contains aloe vera, which has amazing soothing and moisturizing properties. The presence of aloe vera allows Vermont Soap to have a 95% organic content, and thus receive organic certification. The Vermont soap comes in a variety of scents (no synthetic fragrances of course) such as lemongrass, sweet orange, lavender, tea tree, and peppermint. This safe liquid body soap also comes unscented.
Where to buy and cost: I found that on Amazon you can buy the whole gallon making it (including shipping) .
Vermont Soap Shower Gel
Vermont Soap also makes a shower gel, which has thicker consistency and more moisturizing. They achieve that by adding vegetable glycerin, and organic guar gum.
Where to buy and cost: on Amazon
Let me know what your favorite soap is. We currently like to use bar soap as it is better for our wallet and the environment. Find out why, here.