Your Body Can’t Afford Not to Buy Homemade / Handmade Soap
As the recent Netflix documentary, Stink!, pointed out, our homes are full of untested and potentially harmful chemicals which threaten our health. Among them, surprisingly, is the humble bar of soap. Most people think that the compounds in store-bought soap have been thoroughly evaluated for safety, but it turns out that only a small fraction of the ingredients have undergone rigorous scientific testing. The long-term effects of the rest are, frankly, unknown.
Soap is one of the most intimate products on the market. We rub it all over our bodies when we wash. It comes into direct contact with our skin and, if not correctly formulated, may cause damage. More worryingly, many of the artificial chemicals which give soap its smell and colour can penetrate the skin and get into our bodies, potentially causing systemic toxicity and dangerous bio-accumulation.
The Problem With Store-Bought, Mass Produced Soap
Commercial producers of soap have one objective – to make as much money as possible. Industrial soap makers use a range of methods to drive down the cost of production, many of which are arguably detrimental to health.
One of the ways that they get costs down is by removing a substance called glycerine during the soap-making process before sending the soap off to market. Glycerin is a safe compound that naturally moisturises the skin, but it is also highly valuable, so manufacturers sell it on to other companies that make products like moisturisers.
Removing the glycerin is the reason why many store-bought soaps tend to dry out the skin. If you were in a cynical mood, you might say that this was deliberate: customers with dry skin are much more likely to buy moisturisers which contain the removed glycerin (as well as a host of other potentially harmful chemicals). But whether it is a conspiracy or not, eliminating moisturising agents from soap is one of the reasons why you might want to stay away from the store-bought variety.
Unfortunately, the problems with store-bought soap extend well beyond dry skin. Many store-bought soaps contain the antibacterial agent, triclosan. Triclosan is supposed to protect your health by killing off bacteria that might be living on the surface of your skin, but research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests that it may be linked to the formation of cancer because of its ability to inhibit fatty acid synthesis (something that keeps us healthy).
Naturally, the risks would be low if triclosan from store-bought soap remained on the skin for the 20 seconds or so that people spend washing their hands. But data from the National Coalition Against The Misuse of Pesticides suggests that the chemical may persist on the surface of the body for as long as 12 hours, increasing the chances that it will be ingested and start wreaking havoc with beneficial gut bacteria.
Store-Bought Soap Harms Others
Store-bought soap may also harm others and the broader environment because it contains two potentially dangerous classes of chemicals: phthalates and parabens.
Researchers have linked phthalates in the environment to increases in asthma, attention deficit disorders, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes as well as a whole host of IQ and behavioural issues. Many kinds of phthalates, such as butyl benzyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate, and di-n-octyl phthalate, are already blacklisted, but there are dozens of others still out there in the consumer soaps that people buy every day.
The problem with phthalates is that they are small molecules. Because the molecules are small, they can easily pass through industrial and household water filters. As people use more and more phthalate-laden soap products, there’s a worry that our environment is becoming saturated with these chemicals, increasing the risk of the illnesses described above.
There are similar concerns about parabens. Parabens are synthetic chemicals that the soap industry uses as preservatives. Parabens have been in use in soap-making since the 1950s and include ethylparaben, propylparaben, and isobutylparaben. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics suggests that parabens may have estrogen-mimicking properties, which means that they may promote breast cell division and the formation of tumours.
Again, parabens can pass through many water filtration systems, meaning that they are now found throughout the food chain. Researchers found that more than 90 per cent of groceries contains traces of the chemical.
Choose Homemade, Organic Soap Instead
By now, it should be clear why you should choose handmade organic soap above regular, store-bought varieties. Natural, organic soap contains ingredients derived from the natural world, such as wild horsemint, coconut oil, cinnamon and aloe, making it safe for both your body and the environment.
Natural soap is also gentler on the skin. Because it contains more glycerin and no toxic chemicals, it will not dry out the skin and will help to keep it moisturised, even after scrubbing.
Organic, homemade soaps are also cruelty-free. None of the ingredients in handmade soaps is tested on animals before being sold on to the public.
Organic soaps do not contain any herbicides or pesticides (otherwise they cannot qualify as organic). By using organic soaps, you avoid putting your body in contact with potentially harmful chemicals that could disrupt your hormones.
Finally, organic, homemade soap is environmentally friendly. None of the ingredients in natural soap will do any damage to your local ecosystem or other people in your community.
A Final Note
Throughout human history, people have been making their own soap. Not only is it kinder to the environment, but it’s also much safer for personal consumption too. But that doesn’t mean that all so-called natural soap is kosher – you’ll still need to check.
Turn the bar of soap over and take a look at the ingredients section on the back. Make sure that the natural soap-maker hasn’t included any parabens or other chemicals with unrecognisable names. Sometimes, manufacturers will use the Latin name of particular plant species, so make sure that you look up what these names mean to check that you’re using a 100 per cent natural product, and not one with a bunch of synthetic and potentially dangerous chemicals.