Everyone has a favorite type of soap, but whether you’re exclusively loyal to antibacterial body-wash or an advocate for plain soap bars, it’s worth our time to analyze which are the healthiest options.
From the look, texture, and feel, all soaps are substantially different and do not offer the same health benefits when it comes to long-term skin care. From antibacterial and scented to organic, soap has a clear purpose and may be used to clean a variety of things—vehicles, pets, children and even ourselves. In a society that fears germs, we always want the most potent product to cleanse with. But would we clean our bodies with the same substance we use on our dishes?
Photo courtesy Castile Soap Bar
Antibacterial soaps have active antimicrobial ingredients added to them. These chemicals are typically non-organic and are specifically designed to kill bacteria and microbes. One of the main ingredients in antibacterial soaps is triclosan, an ingredient that is nearly ubiquitous in liquid hand soap. Unfortunately, triclosan has been linked to liver and inhalation toxicity, and may disrupt thyroid function (even with low levels of the ingredient). There is also early research indicating triclosan can interfere with the skeletal and muscular systems. Interestingly, antibacterial soaps are not any more effective than plain soap and water at removing bacteria and microbes. The FDA has completed a series of studies over the past 40 years that looks into the efficacy of antibacterial soaps and the use of triclosan. The USDA concluded that the ingredient is not as effective as manufacturers claim.
Chloroxylenol is another chemical compound commonly used in antibacterial soaps and cosmetic products. It’s used in hospitals and households for disinfection, sterilization and wound-cleansing. But excessive use of soaps containing chloroxylenol may lead to dehydration of skin cells, itching and rashes. The manufacturing process of soaps containing this ingredient is highly polluting to our world.
Antibacterial soaps do kill bacteria and microbes, which may be a great option when treating a mild—and temporary—skin infection. However, if antibacterial soaps are not as effective as advertised, and may actually pose a health risk, then we must reconsider their daily use as a simple and desirable cleansing product.
Who would not be delighted to discover and experience a new fragrance in their soap? There is an extraordinary variety of smells available, from warm lavender to bold calendula. Olfaction, or the sense of smell, is significantly more acute in humans than any other sense. That is why we remember certain scenarios, settings and events easier when encountering a familiar smell. Our lavender soap may indeed paint a vivid image in our minds of strolling through lush lavender fields. Even though scents themselves don’t add any cleaning power to our soaps, they are nice to experience. However, many aromatic essential oils—pure botanical oils derived from nature—can contain antimicrobial properties, including lavender and tea tree oil. But not every scent used to accent soap is derived from natural sources.
Sad to say, most commercially available soap bars and body washes are artificially scented. Surprised? Hope not! Manufacturers may cut costs by using chemicals and artificial fragrances (or phthalates) rather than actively growing and harvesting their own natural ingredients and extracts. Most of these products are also loaded with preservatives (yes—soaps do expire) and questionable ingredients. This leads to an ever-growing need for hydrating lotions, skin nourishment and other forms of moisturizers. In the noble effort of maintaining our long-term health without exposing ourselves to harmful side effects, we must actively select soaps that are scented with natural ingredients only—not chemicals.
What is better than a product directly made from Mother Earth? The healthiest soaps are typically bars made from vegetable oil blends such as castile soaps or pure organic soaps. For foaming soaps, liquid castile soap is slightly more costly but far healthier for the skin. In addition to being available in liquid form, castile soap is also available in bar form—an exciting option. The term “Castile Soap” originates from the Castile region of Spain, where the soaps were stricly made from olive oil. Today, castile soaps have evolved and now refer to any soap made from the saponification of vegetable oils. Castile soaps don’t contain harmful antibacterial ingredients, cleaning agents or neurotoxins disguised as fragrances or artificial colors.
Any pure organic soap is also an option to castile soap. Organic soap ingredients may include olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, sweet almost oil, jojoba oil, glycerine, deionized water, sodium hydrate and natural extracts (for scents or exfoliation). These soaps provide a refreshingly natural and clean feeling. They typically don’t have an overpowering scent as they contain no chemicals or unnatural additives. Organic soaps simply smell pleasant and get you clean without over-drying your skin. At the end, the lather rinses away completely and leaves your skin feeling fantastic! Indeed, there is something special about the perfect soap: a beautiful lather and a smooth feeling without sacrificing long-term health.
Have you tried any castile soap or organic soap before? If so, let us know what you think.
Audrey Lefebvre has been practicing holistic health-care in Florida for the past four years. She currently assists with patient care at the offices of doctor Ron N. Shemesh, and is a featured blogger and presenter for Castile Soap Bar. To learn more about her, holistic living and castile soaps, visit Castile Soap Bar.