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Is Your Soap Making you Sick?

The next time you use your hand soap or body wash or face cleanser, take a look at the ingredients listed on the back.

Phthalates, Sodium laurel sulfate, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben SLES, Triclosan…

Do you know what any of these chemicals actually are? Do you know how many of them need to be in there?

Most of the time, we think that the things we eat (or do not) make us healthy. But we are forgetting about another way we acquire nutrients: transdermally (through the skin). Your skin is your largest organ – 22 square feet on average—and 60% of the substances you put on your skin are eventually absorbed into the bloodstream.

This semi-permeable membrane allows us to absorb vitamins and minerals…but it also can absorb harmful chemicals if we aren’t careful about what kind of soap we are using.

Here are four chemicals in particular that I would tell everyone to watch out for: 

1. “Fragrance” – this grand overarching term is a euphemism for almost 4,000 different ingredients. Huh? Yes, “fragrance” can contain virtually any sort of chemical but the FDA doesn’t require companies to disclose these to the consumer. The reason why? The chemicals that produce fragrance are considered “trade secrets”. Most of the time, synthetic chemicals and cancer-causing toxins (like phthalates, used to make fragrances last longer) are hiding under that one tricky term. Constant exposure to fragrances has been shown to negatively impact the central nervous system.

2. Parabens – these ingredients are estrogen mimickers, meaning that once applied to the skin, they enter into the bloodstream and the body mistakes them as estrogen. When the body thinks there is an abnormally high amount of estrogen present in the bloodstream due to the presence of these hormone disrupters, it reacts in various ways: decreasing muscle mass, increasing fat deposits, causing early onset of puberty and spurring reproductive difficulties in men and women.

3. Sulfates—these chemicals are used to produce lather and bubbles in soap. Some common sulfates are SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate). Sulfates strip the skin of its natural oils and increase penetration of the skin’s surface. They are also irritants for people with sensitive skin or eczema. 

4. Triclosan– this chemical is most often found in antibacterial soap. Recent studies have found that triclosan actually promotes the emergence and growth of bacteria resistant to antibiotic cleansers. It also creates dioxin, a carcinogen which has been found in high levels in human breast milk. Dioxins have disruptive effects on the endocrine system and negatively effect thyroid functions. Here’s a fun fact: dioxin is the primary toxic component of Agent Orange!

It is the unfortunate truth that US current regulation over the ingredients in personal care products is minimal to nonexistent. The FDA doesn’t investigate or test for the safety of personal care products being they are marketed to the public. If we are washing our bodies with soap that contains toxic ingredients every single day –this adds up over a lifetime and wreaks havoc on our health. So we, as smart consumers, must make informed decisions as to what does and doesn’t go on our skin.

Improve your overall health by choosing high quality soap and body wash free of these four hormone disrupting, toxic additives. I guarantee, after you make the switch, you’ll be feeling better inside and out!

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