6 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Soap

6 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Soap

If you are a lover of Lavandi products, presumably you already recognise the necessity for natural, organic soap. You are likely also aware of the dangers of toxic chemicals in skin care products, but not everyone knows what exactly they should be looking for on the skincare product labels. There are a few nasties that gained fame in recent times, but even then – do you know what these chemicals actually do to your body? If not, it is worth swotting up on. You’ll also be able to convince those you care about to make the switch to organic skincare products for good.  

The sad reality is that the vast majority of high street products rarely ‘do what they say on the tin’, so to speak. It is easy to think that because they are so prolific in stores, they must be safe. In fact, many are far from it. It is our duty to educate ourselves on the most dangerous ingredients in soaps, creams, cleansers and cosmetics. Likewise, it’s always smart to support ethical brands who care about you.  

Since such a wide range of chemicals lurk in these products, we’re going to zone in on a product close to our hearts: soap. Read on to find out which toxic soap ingredients to avoid… 

Which chemicals should you avoid in soap?  

1. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

The surfactant sodium lauryl sulfate, often abbreviated to SLS, is an ingredient in many cleansing products, such as shampoos and soaps, and household cleaning products. It is often added to liquid hand soap, but there’s an easy way to tell: generally, if your soap lathers up, it contains SLS.  

SLS is what gives a product its ability to lather (or foam), which helps to spread it further, but that convenience doesn’t come without a price. Sodium lauryl sulfate is actually very toxic to the body. It can lead to irritation of the skin, eyes and lungs, and studies have raised concerns over potential toxicity to the non-reproductive organs. Some have also linked SLS to developmental, endocrine and reproductive problems.  

You might come into contact with SLS in one of three ways: inhalation, contact through the skin or ingestion. Respectively, this can cause coughing and sore throat, pain and soreness, or vomiting and diarrhoea. It is generally considered to be less dangerous than some of the other toxic soap ingredients in this list, but why risk it?  

Since SLS may be toxic to marine life and the environment in general, all the facts point one way: it is both wise and ethical to buy an organic, chemical-free soap.


2. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)

Another surfactant, sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), both emulsifies and facilitates foaming effects in hand soaps and other cleansing products. It’s another ingredient in soap that need not be there, given the health concerns it raises. Much like SLS, SLES dangers include:   

  • Organ toxicity  
  • Skin irritation  
  • Eye irritation 
  • Lung irritation 

However, what makes sodium laureth sulfate a particularly dangerous skin care ingredient is this: during the manufacturing process, a by-product and contaminant by the name of 1,4-dioxane can form.  

Inhalation can result in nasal cavity, liver, and kidney damage, and of all the chemicals in soap, this should be avoided at all costs, since it is a suspected carcinogen – even the FDA recommend finding ways to reduce its presence in skin care products. 

3. Parabens

Parabens are preservatives that are all too common in non-organic personal care products, from liquid soaps to shampoos, and even ‘health’ products designed for ingestion. Some foods also contain parabens.  

The most commonly-used types of paraben are: 

  • Methylparaben 
  • Ethylparaben 
  • Propylparaben 
  • Isopropylparaben 
  • Butylparaben 
  • Isobutylparaben 

Parabens are endocrine disrupters, and they mimic the behaviour of estrogen in the body. They are thought to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and cause environmental toxicity. To stay clear of parabens, choose an organic soap, or at the very lease be sure that the word paraben doesn’t appear on any ingredient labels.

4. Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone

Like parabens, methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone are preservatives commonly added to personal care products. They are a little bit slippery, since they are often found in reportedly natural products in place of parabens. Their purpose is inhibition of bacteria, and although this is necessary, it has downsides including:  

  • Skin irritation 
  • Lung irritation  
  • Respiratory issues  
  • Neurotoxicity (the disruption or death of cells that transmit and process signals in the brain and nervous system) 

If you want to buy soap without chemicals, these are names you will want to look out for.  


5. Cocamidopropyl betaine

Yet another surfactant, but also a detergent, cocamidopropyl betaine boosts lather in personal care and cleaning products. It is often added to liquid hand soaps, so it’s another nasty to look out for on your soap ingredient labels. What are the dangers of cocamidopropyl betaine? Put it this way, its ability to cause allergic reactions in the skin, contact dermatitis and environmental toxicity earned it the unpalatable title of “Allergen of the Year” (awarded by the American Contact Dermatitis Society  in 2004).  

Things get even more murky when looking out for this toxic skincare ingredient, because it has several names. You’ll also need to watch out for terms including:  

  • N-(2-Aminoethyl)-N-(2-(2-carboxyethoxy)ethyl) beta-alanine 
  • Norcoco acyl derivs 
  • Disodium salts 
  • N-(Carboxymethyl)-N,N-dimethyl-3-((1-oxococonut)amino)-1-propanaminium hydroxide 
  • Inner salt 
  • Cocamidopropyl dimethyl glycine 
  • Cocoamphodiproprionate 
  • Disodium cocoamphodipropionate 
  • Cocoamphocarboxypropionate 

You will never find such nasty ingredients in genuinely natural soaps, which are designed to benefit your skin, rather than the bank balances of unscrupulous mass-manufacturers!  

6. Chemical fragrances

Plenty of soaps smell delicious, and that’s usually because of the fragrance added. Provided that the fragrance is non-toxic (and ideally comes from essential oils), there is no issue.  

However, fragrances are absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and they can cause issues such as:  

  • Asthma 
  • Endocrine disruption 
  • Organ toxicity 
  • Allergic reactions 
  • Cancer 
  • Neurotoxicity  

The word fragrance on a label is vague, since there is currently no requirement to list the (often vast number of) ingredients it contains. Therefore, you only have the option to trust the manufacturer has kept to safe levels or used non-toxic fragrance. If you’re sensitive to fragrance – even the natural types – you might want to invest in a pure, natural soap like our Pure Body Cleansing and Nourishing Bar.  

If you want to take a deeper dive into soap ingredients – or any personal care product ingredients for that matter, take a look at the EWG's Cosmetics Database, which gives safety ratings on everything you can find on a label.  

Finally, we have a range of natural, handmade, chemical-free soaps, which all look, feel and smell wonderful. They leave you feeling fresh and clean, and of course they are risk-free! 

We are also passionate about zero-plastic and zero-waste, because we care just as much about the environment as we do about your skin. Check out our range of organic soaps and skin and body care products. Your body will thank you for it, and so will Mother Earth!  

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