What's in Your Soap?!

What's in your soap? And your shampoo, conditioner, lotion and whatever else? Your skin is incredibly absorbent and the products you choose matter. Chemicals in everyday products can cause skin and respiratory irritation, autoimmune disease, infertility, birth defects, cancer and more. This is particularly important for babies and children. They are exposed to larger doses because of their relative size, and their skin can be more sensitive. Unfortunately products labeled for children are not necessarily any safer.  

Ingredients to Avoid:

  • Triclosan - found in "anti-bacterial" soaps and Colgate Total toothpaste, see "Anti-bacterial Products" below
  • Parabens (estrogen-like preservatives)
  • Phthalates
  • Petroleum products
  • Vitamin A (listed as: retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate)
  • Chemical sunscreens (oxybenzone, avobenzene, octinoxate, others) Read The Trouble with Chemical Sunscreens.
  • Preservatives
  • PEG compounds
  • Dyes/Coloring
  • Artificial fragrance

*this is a general, non-inclusive list

Anti-bacterial Products

Avoid! Not for home use. These are not only totally unnecessary, but they set your household up for breeding superbugs and act as endocrine disruptors. It's been debated for a few years if these products should be available to the general public. I certainly don't want them in our home! Again, particularly concerning for children because of the potential for endocrine disrupting effects (altering normal hormone function).

As an alternative, there are some plant based products that have anti-microbial activity but that do not cause problems with bacterial resistance and normal hormone function. Thymol (from thyme) is found in some Seventh Generation products, and the Thieve's line from Young Living has essential oils from clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemon and rosemary. I'm also a fan of "a little dirt isn't a bad thing". Unless you have a newborn or a child with a particular medical condition, "normal" microorganisms are great for developing the immune system.

Read About Your Favorites

Warning: It's likely not pretty. It may be time to try a few things and find some new favorites! Check the EWG Skin Deep Database. This is an amazing resource and comprehensive database with ingredients and product safety ratings. If you can't find your product you can search individual ingredients as well.


It's easy to get overwhelmed once you learn more about the products you use. Sometimes this causes people to give up completely because it's "too much to think about".  Some people do best replacing everything at once and some by doing a little at a time.  Either way, when you know better...you do better! In a perfect world it would be easy, but in practice sometimes it can be hard to find things that don't include these ingredients. What do we do? At a minimum we avoid products with triclosan, parabens, preservatives and colors. If you are having trouble locating products you may have better luck online or at a health foods store.