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Almost a decade ago, living on my own for the first time, I stood amazed in aisle 3 of Wegmans, staring at a seemingly endless line of shampoos, soaps, and hair products. My only knowledge of grooming products came from “ultra horny” Axe Bodyspray commercials and Isaiah Amir Mustafa’s appearances for Old Spice. I had no idea what products worked, smelled good, or even what they were made from. There wasn’t even thought to the idea that there were soap ingredients to avoid.
But as I’ve grown up a bit (i.e., no longer cooking an entire pound of bacon to eat over one dinner), what goes into my body, and maybe more importantly, what goes on my body, has become something I’ve taken more interest in. Especially after a conversation with Janson Wigo from Opok, I learned that the chemicals and ingredients in our clothing and soaps can severely affect our health.
And since I assume there’s plenty of dudes just like me who had no idea about this stuff, I think it’s best to put together a list of the soap ingredients you should avoid. Now, it’s tough to find soaps that avoid all of these ingredients, so I’ll also try and include some soaps you should check out that are available either through the Dudefluencer store or online.
My soap says it’s organic or plant-based, so it must be good, right?
One of the most significant issues affecting the eco-friendly, organic, and plant-based grooming product discussion is that there’s no clear definition of what any of that really means when advertising. “The FDA does not define or regulate the term “organic,” as it applies to cosmetics, body care, or personal care products.” As so, a product only needs to feature 70% of organic ingredients to feature the label “Made with Organic Ingredients.” Because of that, companies will often slap that label onto their bottles in an attempt to seem safer and freer of chemicals when that might not be the entire story.
That’s something you’ll often find from some of the more prominent, mass-produced soap manufacturers that are out there. Take, for instance, this article about the recently popularized Dove Plant-Based Products. They state that while the company promotes their product as being planet-based, a look at the ingredients says otherwise. Like I said previously. Especially body washes and liquid shampoos, there will inevitably be products that are not natural to make the soaps lather or even be liquid.
What’s the difference between plant-based, organic, and eco-friendly?
Here’s one of the tricky questions: what’s the difference between all of these labels? And truthfully, there could be a lot, or there could be a little. Since there is no real regulation from the FDA on what can be labeled plant-based or organic, companies have free reign to do as they please if they so choose. But for the sake of our own knowledge, let’s break these terms down as a universal descriptor for eco-friendly products.
You’ve probably heard this term used on television with Dove’s recent push towards Plant-Based grooming products. Still, all plant-based means when it comes to soap is that all of the ingredients are derived from plants. That means you’ll find olive oil, avocado oil, or even coconut oil in the ingredients list.
When looking for grooming products, anything with the “organic” label does require a quick look-through of the ingredients. We’re going to define organic as any grooming product that includes organically based components for our purposes. So it might consist of plant-based ingredients or natural ingredients such as honey or shea butter. Organic does not necessarily mean vegan.
The Dudefluencer Store labels our products as eco-friendly. What we mean by that is that all of our products are kind to the environment in some form or fashion. While many are vegan, everything we sell is handmade, handcrafted, and locally sourced for ingredients. Of course, there might be a few ingredients that don’t fall into the organic or plant-based label. Still, we understand the difficulty in making certain grooming products without those pieces of the puzzle.
To us, eco-friendly also means ethically made. That means if someone else is making the product, it is made under ethical conditions (i.e., a living wage, safe working conditions). Therefore, we believe that eco-friendly encompasses not only environmentally friendly but also employee friendliness.
A note about fragrance
When checking out the ingredients list for any grooming product, soap, shampoo, or otherwise, you’ll more than likely notice the “fragrance” listed on the bottle. This one is tricky because, like organic labels, fragrance can be used as a catch-all for all sorts of ingredients. Plenty of companies love to stick their less than desirable ingredients under the phrase “fragrance,” Since there are no regulations, there really could be almost anything listed there. By the same token, some companies just list fragrances, and the only ingredients are some essential oils. Since that information isn’t available to consumers, try and find products/companies you trust if they list fragrance as an active ingredient.
Top 3 Soap Ingredients to Avoid List
With all of that information about organic, eco-friendly, and plant-based labels, here is a list of the biggest offenders regarding soap ingredients to avoid. Whether they harm the environment or are a dangerous chemical to put on your skin, these ingredients should be ones you look out for the next time you’re shopping for grooming products.
Something you’ll more often find in shampoos than body washes, sulphates make our list of soap ingredients to avoid. The two most common sulphates found in the wild are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium Laureth sulfate. These ingredients are most often seen in practice when sudsing up your soap under the water while in the shower.
For sulphates, their job is “to reduce the level of surface tension between your shampoo and your skin, allowing the active ingredients in the shampoo to do a more effective job of cleaning dirt, oil, and dead skin. From your scalp and hair.” You might also notice them inside dish soap or laundry detergent.
One of the biggest reasons why sulphates are in so many shampoos is their effectiveness. They do a great job of cleaning your hair.
I should let you know something essential: there is NO evidence that sulphates cause cancer. While much negative information regarding sulphates cites this idea, there isn’t any critical evidence proving that.
You should still avoid sulphates because they can damage your hair. Sulphates do an excellent job at getting oil off your hair, but they can do too good of a job. You need to have some moisture in your hair to keep it looking/feeling healthy. Some products with sulphates can be too strong, removing all of the moisture away during your shower.
If you’re looking for healthier, happier hair, sulphate will be one of the soap ingredients to avoid.
Shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, face and skin cleaners, sunscreens, deodorants, shaving gels, toothpaste. You name it, and you’ll likely find a grooming product that features parabens in it. Despite that, there is evidence that parabens can be harmful to your skin which is why it’s made our list of the soap ingredients to avoid.
Parabens are a “group of preservative ingredients used in cosmetic, personal hygiene products, food products, and pharmaceuticals” Ever wonder why your shampoo or soap never goes bad? That’s because of the parabens that have been developed to prevent mold or fungi from growing in the products.
Because of their wide-reaching existence in products, it’s hard to avoid parabens entirely. Although according to Scientific American, “individual products may contain limited amounts of parabens within safe limits set by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), cumulative exposure to the chemicals from several different products could be overloading our bodies and contributing to a wide range of health problems.” More importantly, parabens have been identified as having an effect on hormone levels leading to an increased risk of cancer or reproductive toxicity.
The European Union set guidelines for the amount and type of parabens in products. Still, the United States doesn’t have those same restrictions. That means it’s up to you, the consumer, to be aware of whether or not parabens are in your grooming products.
Like parabens, phthalates are everywhere, from the plastic in food packaging to your vinyl floors. So there are phthalates to be found. But you can also notice many laundry detergents, soaps, and shampoos feature phthalates, which is why it makes our list of soap ingredients to avoid.
For starters, let’s just look at what phthalates are. They are “synthetic chemicals that are used to manufacture plastic.” So if you’re wondering why plastic bottles are so hard to break, then look to see for the phthalates. What’s scary is that the products featuring these chemicals “can disrupt the endocrine system, the glands that release hormones as the body’s chemical messengers.”
Even worse so, “epidemiologic studies have also shown that prenatal exposure to phthalates affects children’s neurodevelopmental and neurobehavioral outcomes…more than a dozen studies that have shown that maternal exposure to ortho-phthalates during pregnancy can impair child brain development and increase children’s risks for learning, attention, and behavioral disorders.” Since phthalates are so common, it can be challenging to find products without them.
To avoid running into any phthalates, you should be looking towards more organic shampoo/soap products. That way, you’ll know that no chemicals have been added to the product and avoid dangerous soap ingredients.
While many grooming companies are offering plant-based, or eco-friendly solutions to your bodily needs, unless they remove these three soap ingredients it will be all for naught. So the next time you’re standing in the grooming aisle at your local grocery store, make sure to check out the ingredients list before purchasing (or you can just purchase from the Dudefluencer store!).