Harmful Commercial Soaps

Published: 15th January 2010
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Although thousands of households throughout the world use commercial soaps for their everyday, personal hygiene, there is some "dirt" that you should know about some of these products. Most modern, mass-manufactured commercial soaps are made using a method called the "cold process" that, among other things, mixes lye (sodium hydroxide) and certain oils in order to create soap. The results of this set of complicated procedures, with a variety of chemicals and ingredients combined in different ways, are what commercial soap companies package and sell on the market. As always, there are better and worse products available, and to get the former you need to know about the latter so you can make an informed decision.

Some companies remove the natural glycerin that is produced during the "saponification" process, which is then used to make other products, primarily lotions and moisturizers. The odd thing is, natural glycerin is what you really want in your soap so if it is removed then you are not benefiting from it at all. There are also soap manufacturers whose goal is to sell 4-oz. bars for less than $1, but the low price often means that the ingredients in the soaps are not just inexpensive, but may even be harmful to your skin. In many cases the soap contains abrasive ingredients or harsh detergents that can clog your pores, build up on your skin and even cause it to age faster. Some products also use animal fats, which can not only clog pores but also contribute to acne and other skin problems.

Some chemical names to know

Commercial soaps can also feature the presence of sulfates, some of which can be harmful. Also of some concern is sodium tallowate, which results from combining sodium hydroxide (lye) with beef tallow. Yes, you read that right - beef tallow, the liquefied fat of real beef from a real cow. Other harmful agents in commercial soaps include

· tetrasodium EDTA, a preservative;

· sodium cocoyl isethionate, a synthetic detergent that is harsh if not properly "buffered";

· trisodium etidronate, another preservative that some researchers consider only marginally useful; and

· BHT (butylhydroxytoluene), a synthetic antioxidant that some studies have shown to cause tumor formations in rats.

Some of these ingredients, as well as a laundry list of others, are used solely to help the soap have a longer shelf life, hold together better, give off a certain aroma or have a particular kind of suds. If you do not have time to research them all, you might want to consider a choice of soap that has fewer, or none, of these unnecessary (in terms of hygienic value) ingredients. Although "handmade" or "small batch" soaps are typically more costly, they are generally better for your skin overall.

Killer filler?

Commercial soaps are made in huge batches, going through a series of chemical, heating, blending and mechanical processes that remove the glycerin and introduce other fillers and synthetic detergents to take its place. Many fragrances used in commercial soaps can also be harmful to an individual's skin, and numerous genetic factors make some people far more sensitive than others to both natural and manmade ingredients. Rashes, dryness, scaling and other problems have been known to occur, or worsen, with the use of commercial soaps. Essential oils that some manufacturers add to their soaps are actually destroyed or rendered ineffective due to the addition of preservatives, moisturizers and fragrances.

Fragrances, in fact, are not always added to please the consumer, although they do that, too. Their first task is actually to mask the odor from certain other ingredients A variety of fillers are added, too, for proper volume and weight, but result in no cleansing or cosmetic benefit to the soap itself. Certain substances are designed to add a particular benefit, such as pumice for mild abrasion and water softeners for producing rich suds.

Appearances vs. results

Once all the necessary ingredients and colors are added to the soap - as well as some of the unnecessary ones mentioned previously - it is shaped into a final form for distribution. In the "old days" this process consisted simply of cutting blocks of soap into bars. These days, however, the mix of detergents, oils, lye, colorants, dyes and perfumes is pressed into shapes both generic and unique. Such brands as Dove, Zest and Caress, in fact, can be identified by their unique shapes.

Using handmade soaps instead of commercial ones can be a simple solution if you want to reduce your exposure to chemicals. Handmade soaps usually consist of "100% natural" ingredients and are better for your body and, quite often, the environment, as well. They can help you maintain healthy, resilient skin in the long run. Commercial soaps can remove some of the natural oils from your skin, drying it out and making it age faster. These soaps may smell good, come in pretty bottles and cost less, but they are often better with appearances than they are with results.Bath and Body supplies wholesale soap making and toiletry supplies. When you're formulating your own soap, body lotion, lip balm, bath salts, or perhaps a special flax seed pillow, we have the supplies you need at wholesale prices. Visit online for more information.

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