We spend a lot of time thinking about the ingredients in our facial products and hair care, but what about our shower routine? What are we cleansing our bodies with every day – and what’s washing down the drain?
Want to skip the nitty-gritty and go straight to safer solutions? Jump to What to Look for When Shopping for Safer Options.
The Health Concerns
Contaminants – Contaminants are ingredients that are not intentionally added to a product, but can still be found in the finished product due to factors such as processing or sourcing. An example of a contaminant commonly found in body washes is 1,4 dioxane. Surfactants (a group of ingredients found in body washes to make them sudsy) can undergo a process called ethoxylation. For instance, ethoxylation of sodium lauryl sulfate to convert it to sodium laureth sulfate (a surfactant), can produce and contaminate the final product with 1,4 dioxane in the process.
1,4 dioxane has been identified as a known carcinogen. Due to its presence via contamination, 1,4 dioxane will not be listed on the label of a product. This can make it difficult to avoid. A good way to steer clear of 1,4 dioxane is by reading labels for the chemicals that tend to be contaminated with it: as a general rule that means avoiding PEGs and ingredients that end in “-eth”. Ex: sodium laureth sulfate.
Undisclosed Fragrance – An umbrella term used on product labels that may contain upwards of 100 different ingredients. Common fragrance ingredients, such as phthalates and synthetic musks, can be toxic to human health. Because companies are not required to disclose fragrance components, it’s best to avoid fragranced products unless they are entirely disclosed. It always helps to have the product vetted by a trusted third-party verification such as MADE SAFE® that requires full ingredient disclosure.
Toxic Preservatives – Preservatives, as the name suggests, are used to “preserve” products for long periods of time, preventing the growth of microorganisms and resulting expiration. They can come in many forms, but a few examples are: parabens (ethylparaben, isopropylparaben, etc.), quaternium-15, and glyoxal. Preservatives are designed to kill things, so it’s not surprising that many conventional preservatives have been linked to a range of toxicity issues. For example, parabens are hormone disruptors and have been associated with breast cancer as well as reproductive harm.
Note that preservation of products is important – especially when water is present in the formulation – so make sure the products you use do contain preservatives and they are safer options. The shortcut to knowing your product has been preserved with safer options? Look for the MADE SAFE seal.
Harmful Surfactants – Lathering agents are added to products to create foam and bubbles and to wash away dirt and oil. Shoppers love the action of surfactants, but what you may not know is that many surfactants can be problematic for the environment – especially aquatic life. We often think of our own health first when we choose products, but with something like a body wash that stays on our own skin for a very short time but washes down the drain during our shower, it’s important to consider toxicity to aquatic animals and our environment. That’s why when MADE SAFE certifies a product containing surfactant, we zero in on biodegradability and toxicity to aquatic life.
Common examples of problematic conventional surfactants include sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate. These foaming ingredients have been found to cause contact irritation in users and are also harmful to aquatic life.
Because numerous surfactants are problematic for our environment, we recommend choosing body washes with the MADE SAFE seal.
What to Look for When Shopping for Safer Options
- Avoid PEGs and ingredients ending in -eth
- Avoid products that contain parabens, ingredients ending in -paraben (ex: ethylparaben)
- Use products that disclose 100% of ingredients
- Avoid products that list “fragrance” or “parfum”
- Look for the MADE SAFE® seal