You probably already know that what you eat matters for good health—but what you put on your body has an impact too. Personal care products like body wash contain their own ingredients than come into contact with your delicate pours every day. So, if you’ve been using any old cleanser in the bath or shower, it’s time to rethink whether you’re using the healthiest body wash.
What You Need to Know About Body Wash
Dirt is lipophilic, meaning is won’t dissolve with water alone. This is why body washes typically contain both fat-soluble and water-soluble parts to wash and lift dirt from your skin.
The basic ingredients of traditional body washes are usually include:
- Shea butters or oils
- Glycerin to keep the skin hydrated
- A foaming agent
- Fragrance and sometimes coloring
Some specific ingredients used in body washes are not the best, and they can even be toxic to your health. Let’s first look at the top ones to avoid, then how to choose the healthiest body wash for your body.
7 Toxic Body Wash Ingredients to Avoid
Each of these body wash ingredients are used commonly in traditional soap brands and can be problematic for different reasons.
1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, is found in most soap products on the market today.
SLS is a foaming agent and synthetic detergent used to create a rich lather and cleaning action. These outcomes might sound nice, but SLS has been shown to cause eye, skin, and lung irritation and possibly organ system toxicity, according to the Environmental Working Group.
SLS ingredient may also disrupt the natural oil balance of the skin, and some people have claimed it’s connected to acne.
There’s a reason you’ll see “paraben-free” on the labels of natural body wash products.
Parabens are preservatives meant to stop mold, yeast, and bacteria growth in cosmetic products like body wash. But there’s a darker side to this effect.
Parabens have a chemical structure similar to the hormone estrogen. According to WebMD, a 2015 study where breast cancer cells were grown in a lab and exposed to low doses of parabens and another substance commonly in breast tissue found real-life paraben exposure may have significant effects.
Plus, California study that took urine samples from 183 adults and children found 70-100% contained parabens (depending on the specific paraben being tested for). The study determine that those who used more personal care products, such as body wash with parabens, had higher paraben levels in their bodies.
Your body eliminates parabens pretty quickly, but daily exposure to them still keeps them in the body on a regular basis—which is concerning. The less we can expose ourselves to parabens in products, the better.
Exfoliating body washes often contain tiny plastic beads made from polyethylene.
Not only is polyethylene a skin irritant, it’s often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which has been determined a probable human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical that became popular in products like soap and body wash around the 1990s. We’ve since learned that using antibacterial products with triclosan aren’t more beneficial than regular soaps—and they can actually be harmful:
- Triclosan might increase the risk of forming drug-resistant bacteria. Through regular exposure to triclosan, some bacteria on your skin can develop mutations that may make certain antibiotic drugs less effective.
- Animal studies have suggested triclosan could cause hormonal disruption and affect other processes in the body .
- Triclosan may also accumulate in the environment and negative affect aquatic organisms.
Formaldehyde is present in some body washes to prevent bacterial growth. This sounds good, but formaldehyde has been deemed carcinogenic to humans by the IARC. It’s also been known to cause burning or watery eyes, skin irritation, coughing, and nausea in some people.
6. Artificial Colors
Many personal care products like body wash contain synthetic colors to make the product look more appealing. They are often made from coal tar, but some may also contain heavy metals. Just one dye can contain dozens of synthetic chemicals!
Artificial colors may have adverse effects like skin irritation and sensitivity. Your skin pores absorb what you put on them, and these artificial dyes are no exception. Plus, synthetic colors are highly unnecessary so it’s best to avoid them.
7. Colors and Fragrances
A company can include the word “fragrance” on their label without giving a clearer explanation. Meanwhile, you could be slathering a cocktail of chemicals onto your skin each day without being any the wiser.
According to the EWG, fragrance is a moderate-high hazard and have been associated with issues like dermatitis, allergies, skin, eye, and lung irritation, organ system toxicity, and respiratory distress.
How to Pick the Healthiest Body Wash for Your Skin
Now that you know which ingredients are best avoided in body wash products, here are some ways to choose the healthiest body wash brands:
- Free of Above Ingredients: This is no surprise. Any body wash product without the above ingredients will have a decreased risk of negatively affecting your body and health.
- All-Natural Product: Choose all-natural body washes free of toxic ingredients and artificial colors or fragrances.
- Scented with Essential Oils: If you do want a body wash that is scented, choose brands that use all-natural essential oils as their fragrance. These are much safer and less irritating than traditional synthetic fragrances.
- Biodegradable: Why not pick a body wash that is better for the environment as well as your health? Biodegradable means the product breaks down quickly and is made of organic materials that are compostable. Jason is just one brand of personal care products that uses biodegradable bottles for their body wash.
Thankfully, the number of healthier body wash options are growing, and many brands are improving their ingredients. At Nature’s Ideal, we have a wide range of products for all your cleansing needs from brands like Everyone, Shikai, Jason, Nature’s Gate, and more. View our Body Wash section to browse them all.