We all know the importance of washing our hands regularly. According to the Center for Disease Control, we can prevent several illnesses and diseases and stop the spread of germs to others simply by washing our hands with clean soap and water. While studies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have revealed that antibacterial soap is no more effective than plain soap and water – which resulted in an order to remove antibacterials in consumer soaps – there are still several ingredients you might want to avoid.
Ingredients like parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are both common chemical ingredients in conventional household soaps that may actually be harmful to us.
Parabens are preservatives added to many personal care products meant to prevent the growth of bacteria and prolong shelf life. One study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that exposure to parabens may lead to increased levels of estrogen in the human body and potentially increase the risk of cancer. When choosing products, look out for ingredients like methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben.
SLS is a cleansing and emulsifying agent that is added to many personal care products to make them foam. In spite of being present in so many ingredients, nearly 16,000 studies mention its toxicity. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Reviews, SLS can lead to irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, and biochemical or cellular changes, and possible mutations and cancer. Look out for labels with ingredients like sodium dodecyl sulfate, sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, sodium salt sulfuric acid, sodium dodecyl sulfate, aquarex me, or aquarex methyl.
Not only are parabens and SLS toxic to us, they are toxic to our environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists personal care products as one of the major pollutants that make their way into the environment via household drains. Although water that leaves our homes gets filtered through water treatment plants, chemicals like parabens and SLS persist and end up being filtered back into surface and ground water. Chemicals from personal care products that end up in the water fish and other marine animals live in and can potentially cause endocrine system disruption, which can lead to reproductive and behavioral disorders, a compromised immune system, neurological problems, and cancer. This also doesn’t spell good news for people who the consume fish.
So, now that you know the dangers lurking in many hand soaps, what can you do? There is always the option to make your own hand soap, but that is not convenient for everyone. Luckily, there are brands out there that are dedicated to making safer, more environmentally-friendly hand soaps. The soaps below are just 10 options you can find.