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The Skinny on Suds

Winter weather is sweeping in through most of the U.S., and colder weather means dry –sometimes cracked and painful –skin for most of us.

We’ve talked about how important oil-based lotions are, and how proper skin care starts with nutrition, but soap is another topic worthy of discussion.

Many mass-produced soaps out on the shelves can hardly be called soap at all. They’re like the Grinch for your skin. If you want to bathe in a sea of shady chemical concoctions and harsh detergents then don’t let me stop you –but I’m thinking most people just want healthy, clean skin that isn’t swimming in weird faux-soap.

Here’s the skinny on a few common items you’ll see on the shelves:

  • Antibacterial soaps – These have been talked about for some time as possibly the worst thing to use as a daily cleanser. Typically, antibacterial products contain something called Triclosan. The FDA has noted that there’s a possible link between Triclosan and allergies. It also hasn’t been proven to have any actual antibacterial properties. Say whaaat? It’s proven pretty effective at fighting gingivitis when used in toothpaste. In your mouth. Not on your hands, not on your skin (that’s what she said!). Antibacterial soaps may also contribute to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Great. This is all before I even mention the harsh, drying effects most of these products have on your skin. Are you about to perform surgery? No? Then stick with regular soap, which is still the recommended way to prevent the spread of germs.

  • Gel or Liquid Soaps – These can be shower gels, hand soaps, you name it. Not all liquid soaps are bad for you, but the majority tend to dry skin out and strip it of the natural oils that are necessary for well-moisturized and vibrant skin. We’ve already looked at some of the dangers of parabens (which are increasingly being banned in countries other than the U.S. because of their links to cancer) and the drying effects of alcohol in beauty products –and unfortunately, many liquid soaps contain these things. Some liquid soaps don’t really even contain a true soap –just a chemical concoction that creates suds. If you don’t want to make the switch to a natural bar soap, look for natural liquid soaps with ingredients like aloe vera, castile soap, vitamin E, and essential oils.

  • Microbeads – This exfoliating trend is especially popular in handsoaps and facial washes. Little tiny beads made of small bits of plastic are added for color and texture. These little beads recently made headlines after a dental hygienist discovered many of her patients had little microbeads stuck in their gums after using a whitening toothpaste containing microbeads. Then researchers also discovered microbeads weren’t dissolving away after they wash down the drain either. Not only are they bad for you, they’re bad for the environment. Some states are now moving to ban microbeads. If you want to exfoliate, look for natural sugar or salt scrubs, and additives like walnut, almond, and citrus peel. It also never hurts to utilize scrubbing brushes and pumice stones.

Ultimately, a gentle soap is nearly always the best choice. If you have dry skin, harsh soap will result in cracked, even drier skin, and if you have oily skin, the natural oil balance in your skin will likely be thrown even further out of whack. Go natural, go gentle, or go home!

Bonus: Wellness Mama has a great recipe for inexpensive, homemade laundry detergent! It’s much better for your skin and your wallet.

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