OK…so by now, most of you probably, at the very least, suspect that all the lotions & potions you use on a daily basis MAY be, at least, SLIGHTLY toxic in some way, shape or form but, you are so busy that you are just lucky to shower, brush your teeth, apply deodorant and get out the door on a daily basis.  The last thing on your to-do list…scratch that…it doesn’t even make your to-do list…is taking time to research the ingredients listed on the various labels.  Relax…I’ll try here to save you that time.  Today I want to target the ubiquitous soap, because, if you are like my 5-year-old son (who has been raised by a border-line germ-phobic mother), you wash your hands at a minimum of 82 times a day. Additionally, I’m going to list a couple recipes so you can make your own soap, very easily and very economically.

I’ve received a bunch of questions regarding things like sunblock, detergent, baby products…I’ll be doing subsequent posts to tackle each category.

If you have even slightly considered how these products are made, where they go after you use them and how they may be adding to your toxic load, please read the book The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health by Randall Fitzgerald.  My friend Cathy recommended this to me a couple years ago; it will dramatically the alter the filter through which you view just about EVERYTHING in your life: your food, your house, your personal care items, your clothing. Here’s the link for the listing on amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Hundred-Year-Lie-Yourself-Chemicals-Destroying/dp/0452288398/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1304271880&sr=1-1

Back to soap…

Fitzgerald indicates in his book that, according to the FDA, ‘we each use nine personal-care products daily, containing about 126 chemical ingredients.’  Think about it; it adds up quickly: toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, body moisturizer, facial moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, hairspray, make-up (that’s a good 9 products right there for some people), sunscreen, lip balm…you can probably think of more, and we haven’t even counted soap.

The vast majority of soaps contain some combination of the following:

parabens (chemical preservatives starting with methyl-, ethyl-, propyl, butyl, isobutyl-) that have been shown to disrupt normal hormone function (think: reproductive system, thyroid, etc.)

synthetic chemical called phthlates (sounds like THAL ates) which have been shown to cause a broad range of birth defects and reproductive impairment in lab animals and are often hidden under the generic term ‘fragrance’

a foaming agent called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is used in brake fluid and antifreeze

triclosan, a chemical in the ever-popular antibacterial version of hand-soap, is a contributor to antibiotic resistance

Here are a couple links to articles on the Environmental Working Group’s website discussing all of the above:

http://www.ewg.org/news/ugly-face-our-cosmetics

http://www.ewg.org/news/selecting-personal-care-products

I’ve never been a huge bar soap person; I prefer shower gel.  And I’ve noticed, between using filtered shower water and using a highly concentrated organic bath gel, I don’t actually need much of the gel. My favorite shower gel is made by Pangea Organics.  I bought it several years ago on a whim because Whole Foods had a Buy One-Get One Free coupon.  Well, at about $18 a pop, I found as many coupons as I could and purchased about 10 bottles; I’m now down to my last one and don’t feel like shelling out $18 again so I’ve been experimenting with how to make my own.  I totally understand if you have no time for that (as if I do!) so here is the link to Sephora (they actually have it for $16) if you are looking for a nice Mothers’ Day gift (please note that this is in no way meant to imply that it is an equal substitution for jewelry, especially if your wife recently gave birth to a 10 lb., 6 ounce baby):

http://www.sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml?id=P250922&shouldPaginate=true&categoryId=5975

I like the Pyrenees Lavendar with Cardamom variety, but they have a bunch of them and I would guess they are all wonderful.  It has no petroleum, sulfates, synthetic preservatives, artificial colors/fragrances or GMOs.  I love what the fine print on their bottle says: ‘what we choose to consume today, directly impacts how we-and future generations-will live tomorrow’.  I think they may have stolen that from the Seventh Generation folks, but I’m not positive…even so, it all bears repeating, so it’s all GOOD.

If you have any interest in making this yourself, you can simply take an empty 8 or 8.5 ounce bottle (I just use my empty Pangea Organics bottles) and add the following to make a shower gel that is very similar to the Pangea product:

almost 8 ounces (roughly 1 cup) Dr. Bronner’s Organic Unscented Baby-Mild Castile Soap (Whole Foods & amazon carry this soap and I heard TARGET, but I’m not certain)

a couple drops of the following essential oils:

orange

lavendar

cardamom

calendula

If you want to get even closer to the real thing, add a couple drops of the following (which can all be found at http://www.mountainroseherbs.com):

fennel seed extract

horsetail extract

marshmallow extract

red clover extract

blue violet leaf powder

This will give you a wonderful shower gel at a fraction of the cost and your Dr. Bronner’s can also be used to make floor cleaner, kitchen spray, bug spray…there’s a reason they call it ‘Magic Soap’).  It contains organic coconut oil, olive oil, hemp oil, jojoba oil, and Vitamin E (tocopherol).  The lavendar oil you purchase is also wonderful for those little metal lamp rings; just put a couple drops in one before you turn on the light as the scent is effective for soothing, relaxing and healing. Calendula oil is great for little cuts and scrapes and also for taking the itch out of bug bites.

Now that you are GOOD on shower gel, here’s a link to my favorite foaming hand wash from a company in Beaver Falls, PA called Sensibility Soaps:

http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/bathbody/body.html

Scroll down almost to the bottom; the Nourish Foaming Hand Wash is great and contains none of the aforementioned carcinogens or endocrine disruptors.  It contains no ‘chemicals’ and is both vegan and certified USDA organic.  Even better, the bottles the company uses are #2s (so they can be thrown in with your curb-side recycling) and the labels are made from PLA film which is a renewable and recyclable material that is produced using 60% less fossil fuels than plastic.

I love the smell of the Method brand foaming handsoaps and have always considered them the ‘lesser of the evils’ because while they are free of triclosan, they still contain sodium lauryl sulfate, among other questionable ingredients.  So until I found the Nourish product, the Method soap was the best I could find. Now I save the containers and make my own.  Here’s all you need to make your own foaming hand wash:

Dr. Bronner’s Organic Unscented Baby-Mild Castile Soap

filtered or distilled water

Add about 2 tsp. -1 Tbsp. (depending on the size of your re-used container) of the Dr. Bronner’s soap (2-3 quirts should do you) and fill almost to the top with water, allowing room for the pump.  If you want to make it scented, you can add a couple drops of any essential oil you have on hand.  Or just leave it as it.  I used to refill my liquid soap pump containers with castile soap but it’s a little more ‘runny’ than the commercially produced stuff so after being squirted in the eye one too many times, I decided refilling the foaming containers was the way to go.  So, if you don’t have the time to make your own, you now have a couple options you can feel really GOOD about but if you want to be adventurous, have at it.