Since learning about all the nasty ingredients in most of the conventional brands out there, I’ve been on a mission to detox my family’s shower.
If you’re on the hunt for a natural body wash that’s good for your skin and body, you’ve come to the right place!
There are a lot of things to consider when you swap out your body wash. Will an organic body wash actually get me clean? What ingredients should I avoid? I have sensitive skin, so what’s the right option for me?
I’ve found some brands I enjoy that really work, but first I want you to understand the dangers of conventional body wash. From concerns about endocrine disruptors to autoimmunity to cancer, there are a lot of reasons to toss out that bottle under your sink and try something better.
WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT CONVENTIONAL BODY WASH?
The short answer to this is… a lot is wrong with conventional body wash.
Popular brand-name body washes often contain ingredients like paraben preservatives that mimic hormones and may cause autoimmunity and even cancer. Worse, many of these toxins build up in your body over time.
There’s a lot of misinformation about toxins in personal care products. Not only does the FDA insist that many of these ingredients are totally safe but they also don’t require research that shows what happens after long-term use. We are essentially guinea pigs.
Sure, if you retain a tiny amount of one chemical from one product for a few days, your body might not notice. But what about using 10-15 products each day that all have the same toxins? That’s the average number of products that a woman uses! Chronic use of small amounts toxins adds up.
SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE (SLS)
Sodium lauryl sulfate is an emulsifier. That means SLS is an ingredient that helps other ingredients mix better. It’s one of the reasons conventional soap products lather gloriously, while some organic body wash brands don’t lather much at all.
Tested on its own, SLS only causes minor skin and eye irritation. It doesn’t bioaccumulate (build up) in the body for longer than several days at once. A lot of research concludes that SLS isn’t all that dangerous (1).
But natural health experts like Dr. Joseph Mercola find that SLS has a much darker side.
As Mercola explains, SLS can create byproducts known to cause cancer.
The Environmental Working Group notes 16,000 studies that show the toxicity of this chemical. The studies link SLS with organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, biochemical/cellular changes mutations and cancer (2).
This is one of the most pervasive chemicals in our homes. Actually, the word “fragrance” on a label can stand for over 10,000 items. 3,000 chemicals can hide behind the ingredient fragrance and most are xenoestrogens (endocrine disruptors), organic solvents and/or carcinogens.
Fragrance chemicals are linked to infertility, autism, childhood behavioral problems, allergies, asthma and skin conditions (3,4,5,6,7,8).
I avoid buying any personal care, makeup, cleaning or kitchen products that list “fragrance” on the label.
Parabens are preservatives used in tons of personal care products, makeup and household items.
My major concern with parabens are hormone disruptors meaning they mimic hormones and cause estrogen dominance. Hormone disruptors can damage DNA at the cellular level affecting ourselves and unborn children (10). Parabens are also linked to breast cancer.
Most of the time, phthalates are used to make plastic more flexible. But these chemicals are also used in makeup and some body washes.
In addition to messing with your sexual function and development, phthalates are linked to obesity, diabetes and thyroid disease (11).
Let’s just say… I don’t need this stuff lathered on my skin.
Although we know formaldehyde causes cancer as it builds up over time, it’s technically allowed in tiny doses in personal care products like body wash.
You won’t actually see “formaldehyde” on an ingredient list, though. Companies get around putting it in directly by using other chemicals that release formaldehyde over time to preserve their products.
Formaldehyde must be a good preservative… considering how we use it to keep dead bodies from rotting.
Since formaldehyde isn’t labeled outright, look for these formaldehyde releasers instead:
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Diazolidinyl urea
- Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
Many of the best organic body wash brands use more natural and non-toxic preservatives.
DOES NATURAL BODY WASH WORK?
One of the most common concerns most people have about organic body wash (and natural products in general) is Does it actually work?
YES! Good natural and organic body washes (the ones I will recommend) have powerful cleaning abilities that work with your body not against it.
A natural or organic body wash will be a little different. Because natural body wash won’t contain the same preservatives used to preserve a dead body– your cleanser won’t last as long. I feel the same way about that as I do realizing that McDonald’s French fries look the same after a year as the day you order them. Really, natural stuff shouldn’t and doesn’t stay fresh forever.
HOW TO PICK A NATURAL BODY WASH
My choices for natural body wash usually include brands that use mostly USDA-certified organic ingredients. If the company hasn’t gone through the rigorous and expensive process of becoming certified, I want to see wild-crafted ingredients.
I like to use the Environmental Working Group’s SkinDeep Database to make sure I’m getting the best stuff. They rate personal care products on a scale from 1 (amazing) to 10 (the worst).
Above a “1” rating, you’ll also find “EWG-certified” products. These include products that avoid toxic ingredients and practice full transparency and good manufacturing standards.
There are a lot of ingredients to steer clear of in the best organic body wash. Here’s a list of some of the most problematic ones:
- Any word that ends in “paraben”
- Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) or ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS)
- Formaldehyde releasers
- DMDM hydantoin
- Imidazolidinyl urea
- Diazolidinyl urea
- Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol)
- BHA or BHT
- Benzyl alcohol
- Maleic anhydride
- PEG ingredients
Don’t be afraid to use trial and error until you find something you love! The Detox Market offers a monthly subscription box with a curated selection of beauty and skincare products. Their monthly delivery lets you test out many natural body wash and skincare brands to find what you like best.
THE BEST NATURAL BODY WASH BRANDS
I love using Ann Marie Gianni’s body wash! The rosemary peppermint scent is subtle and pleasant and I get out of the shower feeling clean and moisturized. This natural body wash is pH balanced and even helps to wake me up with its peppermint vibes.
Ann Marie Gianni’s is made with organic aloe vera and scented with only essential oils and organic extracts.
This product scores a 2/10 with the EWG. Ann Marie Gianni is transparent with ingredient listings and some crafting processes. The company boasts 4.7 stars on their website and 4.3 stars on Amazon for their peppermint body wash.
What is a shower for? A shower is a time to get clean. To feel refreshed. A shower for most people is also a time to refresh your mind. Goop’s G-Day Ginger and Ashwagandha help to invigorate and revitalize your body and mind. The magic botanicals of fresh organic ginger roots combined with aromatic power of indian black pepper oil will awaken the senses and uplift the spirit- all while cleansing. My husband and I have been loving this earthy and invigorating cleanser.
I’ve been opting for this body wash during my night time showers. It’s relaxing with gently refreshing citrus qualities. Muhuhu, also known as sandalwood, will provide you with a woodsy, grounding experience. Cleansing for both your body and mind, we love this body wash in our home.
With unique and refreshing aromas like geranium and peppermint, your body is sure to feel the love. It’s punchy and energizing so the best choice for a morning shower. This pick is free of harsh chemicals and full of nourishing ingredients making it perfect for those with delicate and sensitive skin, our boys love this body wash!
Nurture the skin and awaken the senses. Rahua shower gel is soft, feminine, fragrant, slightly floral with notes of vanilla and lavender- it’s BEYOND wonderful. I recommend this body wash to all my ladies because the antioxidants and fatty-acids make your skin glow with supple firmness. And if that’s not what we’re looking for, then I don’t know what is.
But men, we did not forget about you! Dr. Alkatis’ Organic Body Wash is masculine and sexy with earthy notes. Think of that desirable smell of a natural aftershave- that’s what you have here! Created with vitamins, medicinal herbs and essential oils- real ingredients that work to restore skin’s natural pH. Your man’s skin will feel smooth and he will smell amazing.
Castile soap is one gentle and non-toxic alternative to many of the chemicals you find in conventional body wash. I love using Dr. Bronner’s because they also utilize hemp for an extra boost. My husband agrees the scent makes it an excellent choice for the best natural body wash for men.
Dr. Bronner’s is so versatile that you can use this soap to wash your body and your kitchen!
Many of their ingredients are USDA-certified organic and fair trade certified. They’re also Leaping Bunny certified, meaning their manufacturing is 100% cruelty-free. This soap is super concentrated, so you can dilute it in water and make one bottle last quite a while.
This soap ranks 1/10 with the EWG and rated 4.4 stars on Amazon.
One of the “it” brands of today, Truly Organic is one of the companies you might have heard of via the Huffington Post or New York Times. Their commitment to organic personal care, sustainability and ingredient sourcing is pretty amazing — plus, they’re super transparent.
This body wash uses African cucumber and aloe vera to improve the look of aging skin.
Any ingredient that can be organic, is. All of the food products that go into making Truly Organic’s body wash are USDA-certified organic.
Unfortunately, Truly Organic is a newer brand and hasn’t been reviewed by Amazon users or the EWG.
Now that you understand why conventional body wash is a no-no are you ready to really clean yourself in your next shower?! Which alternatives are you most excited to try? Drop a comment below.
- Bondi, C. A., Marks, J. L., Wroblewski, L. B., Raatikainen, H. S., Lenox, S. R., & Gebhardt, K. E. (2015). Human and environmental toxicity of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): evidence for safe use in household cleaning products. Environmental health insights, 9, EHI-S31765. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651417/
- Mercola, Joseph. (2010). Deadly and dangerous shampoos, toothpastes, and detergents: could 16,000 studies be wrong about SLS?. Retrieved from: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/13/sodium-lauryl-sulfate.aspx
- Dodson, R. E., Nishioka, M., Standley, L. J., Perovich, L. J., Brody, J. G., & Rudel, R. A. (2012). Endocrine disruptors and asthma-associated chemicals in consumer products. Environmental health perspectives, 120(7), 935. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404651/
- Engel, S. M., Miodovnik, A., Canfield, R. L., Zhu, C., Silva, M. J., Calafat, A. M., & Wolff, M. S. (2010). Prenatal phthalate exposure is associated with childhood behavior and executive functioning. Environmental health perspectives, 118(4), 565. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2854736/
- Kristof, N. D. (2010). Do toxins cause autism?. The New York Times, 219-225. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/25/opinion/25kristof.html?_r=0
- Environmental Working Group (2018). Top tips for safer products. Retrieved from: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/top-tips-for-safer-products/#.W5hKYpP27OQ
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (2015). Patch tests — contact dermatitis codes for ICD-10. Retrieved from: https://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%20Documents/Practice%20Management/finances-coding/Patch-Test-Contact-Dermatitis-Codes-ICD10.pdf
- Tondat-Ruggeri, Lynn. (2018). Fragrance safety concerns. Retrieved from: http://www.toxicsinfo.org/personal/fragrance_safety.htm
- Karpuzoglu, E., Holladay, S. D., & Gogal Jr, R. M. (2013). Parabens: potential impact of low-affinity estrogen receptor binding chemicals on human health. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B, 16(5), 321-335. Abstract: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23909435
- Environmental Working Group (EWG). (2018). Search: parabens. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/search.php?query=paraben#.W7ZtMhNKjOS
- Environmental Working Group. (2013). Dirty dozen endocrine disruptors: 12 hormone-altering chemicals and how to avoid them. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/research/dirty-dozen-list-endocrine-disruptors#.W60eWBNKhQI
- Congleton, Johanna. (2018). Exposing the cosmetics cover-up: is cancer-causing formaldehyde in your cosmetics?. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/research/exposing-cosmetics-cover/formaldehyde-releasers#.W7aFdxNKjOQ