Thursday, September 19, 2013

How Green Is Your Soap... Exactly?

Green Greetings of Peace to All as we prepare for our arising Autumnal Equinox 2013. In the not-so-distant past, I had the pleasure of staying at a bed and breakfast location in the mountains. This cozy dwelling provided all of the amenities necessary to create the undeniable "home away from home" style of ambience. I had fresh linens, fresh papaya and buttered toast daily. My bush tea was made with fresh fever grass and peppermint leaves. While there, I took to fresh open-air nature hikes and when it was time for me to clean up afterwards with a good, bubbly shower, my record scratched at the bathroom discovery... I realized that in the midst of my perfectly fresh and natural excursion, the soap that had been provided as part of the bed and breakfast's bathroom amenities wasn't so green, after all. Despite the facts that the classic packaging overflowed with clover-green delight and the bar itself wreaked pleasantly with the agenda to take you to, aromatically speaking, that refreshing place in the European countryside, I held in my hand (mainly to hold the box at eye-level so that I could get a closer look at the labeling)a product that was made to look and smell natural when, clearly, this was not the case. Now, this is going to be a tough pill to swallow, but let's face it - chances are if you utilize the average "over-the-counter" bar soap that's been nicely fragranced and colored - your soap is not a natural body care product. With today's clever packaging tactics, misleading marketing language and internet keywords, its easy to confuse a not-so-natural bar soap formulation for the presumably all-natural product you were hoping to purchase. Most products that are housed with a general retailer do not come with a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the public to view upon purchase. This disclosure document is utilized to provide procedures and details regarding the occupational safety and health standards for materials and products. While MSDS standards will vary from country to country, it is typical for these pertinent data sheets to provide a material's flash points, toxicity, first aid and handling instructions. Getting back to the matter-in-hand, I turned the box over and read the somewhat confusing ingredients listing on the back of the box: soap (sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, and/or sodium palm kernelate), water, hydrogenated tallow acid (skin conditioner), coconut acid, glycerin (skin conditioner), fragrance, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate, titanium oxide and several other ingredients including a few aggressive artificial coloring agents that I will exclude for the sake of non-blatant disclosure. Yikes! In parenthesis following the soap listing is a toss-up of ingredients that have the potential to be both beneficial and harmful depending on the day's batching and what's presently stocked, I suppose. While I am in holistic agreement that salts can be utilized from plant-derived materials like cocoa and palm kernels, it troubles me to know that salts from animal fat are also included in this and many soap formulations. Tallowate, also commonly known as tallow acid, is made from the sodium salts that come from the fatty acids of animals including cow and pigs. This dense animal fat is being employed as a trustworthy body soap brand while it challenges the oxygenation of skin across the globe. Tallowate also holds great potential to create acne, blackheads and problems with eczema. Parabens and Tetrasodium Etidronate are both carcinogenic preservatives that are popular in the commercial body care and household goods manufacturing industry. With this stated, it should raise a brow to consider that our body care products and household cleaning supplies are being produced in the same manufacturing plant. There are even baby soap products which are made readily available through major retailers that include these toxic preservatives in their ingredient listings, despite the fact that tetrasodium etidronate is a deadly chemical that causes cancer and is made from sodium cyanide and formaldehyde. It breaks down melanin and the protective layers, only to seep directly into the bloodstream through the skin. Our skin is the first line of defense against the environment and infection, yet it is being compromised at varying degree by the products we utilize as bath and body care staples.
Titanium Dioxide is a highly toxic inorganic compound that is used in many body care products as a colorant and opacifying agent. It has recently been classified by the Canadian Centre's Safety and Occupational Health International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen ''possibly carcinogen to humans'', yet product manufacturers disregard this detail and continue to make the formulation as directed. Tell me, since when does the way that a product looks or smells triumph efficacy and the healthful benefits for the human body? This is a growing discussion that will be continued in the near future. There is an awakening of natural body care companies that are providing wholistic alternatives. For plant-based, handcrafted skin and hair wellness recipe options and consultations, please visit our apothecary at