Sometime toward the end of my college career, I made a sudden switch away from the standard bar soaps into the domain of “body wash”. One of the common questions I get when discussing soap is if I can make a liquid soap. The answer is yes I can, but it wouldn’t be body wash. Body wash is interesting to me, in that it’s recently become more and more popular.
On the package, you’ll find this ingredient list:
Water, SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Sulfate, FRAGRANCE, Sodium Lauryl Sarcosinate, Lauryl Alcohol, Decyl Glucoside, DMDM Hydantoin, Lauryl Glucoside, Tetrasodium EDTA, Citric Acid, Polyquaternium-10, FDC GREEN 3, Green 5, Red 33
Now, let’s compare these ingredients to another ‘liquid soap’:
water, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium pareth-23, sulfate C-12-14-16, dimethyl amine oxide, SD alcohol, undeceth-9, propylene glycol, cyclohexandiamine, polyacetate, protease, fragrance, FD&C blue, no phosphate
Of note for us are the first two ingredients in this recipes: “sodium lauryl sulfate” (SLS). This is actually the common surfactant in just about any ‘liquid soap’ you find. It’s also the primary active ingredient of (wait for it) dish washing detergent, our second soap here.
Interestingly enough, the primary reasons why people prefer “Body Wash” to soap are based less on how their skin feels, and more on the “shower experience”. Making this even more interesting to me is that women are more likely to prefer body wash than men. Why is that interesting? Sorry guys, but women tend to care more about skin care than we do.
Despite what a few pages on the internet will tell you, SLS, is NOT going to turn you into a mutant cancerous growth while deforesting the world and killing puppies. SLS is known to be a skin irritant. It’s also a strong part of the body wash pull. A major effect of using it as the primary ingredient is the extremely “sudsy” nature of a body wash. But still, SLS is not good for your skin. And so, the manufacturers of body wash usually add other concocted surfactants (the vast majority of the chemical names in the ingredient list). These others often are milder and known to be “more gentle” on the skin. Sometimes, manufacturers will even include moisturisers to help reduce the effects of the detergent.
From the aspect of this blog, body wash suffers from being environmentally unfriendly. Soap is distributed in easy to recycle paper, body wash is distributed in plastic. And then, in the case of the actual product, body wash often contains multiple chemicals which aren’t nearly as biodegradable.
For a final note, I’d like to point to the one item that bothers me most about standard commercial soaps: “FRAGRANCE”. I have no way of knowing the breakdown of oils or chemicals used. This is in stark contrast to the more premium or natural soap makers, where the full ingredients are listed.