Wash Your Body to Health


Showering is something that we all do (hopefully), but unless we’re using the right body soap, we may be washing off more than just dirt and grime–we may be washing away years of skin health.

What to Expect:

  1. What’s Wrong With My Soap?
  2. Buying Good Soap
  3. Making Good Soap
  4. Why Is This Good?

1. What’s Wrong With My Soap?

  • Antibacterial Agents
    • Some antibacterial chemicals (such as Triclosan or Benzethonium chloride) have been linked by the CDC to development of allergies by interfering with our natural immune system antibodies and that their continued use may reduce resistance to infections (which is ironic, considering what we use them for).
    • Not to mention, these cleansers are completely unnecessary since they don’t actually do a better job than simple soap and water.
    • It is interesting to note that they are bioaccumulative, which means they build up within the body without breaking down (and are found in treated water supplies). These readily react with the chlorine in water treatments and form chlorinated byproducts, such as chloroform, and are acutely toxic to aquatic life.
    • Avoid if at all possible.
  • Artificial colorants (Such as FD&C Yellow 5, FD&C Red 40)
    • Found in anything from hair dyes to toothpastes to food.
    • Often contain heavy metals such as lead acetate or coal tar chemicals and may even be derived from aluminum (which, as we learned from Deodorize Yourself and Remember It!, it has been linked to Alzheimer’s, breast cancer in women, neuro-developmental issues of the fetus during pregnancy, and prostate cancer in men).
    • Many colorants are carcinogenic or contain impurities that are.
    • Avoid completely.
  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
    • Not all antioxidants are good!  This group of antioxidants is used in everything from lipstick to toothpaste to baby sunscreen–you can even find it in some foods. Its use in food is banned in many other countries. These are toxic to the immune, respiratory, liver, and neurological systems.
    • Avoid completely.
  • Cocamidopropyl
    • This surfactant and emulsifier usually also contains impurities, like nitrosamines (see DEA/TEA), which can combine with other ingredients to form carcinogenic compounds.
    • It can cause some contact dermatitis (can be displayed as pink or red itchy rash).
    • Avoid if at all possible
  • DEA/TEA (Diethanolamine/Triethanolamine)
    • These are used as lathering agents.
    • They can react with other compounds in the products to form a carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA).
    • It is interesting to note that in 1979, the FDA decided to outlaw the chemical and issued an order for the cosmetic industry to eliminate NDEA from all formulas, but when the products were tested for NDEA in 1980, 42% came up positive.
    • Avoid completely.
  • Dimethecone (silicone derived emollients)
    • This is used as an emollient because of its ability to “seal” the skin, it does not allow the skin to breathe and can trap harmful bacteria.
    • It is a silicone derivative (the same substance used in breast implants).
    • It is non-biodegradable, so the impact on the environment is quite large.
    • Avoid completely if under 25 (male) and under 21 (female), then avoid if at all possible.
      • Why the difference in ages? Men and women develop at different rates.  While most women’s bodies stop developing around age 21, men’s bodies continue to “fill in” or “broaden” until about age 25.  The idea is to avoid this chemical completely until your body is completely developed.
  • Formaldehyde releasers
    • DMDM hydantoin diazolidinyl urea, Imidazalidol urea Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, N-(Hydroxymethyl) glycine, monosodium salt, and quaternium-15
    • Some of these are used as preservatives, namely as a paraben replacement (remember how bad paraben is?).  So, good?  Right?
    • No.  Since they release formaldehyde as they break down. Formaldehyde was classified as a human carcinogen in 2004.
    • Anything with the ingredient urea in the name is generally used as a penetration enhancer, which is used to help active ingredients penetrate the skin deeper. These also release formaldehyde as they break down and have been linked as blood, neurologic, and liver toxins.
    • Formaldehyde is known to be extremely toxic to all animal lifeforms (humans included), regardless of method of intake. Ingestion of 30 mL (1 oz) of a 37% formaldehyde solution has been reported as lethal in an adult human.
    • It is interesting to note that formaldehyde is that chemical that was found in Victoria’s Secret bras back in 2008 and is currently used as an embalming agent.
    • Avoid completely.
  • Parabens (methylparaben, polyparaben, ethylparaben, etc.)
    • Also discussed in Deodorize Yourself and Remember It!, these are widely used preservatives which mimic the effects of the female hormone estrogen.
    • Found in nearly all commercial body care products (liquid soaps, shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, lotions, diaper creams, etc.)
    • It is interesting to note that parabens have been found in breast tumor tissue, though an official causal relationship has not been determined (but you can do the math).
    • Avoid completely.
  • PEG ingredients (Polyethylene glycol)
    • This is anything with PEG followed by a number (representing molecular weight), such as PEG 400.
    • Used as detergents and foaming agents.
    • They have been shown to be kidney and skin toxins and are often contaminated with volatile carcinogens, dioxane, and ethylene oxide.
    • Avoid completely.
  • Petrolatum (liquid paraffin) and mineral oil
    • Fossil fuel.  These are refined from crude oil and do not allow skin to breathe.
    • They have been banned from the European Union since 2004 for probable carcinogenic impurities.
    • Avoid if at all possible.
  • Propylene glycol
    • A solvent that is used in anti-freeze, de-icing chemicals, nail polish, latex paints, artificial smoke (as used in theatrical productions), deodorants, and adhesives.
    • The process for making this chemical is fossil fuel dependent.
    • Also mentioned in  Deodorize Yourself and Remember It!
    • Though it is not required to avoid this chemical at all costs, it is wise to minimize its consumption.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (almost anything containing the words lauryl, laureth, or sulfate)
    • Surfactant and foaming agent that is found in most soaps, shampoos, and laundry detergents.
    • Created by the process of Ethoxylation, which results in a byproduct called 1,4 dioxane, which is not listed on the label, but is the cancer-causing aspect of the ingredient.
    • Can be extremely irritating to skin and exacerbates eczema dramatically.
    • It is interesting to note that this group of chemicals is used in engine degreasers.
    • Avoid completely.
  • Fragrance
    • Also known as Phthalates.
    • Used for fragrance and helping ingredients dissolve.
    • It has been linked to a higher risk of birth defects, which suggests that phthalates may disrupt hormone receptors as well as increase the likelihood of cell mutation.
    • It has been linked to prostate cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, lung damage, and male reproductive defects.
    • Avoid this chemical completely.
  • Talc
    • Can be toxic if inhaled and was found in up to 75% of ovarian cancer tumors.
    • Avoid completely.

2. Buying Good Soap

There are several choices and they are all comparable in both quality and price.

  1. Cal Ben Five Star Soap Products.
    1. Pure ingredients.
    2. Great smell that isn’t overpowering.
    3. Leaves hair and body smooth and healthy.
    4. We use the shampoo for body wash and shampoo.
  2. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap
    1. Castile soap.
    2. You have a choice between liquid and bar soaps and the only difference is the addition of water.
      1. You get more for your dollar if you get the bar.
    3. You also have a choice of essential oils.
      1. We use the baby mild for our little tike and my wife uses the lavender (which smells great).
  3. You have many more choices if you run a search-engine search, but the above two are the ones we use and love.  Anyone else have experiences with the ones above or any other brand?

3. Making Good Soap

There are many ways of making good soap from scratch, but they all require lye, which is a strong alkali (and huge skin irritant) that is highly soluble in water producing caustic basic solutions (it makes soap).  Though lye is a thick-glove, long-sleeve, safety-goggles, and face-mask dangerous chemical, without it, soap will not happen.  Don’t worry, though, by the end of the saponification process, none of the lye is actually left.

I’m going to outline two methods of making natural soap.

Bar Soap

What You Need

  • Ingredients
    • 33 oz coconut oil, with a melting point of 76 degree
    • 4.83 ounces NaOH lye (KOH is only for liquid soap, so make sure you purchase the correct one)
    • 12.54 oz water
    • 0.5 – 1 ounce essential oils (optional, but recommended. See Deodorize Yourself and Remember It! for more information on essential oils)
  • Utensils
    • Crock pot – 8 quart
    • Stick blender
    • Digital scale
    • Thermometer
    • Glass measuring cups
    • Small glass bowls
    • Plastic spoon with long handle
    • Rubber spatula
    • Large bowl filled with vinegar and water for cleaning anything that comes in contact with lye. Follow by cleaning with soap.
    • Protective equipment: long-sleeved shirt and pants, plastic/rubber gloves, safety glasses or protective eye gear
    • Soap mold (you can use a bread pan and cut the bars after curing, or break them for a more “natural” look)
    • Parchment paper for lining the soap mold
All measurements are by weight.

What To Do

  1. Set the crockpot to low as you weigh the ingredients.
  2. In a medium-sized glass or ceramic bowl, add water and take it outside along with the lye and long-handled spoon.
    1. While wearing your protective gear (and taking care not to breathe the vapors), slowly add the lye to the water while gently mixing.
      1. Order is important–ensure you’re pouring the lye into the water (not the other way around). The mixture will get very hot–hot enough to scold–so be careful!
    2. Let the mixture transition from cloudy to clear, then bring it inside. Move to the next step it cools for the next 5-10 minutes.
  3. In a saucepan, place the coconut oil and heat to 120-130F ensuring the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pot.
  4. Place the melted coconut oil in the crockpot.
  5. Add the lye mixture to the crockpot (do not to splash!) and slowly stir a few times.
  6. Using the stick blender, mix the crockpot contents toward trace. Trace is achieved when the mixture has both the texture and thickness 0f light pudding.
  7. Cover and let cook on low.
    1. During this process the oils should rise up the sides and fold back into the mixture.
    2. Usually takes 45-60 minutes, but the cooking time will vary, so check it often.
  8. When the soap is ready it will resemble semi-translucent Vaseline and have no oil puddles in the middle.
    1. There are two ways to test and see if it’s done:
      1. Use a pH test strip.
        1. It should read between 7-10.
        2. If it is higher than 10 it’s not done.  Continue cooking.
      2. No test strips? No problem.
        1. Rub a bit of the soap between your fingers (it should feel a bit waxy), touch it to your tongue.
          1. If it ‘zaps’ you, it’s not done.
          2. It is very important that all of the lye is converted, otherwise the finished soap can burn.
  9. If you’d like to add essential oils, wait until the mixture cools some before adding them or they will lose their fragrance.
  10. Spoon mixture into your mold and let it cool.
    1. You may use the quick-curing method by placing the product in the fridge.
      1. This can cause a bubbling effect in your soap, which may be desirable, but it may note be.
  11. Coconut oil, unlike other oils (which require a hardening period of 24 hours before being cut), makes a very hard bar and will be difficult to cut if allowed to dry too long.
    1. Cut as soon as it’s cool and firm enough to handle.
  12. Place bars on a rack/tray (with about an inch of space between them) in an area with good air flow (fans are a good way to ensure proper air circulation).  Allow them to dry out and harden for another few days.
    1. Though you can use your first bar once hardened, for best results, let them sit for 2-3 weeks, allowing the conditioning properties to fully develop.

Shelf life is about one year, if stored in a cool, dry place.

Liquid Soap

There are two leading methods of creating liquid soap.  I will only dive into one, because the other creates it from absolute scratch and is more complicated than the bar soap recipe above (but you can search for it online, just be careful).

What You Need

  • Ingredients
    • Two 5 oz. bars of pure castile soap (alternatively, the bar soap above can be made and used here)
    • 1 gallon of distilled water (alternatively, coconut milk can be partially or wholly substituted here–it will produce a more luxurious soap, but the shelf-life will suffer, so make smaller batches)
    • Essential Oils (optional, but recommended. See Deodorize Yourself and Remember It! for more information on essential oils)
  • Utensils
    • Cheese grate
    • Large pot (over one gallon)
    • Wooden stirring spoon
    • Glass storage containers (such as large mason jars)
    • Glass soap dispensers

What To Do

  1. Grate the soap bars.
  2. Heat (but don’t boil) the water in a very large pot.
  3. Slowly stir in the soap shavings. Keep stirring until all of the flakes have dissolved.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it sit for 12-24 hours.
    1. This mixture will thicken during this time.
  5. Occasionally stir the mixture throughout the day, but don’t stress about it.
  6. Stir in your essential oils.
    1. Start small and put in enough until get the strength of your liking.
  7. Pour mixture into soap dispensers and the remainder in the storage containers.
    1. This makes quite a bit.

Why Is This Good?

  • Coconut oil
    • The Lauric Acid in coconut oil can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
    • It can protect hair against damage, moisturize skin, and function as sunscreen
  • Lye
    • Whether you want to or not, you must use lye or you won’t get soap.
    • A strong alkali that will accomplish the chemical saponification process, making soap.
    • Extremely hazardous, so handle with extreme care and only outdoors.
    • Once the saponification process is complete, the lye will be gone.
  • Essential Oils
    • There are many oils to choose from, each with its own properties.
    • Try to choose an oil or combination of oils that smells nice as well as serves a medical purpose (there are plenty to choose from, so have fun with it and remember to always choose oils that are marked approved for internal use).


Next Post (8/29/2014):

For Hair So Healthy, It’s Actually Healthy!

Shiny hair is a sign of an unhealthy scalp and unhealthy hair.  Learn which shampoos are actually good for your hair and which to avoid.


Comments (3)

  1. Michelle Belle Ward Mendoza

    Hey Joe, do you know anything about dish soap? I have heard you can clean your microwave by putting a soapy washcloth in and microwaving for 1 min. I always wondered if that would be safe. I did it once on a little cheap used microwave once but then my neurotic brain wouldn’t leave me alone so I ended up getting a different microwave. I was also worried about the air after that. Since then I’ve used vinegar. I’m curious to know your thoughts on that?

    August 26 at 5:09am

    • admin

      Michelle, you were right to fret about the soap. Most dish soaps have hazardous chemicals that, though cut grease, can be toxic if inhaled. I have yet to write a post on dish soaps, but see this post for some chemicals that also exist in dish soaps (but some at higher concentrations). Many people do the dish soap method, but I, for one, believe you made the right call.

      Try this one: Cut a lemon in half and put both halves cut-side down on a microwaveable plate with a tablespoon of water, microwave for about one minute (or until the inside of the microwave is steamy), open the microwave and wipe with a damp cloth or sponge, take the turntable out and wash it like a dish (even running it through the dishwasher, if you have the time). The lemon halves can be used as fridge and room deodorizers (but remember to discard when they’re dry or discolored).
      How it works: The water steam will mix with the lemon juice, causing an acidic mist. This hot mist will loosen stuck-on-gunk and, because of its acidity, will also sanitize.
      If one table spoon for one minute doesn’t steam up enough, try two tablespoons of water for one minute and thirty seconds.

      August 26 at 8:57pm

Leave a Reply to Michelle Belle Ward Mendoza Cancel reply

Login with your Social ID

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *