Monday, February 21, 2011

Not-so-soft soap?

Aqua. Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate. Lauramide DEA. Glycol Stearate. Sodium Chloride. Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Citric Acid. Parfum. DMDM Hydantoin. Polyquaternium-7. Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice. Tetrasodium EDTA. Glycerine. Hydrolized Silk.

Seems almost like another language, doesn't it? But it's actually the ingredients that make up the liquid soap in my bathroom. I know that Aloe Barbadensis is an aloe plant, and who hasn't heard of glycerine? Aqua is water in Italian, right? And citric acid can be found in any citrus fruit. Sodium chloride is NaCl if I remember chem class -- salt? But the rest? How can something with that many chemically-unintelligible names be good for me? If I'm living simply, can't my soap be simpler?

The reason I'm thinking about this again today is that my eldest daughter came home from her winter retreat weekend with the worst rashy red case of eczema on her hands that I've seen in a while. I'll blame the -52 degree cold, plus the liquid hand soap -- toxic neon-pink stuff -- in the dispensers out at the camp where the retreat was held.

Two years ago, my youngest daughter had almost the same kind of eczema, with really rough, sore hands and brown rings of dry skin around her wrists. I mentioned it to my mom, who happened to mention it to my aunt, who said, "tell Maria to get rid of liquid hand soap. It's full of chemicals that have given my grandchildren the same symptoms, but when they started using bar soap, they improved dramatically."

So I found a bar of soap and put it out for Julia -- and my aunt wasn't kidding about the dramatic improvement. Julia's brown rings disappeared within the week, and the skin on her hands has been much healthier ever since. As the liquid soap doesn't seem to bother the rest of us, we're still using it... but at Christmas, my sisters gave us some bar soaps made by the Goat Mountain Soap company in the tiny hamlet of Alix, Alberta. The bars smell really good and don't have any DEAs or parfums, and their goofy names make us smile.

Now I'm looking forward to running out of that chemical-laced liquid so I can use my sweetpea-scented soap. If you want to know its silly name, check out http://www.goatmountainsoap.com/. Click on Wilderness Soaps -- mine is furthest right on the top row.  While you're at it, read some of the other labels for a chuckle or two! My sisters bought a glow-in-the-dark Skinny Dipper Delight bar, which is excellent if you don't want to turn on the bathroom light in the middle of the night! It smells like citrus and pomegranate. Nice!

For those of you who might want to know more about the toxic ingredients in our bath products and cosmetics, the David Suzuki Foundation has compiled a list of the "dirty dozen":

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/index.php

And if you missed my earlier moodlings on make up and hair dye, they're still posted if you use the search feature.

I suspect that small companies like Goat Mountain Soap are less likely to use the kinds of chemicals that the big beauty corporations do, but I still need to look into Goat Mountain's ingredients more carefully. All I know for sure right now is that none of the "dirty dozen" appear on my Goat Mountain Soap label... but there is plenty of wacky humour to be found!

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