All posts by Salah Boukadoum

Salah is is a social entrepreneur, co-founder of Soap Hope and co-inventor of the Good Returns model. You can see his TED talk at http://salahsTalk.com or read his thoughts at http://salahsBlog.com.

No Thanks To Paraben

Last week, Environmental Science and Technology published the results of a study by researchers from Arizona State University and State University of New York’s Downstate School of Public Health.

The study tracked 180 pregnant women in Brooklyn, New York. The study found triclosan – a commonly used chemical in antibacterial soaps – in 100% of the women’s urine. Every one!

The same researchers also found parabens in 100% of the cord blood samples they tested, with triclosan in half of them.

Endocrine-disrupting parabens like triclosan affect the body’s hormone system. It has been clearly shown that there is a relationship in humans between triclosan levels in the body and allergies. A study by the National Institutes of Health shows that the more triclosan you have in your system, the more likely you are to develop allergic reactions to a variety of foods, for example.

The irony is that other studies reveal that simply washing your hands with plain soap and water is just as effective at eliminating bacteria as using a soap with triclosan in it.

Triclosan does act as a preservative in consumer products – but so does vitamin E, which is what many of our makers use in their products. Why do big manufacturers use triclosan? It’s cheaper. They don’t appear to be concerned about the side effects on people or the environment. They also know there’s nothing especially “antibacterial” for the user of their product, but they market it that way anyway.

We have strict standards about what may be used in products at Soap Hope. Triclosan, and every other paraben, is banned from the products we carry at Soap Hope. Our carefully selected products simply will never have parabens, period.

Essential oils? Definitely. Vitamin E? Yes, please. Parabens? No thanks.

Our goal is to free you from reading labels – we read them for you. If you find it at Soap Hope, it has passed our research test. And when you buy it here, the entire profit for your purchase goes to empower women. Soap Hope means “Everything Good for Body and Home.”

Women, Take the Stage

Soap Hope co-founder Salah Boukadoum introduces award-winning global philanthropist, Mina Chang.
Soap Hope co-founder Salah Boukadoum introduces global philanthropist Mina Chang, winner of the Women That Soar Philanthropy and Humanitarian Award in 2012. Ms. Chang is CEO and President of Linking The World International, an international humanitarian children’s organization working in developing countries to break the cycle of poverty.

The Conference

I recently attended a conference about the future of cities.

Like many conferences, this one started with a packed room of attendees ready to hear some great opening speakers.

Right at 9:00, the conference chairman came on stage to welcome us. Then came the city mayor. Then the conference organizer gave us an orientation, and an expert gave a great talk about the cities of the future. And then a powerhouse panel of five world leaders took the stage.

And that’s when I first noticed it. All the people on the panel were men.

I started thinking back through the morning. Before the panel was the conference organizer, a man. The expert before him, a man. The mayor before him, and the CEO before him, all men.

The panel took questions for an hour from a moderator – a man. Next on the agenda, a scientist – a man.

It was 11:30. The whole morning had passed. Not a single woman’s voice from the stage.

Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices

Half the people in the world are women, but women do not make up half the conversation or half the decision making about its future.

I have long believed that most of the ills of our world come from the imbalance of the missing voices of women in leadership, governance, planning, and decision making.

That’s one of the reasons that Soap Hope focuses on empowering women, particularly those who are the most disenfranchised.  If women don’t have the means to earn an income, don’t have access to credit, and don’t have a seat at the table, then half the world is excluded from the conversation and the decision making. How can we expect the future of the world to serve all humanity if half of it is left out?

I agree with Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, who said, “Microcredit is about much more than access to money. It is about women gaining control over the means to make a living. It is about women lifting themselves out of poverty and vulnerability. It is about women achieving economic and political empowerment within their homes, their villages, their countries.”

Soap Hope, Women, and the Future

The conference organizers didn’t consciously exclude women that morning. But that didn’t comfort me at all – they didn’t even notice the absence of women. There is a blind spot in their understanding of the world.

Blind spots like this don’t just disappear on their own. We have to actively work not only to raise awareness and educate, but also to take action and use our resources to change existing structures that currently exclude women.

That’s why Soap Hope means so much to me. I love the idea that we can change the world with our simple system. We provide customers with everyday things – soap bars, shampoo, candles, laundry soap – and all the profits from every purchase create income for women, bring more women’s voices to the conversation, bring more women’s leadership to the society.

Soap Hope is my way of joining my voice to the many people who are asking, “Women, please join your colleagues on the stage.” I for one am very much looking forward to what you have to say.

Salah Boukadoum
Co-Founder, Soap Hope

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Women With Drive

“One of the most critical things that gets denied to women who are oppressed is mobility.” – Meenu Vadera

 

One of the hidden barriers that women around the world face is the lack of freedom to move.

Sometimes these limitations are overt; for example, did you know it is illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia?

Other times lack of opportunity is related to a lack of access to transportation. In Dallas, if a woman’s car isn’t reliable or it takes 90 minutes to get to work by public transportation, her ability to get and keep her job is jeopardized. In the Dominican Republic, if a woman can’t get to the town market, she won’t earn a fair price for her goods.

And then there are cultural barriers: when is the last time your cab was driven by a woman? Just one percent of New York City’s taxi drivers are female.

I’ve been impressed with two very different approaches to empowering women through mobility that I’d like to share with you today.

Molly Cantrell-Kraig, Women With Drive – USA

A few years ago I had the great fortune of becoming friends with Molly Cantrell-Kraig, director of a wonderful U.S. impact organization called Women With Drive Foundation. Many women who want to work find themselves unable to gain or keep employment, only because they can’t get to work reliably or in a reasonable period of time. Molly’s organization helps these women work by providing them access to a safe and reliable vehicle.

I love Molly’s self-sufficiency requirements – they remind me of what we look for at Soap Hope in the programs we support to help women escape poverty. Her clients must have a job offer, be law-abiding and drug-free without DWIs or DUIs, and must pay for their own insurance and taxes. Women With Drive provides the opportunity; the client is the one that creates the success. Or as Molly says, “We provide access to a car … she provides the drive.”

Meenu Vadera, Women On Wheels – India

I saw Meenu Vadera speak recently in Dallas at the New Cities Summit about her impact organization, Women On Wheels. Ms. Vadera’s dual organizations are based in Delhi. Her non-profit provides extensive training to certify women as drivers; her for-profit then hires these women to provide transportation services in the city.

Women On Wheels empowers women across a multitude of dimensions: it provides training; it develops confidence; it offers employment and a path out of poverty; and it challenges cultural norms that tell women that certain kinds of professions are off-limits to them. Ms. Vadera’s clients often become the primary breadwinners for their families, eclipsing the income earned by their parents and sometimes becoming the first in the family to escape the city slums.

Empowerment Is The Key

We’re focused on empowerment at Soap Hope. We aim to empower women by sending all our profits to help women start businesses. We created Soap Hope to empower you as an individual to make a difference by consciously choosing where you buy. We work hard to empower you as a consumer by providing a place where all the products meet standards for health and purity. And we strive to empower other impact organizations by sharing their stories.

Watch Molly Cantrell-Kraig in an interview by The Success Loft (Can’t see this video? Here’s the link. )

Watch Meenu Vadera on Women On Wheels at the New Cities Summit 2014 in Dallas (Can’t see this video? Here’s the link. )

Thank you, Malala

As part of our Soap Hope Community you have probably noticed that we consistently communicate two unique messages at the same time.

On the one hand, we always want to share great products and specials with you. We want you to know when you can get a free Zum bar, or when we start carrying something we haven’t had before, like eye liner and eye gel.

And we always want you to know about our mission and the women we empower, and our belief in the capability and responsibility of businesses to take part in resolving our world’s biggest problems.

So in our shop you’ll hear as much talk about women’s economic development, social impact, poverty and education as you’ll hear about new colors and designs, product purity, safety and new developments in natural products for body and home.

This week we were reminded once again of Malala Yousafzai, the amazing young woman who has been standing up for the right of all people to be educated, regardless of their gender, religion, or geography.

During this very difficult week of violence in the world, it’s easy to get dispirited. Malala reminds us that we need to stay committed to education, even in the face of fear and violence. She reminds us that one of the best roads to peace is the empowerment of women.

If you haven’t seen Malala, watch her talk with Jon Stewart below about what motivates her to stand up for women’s education rights.

Thank you, Malala!

Try

Here’s a dilemma for you.

Every week at Soap Hope, we get together to talk about what to write on this blog and what special offers to send to the many customers who get our weekly email.

The team wanted to do a makeup promo, since we’re big fans of the Pacifica line – the products and packaging are just gorgeous, and our customers love the quality.

Normally that would mean I would pull out the research I did on natural makeup when we decided to carry it and write up some important points about natural makeup, what to look for and how to use it.

But this week I also saw a very touching music video called “Try” by Colbie Caillat. I really wanted to share this song with you, because it made a big impact on me.

But I was conflicted about sending out a promo about makeup, and also sending you this song. You’ll see why when you watch it. (I’ve put it at the end of the blog for you.)

I talked with my friend Kathy and told her about my concerns. “Is it insensitive to promote makeup in the same week as you share a song like this?”

Kathy asked me, “Well Salah, why do you sell makeup?”

It’s not a short answer, but it’s a simple one. I sell makeup because I wanted to create a company that solves big human problems by selling everyday things to my community. I wanted the company to use all of its profits to empower women to escape poverty. And I only wanted to sell things that were healthy and high quality, with the highest integrity I can bring.

I started with something simple: soap bars. And customers – you – showed up to participate. And then you asked for more – for shampoo, for lotion, for new brands, and yes, for makeup.

In return, I asked Kathy why she wears makeup. “The same reason you cut your hair a certain way. It’s fun. It makes me feel good. I like the way it looks. And some days I don’t wear it.”

In the end, Kathy and I decided you would understand everything. That there’s nothing wrong with selling makeup for the right reasons. That it’s OK to share this video with you about how we don’t need to be wearing makeup – or doing anything else – for the wrong reasons. And that I shouldn’t have to worry too much about sharing things with you that moved me, and that I think might move you too.

I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments below.


(Can’t see the video? Click here for the original post and scroll to the bottom.)

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here It Comes: Sun Protection Products

We know that the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be harmful to skin, so it’s important to take precautions for yourself and your family – especially during the summertime when they sun’s rays are at their peak, and when our clothing covers less skin. It’s also important to know which sun protection products you should look for, and which to avoid.

Eat Right!

As usual, Soap Hope’s first advice is to pay attention to your diet. Your body uses vitamin C and several B vitamins in its own natural process of protecting your skin from the sun’s rays, so it is especially important to replenish these vitamins during the summer.

Luckily, many of the fruits and vegetables that are abundant in summer are the very foods that can help you. One easy rule of thumb: eat green and red. Up your intake of spinach, broccoli, collard greens, peas, green and red peppers, strawberries, and tomatoes during the summer.

Everything but the Kitchen Zinc

It’s important to use sunscreen on skin that’s exposed to the sun.

There are two main ways to protect skin.  Nonabsorbent sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide for scientifically proven sun protection. They are not absorbed into the skin or bloodstream. These are minerals that are found abundantly in nature and are very safe for use in body care products.

Zinc oxide sits on the outer dead layer of skin – any free radicals generated will not affect living cells below. Responsible companies like Badger Balm blend powerful natural antioxidants like organic oils and vitamin E to absorb free radicals created by exposure to the sun.

Chemical sunscreens use chemicals like oxybenzone, oxtinoxate, or octisalate. We do not ever recommend using products with these chemicals in them! They are absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin. They disrupt normal hormone functions in humans and should especially never be used on children.

In 2008, a peer reviewed scientific study showed that these dangerous chemicals are also washing off swimmers in the ocean and poisoning our world’s coral reefs. Unfortunately, more than half of the sunscreens in the U.S. have these highly suspect chemicals in them. You won’t find them anywhere near Soap Hope’s lineup!

Nano No-No

There is some controversy about whether it is wise to pulverize zinc oxide into fine “nanoparticles,” or even what size particle should be considered “nano.” But many people who care about natural living currently avoid nanoparticle sunscreens.

For that reason, Soap Hope carries only sunscreens that are tested as non-nano by our makers. Our sun protection lineup consists of the products that people looking for a natural, healthy lifestyle prefer.

Right On Time

Depending on the way a sunscreen is formulated, it can become less effective after a long period of time. For that reason, Soap Hope only carries sunscreens that are stamped with an expiration date. You should replace any expired sunscreen products to ensure you are getting maximum sun protection.

Here Comes the Sun

While we’re on the topic, we thought we would share a little something with you – this rendition of Here Comes the Sun from way back when in 1976 – an acoustic version performed by George Harrison and Paul Simon. Enjoy, and stay protected this summer!

The Story of Bienvenida

When Soap Hope first connected with Esperanza International, I took a trip to the Dominican Republic to visit the women they serve there.

One of the most memorable people I met was Bienvenida Nina. Bienvenida is an amazing woman and a successful entrepreneur. She started with nothing but vision and commitment. With the support of a few small loans and training, and through her own hard work and dedication over many years, Bienvenida now has a convenience store, a restaurant, and a home anyone would be proud of. Today she is launching her third business, an ice cream parlor.

I was moved to the core when Bienvenida walked with us past “homes” in the village near her businesses – she pointed out a small concrete room built on dirt, with a doorway but no door, and only half the roof covered by a sheet of corrugated tin. She said “I used to live here.” As we continued down the pathway and listened to her story, we came around a bend and saw a wonderful two-story house, colorfully painted, with a garden in front and an ornamental gate.  She pulled out a key, and we realized this was Bienvenida’s home.

“This is where I live now,” Bienvenida told us. She chose to build her new home in her community, demonstrating an example of hope to her neighbors.

I knew then that Soap Hope needed to empower as many women like Bienvenida as possible. That’s why when you place an order with us, we send every dollar of profit to women in places like the Dominican Republic for one year, interest free. The women start businesses and then return the funds to us a year later.  Each five dollars that you spend with us funds one day of a woman’s loan. That’s we say, “A bar of soap is a day of hope.”

Bienvenida took us to her restaurant, which is now famous for it’s fried chicken. Our friends at Esperanza told us we could share her “secret recipe” with you today. (For my vegetarian friends, it works just as well with tofu!)


Bienvenida Nina’s secret … shhh

The inspiring Bienvenida Nina
Bienvenida Nina inspires us at Soap Hope.

Soak chicken in vinegar
(Tenderizes)

All spices are to taste:
Jalapeno pepper
Celery salt
Crushed whole oregano
Garlic powder
Salt if desired

Coat in flour and fry
Enjoy!

Donated by Bienvenida Nina


Oh Won’t You Stay Just a Little Bit Longer?

Wish your wonderful natural products would last a little longer? Here are some tips to get more from the natural products you love.

Soap Bars

We love soap bars made from goat’s milk, olive oil, and other natural nourishing ingredients – that wonderful aroma and big creamy lather. But sometimes they can seem to “melt away.” These simple practices will make them last longer.

Keep your soap away from water. This might sound obvious, but many people don’t realize that they are holding their soap bar under the water for much longer than they need to. Just get the bar wet and lather, keeping the bar away from the stream of water under the shower or sink. Kids are especially guilty of this – teach them to lather and put the soap away.

The elegant Spire from Spire Home Products keeps your soap lasting longer and your counter dry.
The elegant Spire from Spire Home Products keeps your soap lasting longer and your counter dry.

Soap bars can “melt” when you aren’t using them, if they are wet. Use a soap stand to help your soap bar air dry as fast as possible, and to keep your counters clean. (Try a Spire from Spire Home Products. They are stylish and will lengthen the life of any bar).

If you buy bars on sale in quantity, keep them in a zip-top bag until you are ready to use them. The essential oils in natural products will escape into the air. In a sealed bag, soap bars will last as much as four times longer than out in the open.

Liquids

The one natural ingredient that big commercial manufacturers use in their products isn’t very useful to the product: it’s water. Body wash, laundry detergent, shampoo – those commercial varieties try to make consumers think they are getting more product, when they are just getting more water.

Natural product makers don’t work that way. They infuse their products liberally with essential extracts of a variety of natural elements. A little goes a long way. So always use a small amount of product first, and see how much you really need. You may have to “untrain” yourself after years of using commercial products that were mostly water.

For instance, just a small amount of Acure Organics facial cleanser is enough to thoroughly cleanse your face and impart its nourishing ingredients. If you double the amount, that’s just washed off!

Same with Indigo Wild’s laundry detergent – just one ounce is plenty in a high efficiency washer to thoroughly clean all your clothes. You should be getting 64 full laundry loads from that 64-ounce bottle!

Light

Light is great for people, but not for essential oils. Keep your products in the cabinet or drawer, or at least out direct sunlight. They will retain their powerful properties as long as possible that way.

Shake It Up

Natural product makers also refrain from putting unnecessary binders in their products – so they should be shaken. Give your natural shampoo, spray mist, and facial toner a shake to ensure all the oils are mixed evenly before use. That way you’ll get the full benefit of your product throughout its use.

If you found these tips useful, your friends will too. Share with others using the social sharing buttons at the bottom of the page. See you next week!

Shine On!

Learn the keys to beautiful, manageable hair in this week’s Good Life from Soap Hope.

“Keeps hair looking healthy, strong, and shiny.” “For stronger healthier hair.” “No more loose ends and frizz!”

You’ve heard it all when it comes to hair conditioner. But what’s really true? And what is conditioner, anyway?

What Makes Beautiful Hair

The elements of hair that make it beautiful and manageable – or when missing that can lead to “bad hair days” – are many. That’s why most conditioners have a lot of ingredients in them – they must address a great many different needs of your hair.

Here are just a few of the roles a good conditioner should play:

Acidifier. Your conditioner should create a slightly acidic environment for your hair that gives it the manageability you want. (That’s why homemade conditioners call for lemon juice or vinegar.)

Moisturizer.  Good conditioners contain ingredients that moisturize hair and lock in that moisture (humectants).

Reconstructor. Your conditioner should contain ingredients that form a protective coating over hair and can even compensate for damaged hair.

Your conditioner also should have ingredients that act as a detangler and lubricant, allowing hair to glide freely; as a glosser, adding shine and reflection; as an antistatic agent to immunize hair against static electricity… so you can see that creating a great conditioner takes deep expertise and knowledge.

Natural and Healthy

It’s not hard to make a conditioner with all these elements if you don’t care what ingredients you use. There are all kinds of artificial chemicals that can perform these functions. But do you want them on your scalp and hair all day? Do you want them absorbed into your system?

Creating a natural hair conditioner that serves all the purposes we’ve discussed is extremely challenging. Only top makers are able to pull it off. Keep reading to see three top-performing conditioners.

It’s Up To You

As with most of what we talk about at Good Life, beautiful hair isn’t just about what you put on your hair – it’s also about what you put in your body. Even more important than the products that you use, be sure you remember the basics:

Hydration. You need to drink plenty of water every day to support the healthy function of your scalp and hair system.

Nutrition. For strong, healthy hair, your body needs a wide array of nutrients.

Clean Living. Toxins in the environment, pesticides in low-quality food, and chemicals in mass produced body care products all take away from your body’s ability to perform at its peak. You’ll see the results in hair, skin and nails when you give yourself the gift of natural and organic living.

Favorites

Soap Hope customers prefer these hair conditioners:

Acure Organics Moroccan Argan Oil + Argan Stem Cell Conditioner. This conditioner is especially good for dry or curly hair. Acure knows how to select top quality ingredients for hair: here they use organic argan oil and argan plant stem cells for moisture and repair, and organic pumpkin seed oil for layers of shine.

Seaweed Bath Co.’s Lavender Volumizing Argan Conditioner. This amazingly engineered natural conditioner includes bladderwrack seaweed extract, avocado, coconut and olive oils, pro-vitamin B5 and three types of keratin.

Acure Organics Deep Conditioning Root Repair Hair Mask. This hair mask is a special treat: a deep conditioning treatment that restores moisture, manageability, luster, and shine to hair. Many customers use a face mask and hair mask once a week as a gift to themselves.

Luscious Lips

We’ve all been there: dry, chapped lips.

It happens in the winter when the air is dry. It happens in the summer when allergies come around.

So how do you keep your lips luscious and looking great? Many of us have turned to lip products without realizing that the very product that is supposed to help, actually harms. Read on!

Lips are Special

The very top layer of your skin, called the stratum corneum, has special protective properties to keep your skin moist and to protect you from light, heat and bacteria.

But your lips have a different makeup than most of your skin. The stratum corneum is just one-fifth as thick as your facial skin. There are no hair follicles or sweat glands either to provide moisture and protection. That makes lips a very sensitive, vulnerable area.

Do No Harm!

It’s shameful that many lip products use ingredients that provide very short-term relief, but damage the lips further – requiring you to reapply over and over. If you’ve ever had the feeling of being “addicted” to a lip product, that’s what is happening.

If you see any of these ingredients in a product that supposedly protects or heals lips, run! These ingredients may make your lips feel softer very temporarily, but you’ll find yourself in a never-ending cycle of applying more product to keep getting short-term relief.


Lip Product No-No’s 

Camphor

Phenol

Menthol

Alcohol

Salicylic acid


Heal Thyself

Sometimes we get caught up looking for miracles when it’s really the basics that will solve our problems. Before you even think about what products to use on your lips, take these common-sense measures:

Drink enough water. Your lips are among the first parts of your body that are affected when you fail to drink enough water. Keep your body hydrated!

Get proper nutrition. Your skin’s resiliency, including lips, depends on a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. A well rounded diet rich in nutrients and free of artificial chemicals will help your lips stay healthy and beautiful.

Don’t lick or bite your lips. Saliva contains elements that your body has designed to break down foods. It’s rough on your lips! Biting damages already delicate lips. Become aware if you have these habits.

Use a good lip balm. Apply a top quality natural lip balm and allow it to absorb before applying lipstick. The lip balm will serve to moisturize and protect your lips, and will not affect the look or staying power of your lipstick.

Ingredients! Look at the ingredients in every lip balm, lip gloss or lipstick that you apply. Avoid anything with the five no-no’s above, and any artificial flavors or colors. But also look for nourishing ingredients. Acure Organics’ Lip Lush lip glosses for example contain many nourishing ingredients like argan oil, echinacea, and edelweiss plant stem cells.

Back to Basics

Acure Organics' Lip Lush lip glosses at Soap Hope are organic and filled with healing ingredients.
Acure Organics’ Lip Lush lip glosses at Soap Hope are organic and filled with healing ingredients.

In the end, it boils down to the basics: lots of water, great healthy foods, and clean lip care ingredients are the fundamentals. If your lips aren’t feeling healthy, it’s a sign to look at the fundamentals of health in your life.

Share

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