When you last went to the store, did you buy soap or shampoo? Have you recently purchased shampoo for your dog or cat? If so, did you even consider that there might be formaldehyde in shampoo, soap, and other skin care products you use every day for your pets, your baby, or yourself? This is the sad, but sometimes true reality of the products we have in our homes. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Really, there’s formaldehyde in shampoo?!
By now you’ve probably seen the adorable pictures that blogger Jessica Shyba took of her son Beau napping with the family dog Theo.
Puppy and baby got us talking here at Soap Hope about what goes into products for kids and pets.
We picked up a bottle of dog shampoo at the local pet store and had a look at the ingredient list. It started off fine – water, honey extract, and chamomile extract seemed like winners to us — but why was artificial fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin, and Tetrasodium EDTA in dog shampoo?
Formaldehyde is for the Dogs
DMDM Hydantoin is a preservative that works by releasing formaldehyde into the product continuously over time. Formaldehyde does a great job inhibiting the growth of mold; but it’s also a known carcinogen, and most people don’t want it on their bodies or on their pets – especially when the puppy is snuggled up with the kids.
The consumer goods industry in the U.S. has a lot of leeway. If they want formaldehyde in shampoo, for example, but you don’t want to tell their customers, they can just add DMDM Hydantoin instead. The DMDM Hydantoin will slowly break down into formaldehyde in the shampoo throughout the life of the product. Problem solved!
(In the European Union, companies can’t get away with this trick: if an ingredient in their product breaks down into formaldehyde, they have to write “contains formaldehyde” on the label.)
In the Dog House
It’s not just Theo’s shampoo we think about at Soap Hope, it’s young Beau’s as well. Until 2014, Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo had Quaternium-15 in it. You guessed it – Quaternium-15 releases formaldehyde in shampoo and other products they designed for babies. Years of public outcry finally caused Johnson & Johnson to reformulate their baby shampoo.
Shampoo needs a preservative to prevent the growth of bacteria. Big manufacturers don’t care that Quaternium-15 and DMDM Hydantoin produce formaldehyde; they care that they are very cheap and give their products a shelf life of over a year. These manufacturers know they can put pretty pictures on the products and make commercials with happy kids and pets, and that most people won’t look any further.
“No more tears!” Not quite.
There are better ways for manufacturers to preserve shampoo rather, than putting formaldehyde in their products. They can use a low-risk food-grade preservative like potassium sorbate, which has the same toxicity level as table salt. Even better, they can use vitamin e (tocopherol).
Some manufacturers don’t even require a preservative. For your pooch, try the totally natural Woof Wild Dog Shampoo Bar. Hand made by Maggie Hanus at A Wild Soap Bar, this shampoo bar has organic oils, aloe, oats, clay, sea salt, essential oils, yucca root and horsemint. It will leave your dog’s coat soft, shiny, and smelling great.
Widely used for centuries, mint is one of the easiest plants to grow, and has more uses than you could shake a stick at.
You can drink the mint plant as a tea, by steeping its leaves in hot water, or as a refreshing addition to your water during the summer months. (It’s great in a cocktail, too, but that’s another blog post.)
The oil from the mint plant is also used in a range of natural products because of its calming effects.
There are dozens of mint varieties, including spearmint and peppermint, and you’ll find that mint can be used in more ways than just as an after-dinner palate cleanser.
There’s a reason you’re offered a mint after a meal. Its aroma helps to activate our salivary glands, which helps with digestion, and can soothe nausea or indigestion.
Cold and Cough
Mint can help to relieve congestion and soothes inflamed tissue in the respiratory system.
Applying balms with mint oil can alleviate inflammation and temperature rise associated with headaches and migraines.
Need a pick-me-up? Mint is a natural stimulant, and can help you recharge if you happen to find yourself in a funk.
Its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe irritation and redness associated with acne and rashes. You’ll also find mint oil in bug repellents, because they hate the strong aroma.
As a natural germicide, mint helps to kill off bacterial growth that can lead to infection.
How else do you use mint? Feel free to share remedies or recipes that you love in the comments below!
And here are a few awesome products here at Soap Hope that contain mint:
Us humans can get especially particular about how we wash, trim, curl, dry, or style our hair.
And it makes sense! Our hair can say a lot about our personality.
When it comes to hair care, many of us include shampooing and conditioning our manes as part of our daily routine. What we’re discovering, however, is that this might not be the healthiest for our hair.
All About Sebum
Our skin and scalp have tiny little glands all over them that secrete oil, or sebum, called sebaceous glands.
We secrete sebum for all kinds of cool reasons — and we started forming sebaceous glands during fetal development, as a means of protecting and nourishing our skin. Sebum also helps to provide our skin with vitamin E.
The Greasy Hair Conundrum
Because our bodies naturally produce this oil, you might find that, after a day or so, your hair looks or feels slightly more oily.
Which, for a lot of us, might feel gross. In reality, it’s our body trying to maintain it’s natural, healthy ecosystem.
So keeping your hair squeaky clean and washing it on a daily basis not only prevents your hair from getting the natural oils that it needs, but also triggers overproduction of sebum.
So how can you help keep your hair’s natural oils and maintain a fresh appearance?
The Miracle of Dry Shampoo
Dry shampoos are all over the place these days, and they’ve especially grown in popularity in the last few years. But they’ve been around for centuries — the first mention of dry shampoo was around the 15th century in Asia, where the style-savvy were using clay powder in their hair.
Dry shampoos are great, because they help to control the production of oil, but don’t trigger the scalp’s overproduction of sebum, like washing it can.
So your hair looks fresh AND you get to skip a day of washing and drying!
There are a ton of products out there to choose from, but if you’re looking for a dry shampoo that’s going to be good for you AND the environment, here are a few tips:
Check the label! Avoid any sulfates, parabens, phthalates, or petroleum.
(Viewing this in e-mail? See the original blog at http://wp.me/pv0Gr-ag. Blog Image: fresh ginger – courtesy of Sanjay Ach, via Wikimedia Commons, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Are you shocked, as we are, at the side effects of some of the medications sold by pharmaceutical companies? For instance, Sumatriptan – a drug used to treat migraines – has side effects like heart attack, chest pain, vertigo, stroke, blood changing from red to black, spams of the arteries, and a long list of other scary things.
Sumatriptan also costs on average $17 per dose.
Or, you could try … ginger. Yes, plain old ginger. In a recent scientific study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23657930), migraine sufferers were given either Sumatriptan or ginger. Both groups had similar results. 70% of people taking Sumatriptan and 64% of ginger users had almost complete relief within two hours.
How much ginger can you get for $17? Given in the amount in the study, you can get eight hundred doses.
So if you or a loved on is suffering from migraine, you might consider ginger. You can grate it, drink it in tea, or take powdered ginger capsules.
It might even be a good excuse for eating some ginger cookies and candied ginger too.
One of the most important things we do at Soap Hope is to evaluate the ingredients in products. It’s a much tougher job that you might imagine. Not everything that’s natural is good for you, so we have to keep tabs on everything used in every product. And makers update their ingredients all the time, so we’re constantly reviewing the field research, making sure that everything we carry is up to our strict standards. Our vision is that if you find it at Soap Hope, you can trust that it’s good for you.
Did you know that not everything that goes in a product is required to be on its label? One terrible ingredient that has made its way into thousands of products is called microbeads. Sometimes they are labeled simply “PE” or “PP.” It’s in everything from toothpaste to facial scrubs to shower gels. And it’s terrible for people, animals, and the planet.
Microbeads are tiny plastic particles that manufacturers put in products to make them scrubby or for visual effect. They go directly into our water systems. Our drainage systems were not designed to filter them out, so they end up in our water supplies and in the oceans.
These plastic beads do not break down. Marine creatures eat the microbeads, which ultimately end up in our food. They cannot be removed from the environment.
Microbeads are getting even more attention lately because they have been found lodged in the gums of many people who are using Crest toothpaste. No one knows how much damage they are causing to the very teeth that were supposed to benefit from the product.
Manufacturers of these products are fully aware of the harm they are doing to humans and to nature – but they put profits above all else and use them anyway. When a recent outcry finally got Procter and Gamble’s attention, they promised to eliminate microbeads from their toothpaste – in two years.
You’ve heard the saying “corporations are people.” It’s true in this sense: businesses are run by people, and those people make conscious decisions every day either to responsibly serve customers, or to earn profits regardless of the impact on people and the world. When you choose companies that care about humanity and pay attention to the consequences of their decisions, you contribute to more good in the world.
We’re paying attention to things like microbeads for you. Of course nothing at Soap Hope has them. We don’t have Procter & Gamble’s problem of what to do with two years worth of unacceptable ingredients. We never carry those kinds of ingredients in the first place. When our makers want a product to be scrubby, they use sea salt, or flowers, or cocoa seeds.
In our view, business should be of service. When we prioritize the well-being of our customers, our employees, and the world we all share together, it’s easy to make the right decisions.
The Crest controversy has led Soap Hope on the search for great quality toothpaste that is effective and free of harmful ingredients. We’re working on boarding oral care products for you soon. In the meantime, be sure to avoid products with the words polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), nylon or Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) in the ingredient list.
Some of you know that I started my working life as a classical pianist, not as an entrepreneur. In 1993 I was very lucky to go on a six week international tour through Africa and the Middle East, traveling through almost a dozen countries and playing concerts in national theaters, universities, and ambassadors’ halls.
The core idea behind Soap Hope really started all those years ago. After one concert, I had the fortune to spend time with the Director of the World Bank in Kenya. He explained to me about his efforts to address poverty in Kenya. He told me that of every ten dollars sent to alleviate poverty in Kenya, nine went to corruption.
That challenge stuck with me for years: only 10% of the aid that was intended for the extreme poor was making it to those who needed it.
It was three companies and 15 years later that Soap Hope was born. When we designed our model for addressing world problems, we wanted to learn from the lessons of that evening in Nairobi. We didn’t want 90% of our effort lost. The Good Returns model was born.
We don’t give money away – we invest in women. When you buy your household products every month from Soap Hope, we send all the profits to women – every dollar – so they can start or expand their own small enterprises around the world, whether in Kenya, or in the Dominican Republic, or right here in Dallas.
How do I know the money isn’t being lost? Because every dollar is repaid after one year, interest-free. We don’t take anything out of our company until those profits are returned. Only then do we get the rewards of our entrepreneurship.
Our intention is to provide opportunity with accountability: yes, all of our business profits are loaned interest free, but all of those profits are required to be returned after they have done good in the world for one year. This approach puts us and those we help on the same page, responsible to each other.
Our vision is to take Soap Hope from the small business it is today to a nationally recognized enterprise, serving millions of customers and millions of women around the world. Then we want to teach many other companies to do the same. I’m so grateful and delighted that you have been an early adopter, creating this vision with us by shopping at Soap Hope and sharing the Soap Hope story.
I still love music and playing the piano, and when the day comes that Soap Hope is big enough to operate without me every day, I will start working on concert material again. The next time around, I want to play fundraiser concerts to raise awareness and money for sustainable social enterprises. I hope you’ll join me then too.
Co-Founder, Soap Hope
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.”
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.)
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.
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!
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!