In conducting research on the ingredients in cosmetics and household products, I was fascinated to find that many ingredients are not listed on household products. Lysol, for example, only says “Active ingredient: Hydrochloric acid 9.5%”, but that doesn’t explain what the blue colour is. Looking briefly online, I was unable to determine what exactly the blue colour is, so I e-mailed Reckitt Benckiser (Canada) Inc with my query. I will let you all know as soon as I hear back from them.
One product that does include all ingredients on the product label was my container of liquid soap (the brand Softsoap in Ultra Rich Shea Butter). On the list:
Aqua: Water (it is a legal requirement that products use the scientific names for ingredients).
Sodium Laureth Sulfate: A commonly-used foaming agent in many household products. It is often used in shampoos. To a lesser degree, it has been used in toothpastes. According to several different sources (which you can view here, here, and here), sodium laureth sulfate is likely not the healthiest ingredient that we can use. Some research has shown that it is a dangerous chemical which irritates and dries the skin, and may even be toxic to some of our organ systems.
Although there has been speculation that sodium laureth sulfate is a carcinogen, there appears to be conflicting information across the board. Most sources seem to agree that sodium laureth sulfate does not cause cancer.
When I first began reading about sodium laureth sulfate, I couldn’t help but think of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (AKA trans fats) and how they are used in products to achieve a creamy consistency. Judging from the basic research that I have done, it does not appear as though sodium laureth sulfate is nearly as dangerous or as toxic as hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are, but it’s the same kind of idea: we use the ingredient because it has properties which serve our purposes (foaming from sodium laureth sulfate; creaminess from hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils), rather than because the ingredient is truly necessary and good for us.
Acrylates copolymer: A stabilizing ingredient. Some sources describe it as being an irritant to the skin. And yet we use it to wash our hands? Other sources show that we do not have very much information about the ingredient.
Sodium Chloride: Salt! It’s pretty safe for us to use.
Parfum: Used for fragrance. Sources that I found didn’t seem to discuss the issue of health related to this ingredient.
PPG-10 Methyl Glucose Ether: Does not appear to currently have any toxicity concerns for either humans or the environment, but this may also be because not much research appears to have been completed with regards to this ingredient.
DMDM Hydantoin: A preservative. Restricted in cosmetics; known to be an irritant and an allergen.
Butyrospermum Parkii: Shea Butter! A natural product. Works as an emollient and is common in household products.
Gelatin: Surprise, surprise! Animal products can be found anywhere. Even in a bottle of liquid hand soap, we’ve got boiled animal bones and skins.
Citric Acid: Natural preservative and organic acid.
Iron Oxides: Used for colour. Considered to be non-toxic.
Overall, there are many ingredients used in a common product like liquid hand soap which appear to be safe in small doses. But that makes me feel uncomfortable. If I’m using the product on a multiple-times-daily basis for months or years at a time, wouldn’t that eventually become harmful? It’s not like eating a piece of chocolate on occasion; with a treat like that, it is eaten in moderation. But using liquid hand soap day after day means that we’re using a small amount, day after day, on a very long-term basis. And I don’t know quite what to make of that.
How does it make you feel? Do you use products that contain these ingredients? Do you know what is in your liquid hand soap?