Pure and natural bar of soap made with saponified organic oils of Olive and Shea butter; sample bar shown here wet with lather bubbles.

Dr. Marie’s Handmade Soap Ingredients

Dear Readers,

I have been making soap for almost 7 years now. I started selling my handmade soap less than a year ago, and I have been blogging a lot to explain why I am selling soap even though I am a PhD scientist. It took me years of developing my soap making process to figure out how to make truly natural handmade soap. Even essential oils are not natural to me because they are highly concentrated components of plants that are never found so concentrated in nature. Sure enough, essential oils have caused serious problems on some people and they are unnecessary ingredients (see more below). In fact, I have found so many common ingredients in soaps that are not only unnecessary, but actually harmful. Soap manufacturers add these ingredients to their products for reasons that are unrelated to your health and may even be at the expense of your health. For example, soap makers add preservatives to give their products longer shelf lives. Fragrances are added to cover up the unappealing smell of cheap ingredients. Colors hide flaws. And so on. No wonder so many people have so many skin problems. Since skin is your biggest organ, your skin health is a very serious matter. Still, people are more than willing to spend $5 or more per day on coffee drinks loaded with caffeine, sugar and fat, all of which are bad for you, but they think twice about spending $5 on a bar of truly natural handmade soap that will last much longer than a drink. Therefore, I realize the need to educate people about truly natural handmade soaps, and that is the purpose of this blog post. Below please find a list of ingredients that I use and a list of ingredients that I do not use along with my reasons why.

Dr. Marie’s Handmade Soap Ingredients*

Soap for people who care about their skin.

Avocado Oil contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that can help skin stay smooth, strong and elastic. Avocado oil can calm itchy skin, improve dry or chapped skin and protect against skin damage. Beta carotene, protein, lecithin, fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and E found in avocado oil can moisturize skin and increase collagen production. Linoleic acid, oleic acid and other monounsaturated fatty acids in avocado oil can help heal wounds. We use food-grade avocado oil.**
Calendula officinalis flowers can be excellent for skin health, soothing to the skin, antimicrobial, and useful for problems like acne, rashes, and skin irritations. Calendula can have anti-aging effects by inducing collagen production and inhibiting collagen degradation.
Castor Oil is used in many cosmetic products because it has significant antioxidant and antibacterial effects along with anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties. Castor oil is full of fatty acids that are essential to maintaining good skin health.**
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) flowers can be excellent at aiding skin with soothing, anti-inflammatory actions. Chamomile is approved in Germany for bacterial-induced skin conditions.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) can be anti-inflammatory and useful for skin irritations, especially itches and rashes, dermatitis, eczema, hives, shingles, and varicose veins.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) can improve the condition of skin and reduce inflammation, acne, psoriasis, eczema.
Cocoa Butter contains a high amount of fatty acids that help to hydrate skin. Cocoa butter is a primary component of many topical treatments for conditions like eczema and dermatitis.
Coconut Oil can be anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, wound healing and has been shown to aid skin barrier repair and protect against skin cancer and aging. It makes wonderful lather that gives a clean feeling. We use food-grade oils and prefer organic.**
Eucalyptus globulus can be an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic herb for skin and joint conditions.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Root is a well-known natural product. Ginger has been shown to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antimicrobial properties.
Lavender flowers are commonly used for anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Oats (Avena sativa) are important for treatment of skin conditions characterized by inflammation (approved in Germany).
Olive Oil has been used as a skin product for a long time in several cultures. Topical application of olive oil has been shown to be anti-inflammatory and may reduce skin cancer. We use food-grade oils and prefer organic.**
Peppermint Leaf is used to add fragrance to soaps. It may be stimulating and may have medicinal properties.
Shea Butter has natural vitamins and fatty acids that make it creamy, nourishing, protective and moisturizing for skin. It can be anti-inflammatory, helping to soothe, soften, strengthen and repair skin and aid in skin’s natural collagen production and wrinkle reduction. We prefer organic and unrefined.**
White Sage is a natural cleansing agent that contains lots of antioxidants. Sage compounds may help fight signs of aging, such as wrinkles.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) can be beneficial for circulation, muscle aches, and skin health. It contains antiseptic and anti-inflammatory components that can help ease swelling and promote healing.

* The effects of saponification (the soap-making process) on the beneficial properties of herbs and oils are not well understood. Due to FDA regulations, we are only selling soap that is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Someday, if we make enough money, then we can fund the experiments needed to make other claims along with the facilities and staff necessary to satisfy the FDA. In the meantime, we are only selling soap with no other claims that would invite an unannounced FDA visit to our home.

**High quality oils, such as food-grade oils, preferably organic and unrefined and fair trade, can have more beneficial contents and fewer chemicals that can be harmful to our health like solvents, pesticides, etc.

***If you are allergic to any of the ingredients, please do not use. If you are not sure about possible allergies, start with a small test patch on the forearm and increase use gradually if no reaction.

****A great source for checking ingredients is: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Animal Cruelty or Testing
Antibacterial chemicals, e.g., bleach and triclosan (see more below), are chemicals added to personal care products to extend the shelf life of the products. Antibacterial chemicals can be harmful to your health, e.g., by killing good bacteria your skin requires to be healthy.
Bleach can produce organochlorines, which are endocrine-disruptors (see below) that are neurotoxic and carcinogenic. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to diabetes, obesity, and hormone disruption, affecting both development and fertility. Bleach can be harmful to health and can cause permanent damage if it gets into the eyes.
Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB) is used as a surfactant in personal care products including liquid soaps, body washes, shampoos, etc. that have caused irritant reactions such as blisters, sores, contact dermatitis, and skin discomfort. CAPB was voted 2004 Allergen of the Year by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. It was found that two impurities produced during the manufacturing process cause the allergic reactions and eye irritations.
Colors or Dyes are unnecessary additives that do not benefit your skin or add anything to the soap except possibly visual appeal. But soap is for your skin, not your eyes, and any visual appeal that colors or dyes may add may well be covering up impurities and flaws. Further, colors and dyes pollute the water and show that we should think of soap more in terms of health rather than art projects.
Endocrine disruptors, sometimes also referred to as hormonally active agents, endocrine disrupting chemicals, or endocrine disrupting compounds are chemicals that interfere with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body that are responsible for development, behavior, fertility, and maintenance of normal cell metabolism. Endocrine disruptors are found in many household and industrial products. Endocrine disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders.
Essential Oils have caused severe toxic reactions, chemical burns, allergic reactions, respiratory issues including life-threatening breathing problems, sensitivity to sun, asthma attacks, rashes, anaphylactic shock, internal chemical burns, abnormal breast growth in young boys, miscarriage, and rashes on eyelids. (“Essential Oils Promise Help, But Beware the Risks,” WebMD.com) If you do choose to use essential oils, make sure they are steam distilled and not solvent extracted because any residual solvents can cause health problems.
Exfoliants might leave one’s face feeling smooth and soft, but the scrubby ingredients scour away a layer of skin. Ultimately, this causes damage to the face on a cellular level.
Fragrance or perfume can contain phthalates that are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (see more above).
Parabens are widely used preservatives in shampoos, commercial moisturizers and cosmetics. Concerns about endocrine disruptors (see above) have led consumers and companies to search for paraben-free alternatives. A common alternative has been phenoxyethanol, but this has its own risks and has led to an FDA warning on inclusion in nipple creams. Parabens are found in shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, suntan products, makeup and toothpaste. They are also used as food preservatives. Since many types of parabens in many types of products are used commonly, further assessment of the additive and cumulative risk of multiple paraben exposure from daily use of multiple cosmetic and/or personal care products is needed.
PEG is used in many cosmetic cream bases. It can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer.
Preservatives can be harmful by killing the good bacteria on your skin. Though widely used in cosmetics and food products, these chemicals only benefit shelf-life for the manufacturer and not your health. Indeed, evidence that preservatives are bad for your health has been mounting, for example: DMDM hydantoin, a preservative in shampoos, conditioners and other water-based personal care products, is the focus of several class-action lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and Unilever claiming exposure to the substance led to hair loss. The preservative is linked to a higher risk for allergic reactions and immunotoxicity. Methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) and Methylisothiazolinone (MI) are preservatives to avoid if you have psoriasis or eczema.
Propylene glycol is a common ingredient in soaps. The prevalence of propylene glycol allergy is estimated to range from 0.8% – 3.5%. The North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG) data from 1996 to 2006 showed that the most common site for propylene glycol contact dermatitis was the face (25.9%). Investigators believe that the incidence of allergic contact dermatitis to propylene glycol may be greater than 2% in patients with eczema or fungal infections, which are very common in countries with lesser sun exposure and lower-than-normal vitamin D balances. Because of its potential for allergic reactions and frequent use across a variety of topical and systemic products, propylene glycol was named the American Contact Dermatitis Society’s Allergen of the Year for 2018. The Mayo Clinic reported 0.85% incidence of positive patch tests to propylene glycol (100/11,738 patients) with an overall irritant rate of 0.35% (41/11,738 patients) during a 20-year period of 1997–2016. Propylene glycol skin sensitization occurred in patients sensitive to a number of other concomitant positive allergens, the most common of which were: Myroxylon pereirae resin, benzalkonium chloride, carba mix, potassium dichromate, and neomycin sulfate.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) is a surfactant used in many cleaning and hygiene products. SLS can cause skin and eye irritation. It has been shown to irritate the skin of the face, with prolonged and constant exposure (more than an hour) in young adults. SDS may worsen skin problems in individuals with chronic skin hypersensitivity, with some people being affected more than others.
Triclosan has been used in many soaps, personal care products, and cosmetics for its antibacterial properties. Drug and personal care products containing triclosan are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA issued a final rule stating that over-the-counter consumer antiseptic wash products (including hand soaps formulated as liquids, foams, and gels; bar soaps; and body washes) containing certain active ingredients (including triclosan) will no longer be permitted to be marketed.
Triethanolamine, a common ingredient in soaps, is a possible human carcinogen. It has been found to cause cancer in animal studies. The National Cancer Institute nominated triethanolamine for study because of its widespread use in cosmetics and other consumer products, its high potential for worker exposure due to its many industrial uses, and its potential for conversion to the carcinogen N-nitrosodiethanolamine.

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