Four Soap Ingredients You Must Avoid

natural organic soap

Soap is a huge part of our everyday lives. Each day we wash our belongings in it and use it to keep our bodies clean. From dishwasher detergent to body wash, it is all soap. Have you ever wondered what makes bubble bath so frothy? Or, what makes shampoo lather so well? The fact is, many of the characteristics of soap that consumers like are created by harmful ingredients. Before you lather, rinse and repeat one more time find out which ingredients you should avoid when buying soap products.


Sulfates may well be one of the most harmful ingredients used to make soap. Sadly, many of the most common brand name products use sulfates. The primary two sulfates to avoid when purchasing soap products are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). These two ingredients are known skin irritants and a number of different studies have linked them to cancer. This is because carcinogenic nitrates and dioxins form in the bottles when SLS and SLES are mixed with other ingredients. When you use soap products that have SLS and SLES the carcinogenic elements can enter your bloodstream.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene Glycol is used by most cosmetic companies under the guise that it is a humectant. Unfortunately, the real truth is Propylene Glycol is the primary ingredient in brake and hydraulic fluid. Commonsense would dictate that if something has labels instructing users to avoid skin and eye contact we probably shouldn’t wash our hair with it, but many of us do. This ingredient appears in many of the most popular shampoo brands and the majority of consumers are unaware that exposure can cause systematic kidney and liver damage.

This is one of the major reasons why I strongly advocate using natural shampoos. To find out my Top 5 Best Natural Shampoos, click the green link.

Coal Tar

Coal tar comes from crude petroleum oil and is listed as a known carcinogen with the United States government. It is commonly found in soaps and shampoos that are designed to treat people with dandruff and other itchy, scaly skin conditions. Besides being a carcinogen, coal tar can cause a variety of skin ailments. Repeated use may cause a oily film to form over the skin, which blocks the normal exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide the skin requires in order to be healthy. As a result you may develop sensitive skin that dries out too quickly.


Glycerin is listed by the United States government as a known irritant, yet it remains one of the primary ingredient in a variety of soap products. Manufacturers use glycerin because it gives you the feeling of moisture. In actuality it dries skin from the inside out because it draws moisture from within the body to the surface of the skin rather than hydrating the skin with added moisture.

So those are the worst soap ingredients that you absolutely must avoid, but what are the best soaps, washes and scrubs for our bodies and the environment?

I’ll be publishing an article in just a few days revealing my favorites – so stay tuned. Sign up for blog updates on the right hand side of this page and you’ll receive an instant notification when the new post is published.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in these from the blog archives.

The Top 5 Best Natural Shampoos
The Top 5 Best Home Made Face Masks
The Top 5 Best Natural Sunscreens
How To Use A Natural Dead Sea Mud Soap To Cure Acne, Eczema & Psoriasis


  1. Glycerin when not used properly can dehydrate but when used at the right amounts it’s a wonderful humectant for your skin. Glycerin is also a product of the soapmaking process, you can’t make soap without making glycerin. Commercial soap processes remove the glycerin from the product before it’s pressed into bar form. But handmade soaps are made in such a way to leave the glycerin in the soaps and therefor help to keep skin hydrated. I have dry skin almost year round and have never had an issue with handmade soaps drying my skin out, infact I use less lotion now then I did when using commercial detergent based soaps.

  2. Christy Edwards says:

    I really want to make my own natural products and I thought glycerin was one of the main ingredients of soap? I would love more input so I can go natural and also share with friends and family.

  3. Glycerine is a natural by-product of the saponification process. As Gretchen says, you can’t make soap without making glycerine, and commercial soap makers remove the glycerine and sell it separately because it is more valuable than the soap. Glycerine soaps, the clear soaps, are harsh and drying because to make the soap clear, alcohol is added and remains in the soap, not because of the glycerine. Glycerine is moisturizing and also helps the bar of soap last longer when it is wet in storage. Soap, that has had the glycerine removed, becomes slimy and quickly dissolves when it is stored wet, meaning that you have to replace your soap more often. Natural soap that has its own naturally occurring glycerine should last much longer than commercial soap, making it more economical and kinder to the environment.

    I hope this helps clarify things. I’ve been a professional soap maker for more than 30 years.


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