I think starting at the why might be a good introduction. Why use body wash or soap? Most of us use it to clean our body. What makes something a soap or body wash? Well there are ingredients that are the base ingredients needed to cleanse your skin. Which should I use? Every skin type is different. There a few things you might like to decide before you buy one. Is your skin dry, oily, do you want a liquid soap, a bar soap. what scents do you like, and what do you want your body cleanser to do.
I would like as little ingredients as possible and don't want what I call bad chemicals in them. I have read many articles on "natural" soap and how they are chemical free. Well, I am also a nurse and know we are made up of chemicals and chemical reactions. It's how we stay alive. What I also know as a nurse is there are what I like to simply call good chemicals and bad chemicals. What is a chemical? It's anything made by the reaction of changing atoms or molecules. So, I think to clean your body you need to use a "chemical" to get rid of dirt, bacteria, sweat, and excess oil. I would prefer what I like to call a good chemical.
What does ingredients make up a natural soap? All you need is a fat or oil and lye. Liquid soaps have a few more ingredients. Most natural soaps have water, an oil, lye, essential oil, and a natural coloring. You need something to cleanse away the dirt and bad bacteria away from your skin. Dirt, oils, and bacteria don't just wash away with water, they need something to dissolve and remove them from your body. It's called a surfactant. Well what is it? Something called surface active substances like a detergent. Commonly used in skin care products, they lower the surface tension between two liquids in this case. Why do you use them in soaps? If you look at the ingredients notice oil and water? They don't mix. A surfactant will help them mix together and can work as detergents, thickener, emulsifier (keep all the ingredients mixed), and make foam, They also help distribute the soap on your skin. Some times there is a misconception detergents are bad. I don't think all detergents are bad. They have a purpose on your skin. To wash away the dirt, bacteria, sweat, and excess oils. The trick is to find a good detergent and have your soap or cleanser stay close to the pH of your skin. What I think is important is to use a gently detergent on your skin.
Most natural soap is made from a combination of oil, lye (which contains water and either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) and sometimes essential oils and natural colorings. Yes, I have tried some soaps advertising they are really all natural and only have a few ingredients. They turn to mush and and don't last very long. I feel like I wasted my hard earned money. I still want to be "natural" so what do I do? I have learned to recognize some of those chemical names look for natural detergents and chemicals in soap and body washes that don't mess up the pH too much. I also don't want a detergent that takes away all my body oils. I think it will just dry out my skin too much then I have to use lotion all the time to put back the oils and it becomes a viscous cycle. What do I want to see in a soap or body wash? Minimal ingredients that have a purpose.
Lets look at some ingredients in body washes. Many manufacturers of don't actually list all the ingredients. Look at the label on some products and you will just see "fragrances". Not sure I can trust a product that doesn't tell me what that fragrance is and how it's made. Lulu's Thyme and Essentials body wash list every ingredient and fragrance. The ingredients are listed in order of weight. So, you will have the most of the first ingredient. I will use our Tea Tree and Lemon Body Wash for example. What's in it? Water (kind of a no brainer), organic potassium cocoate, organic potassium oleate, decyl glucoside, organic glycerin, benzyl alcohol, potassium citrate, sodium chloride, citric acid, tea tree essential oil, and lemon essential oil. All our organic ingredients are certified organic. I do use them. All those chemical names can be a little scary right? Let me break them down for you. They are all needed for a decent body wash. I don't think water needs any explanation and it is the main ingredient in our liquid soap. You will notice the essential oils are last. They are concentrated and you don't need a lot. Lets go through those chemicals:
Potassium cocoate: is a salt that comes from fatty acids and contains glycerin(e) which is a moisturizer. Found in oils like coconut oil, it's commonly used in soaps and shampoos. It is used in soaps as a surfactant to cleanse remove dirt, bacteria, sweat, and excess oil, It is a natural ingredient.
Potassium oleate: is a salt and a fatty acid. Commonly used as an emulsifier or binder. You know how oil and water don't mix? It is used to stabilize or bind the oils and water. It is a natural ingredient
Decyl glucoside: is a surfactant which decreases surface tension. Simply put, it helps the soap cover your body easier. It's made by a process called esterification. Simply, it's the product of a chemical reaction when you add glucose from a corn starch with an alcohol usually from coconut or palm oil.
Glycerin: It can come from plants or animals (ours comes from plants). It is used as a humectant. Meaning it draws water from the air or in your skin. Used to moisturize your skin.
Benzyl alcohol: is considered one of the more gentle preservatives. It also thins out the liquid soap helping in to spread easier. It usually comes from plants.
Potassium citrate: comes from citric acid and is used as a chelating agent. What? It helps bind the metals in hard water. It also helps decrease "soap scum" in bar soap.
Sodium chloride: is added to soaps for a few reasons. It helps decrease the pH so the soap is not too alkaline. Sodium chloride is used to stabilize the sodium ion in soap which means it helps the soap from drying out your skin too much. It's also used to thicken soap.
Citric acid: is used to help neutralize the pH of the soap mixture to decrease alkalinity of the soap. It the alpha hydroxy acid group so it exfoliates. Commonly used to unclog your pores, hydrate your skin, decrease pigmentation/dark spots, and even out your skin tone.
Tea tree essential oil: is commonly used in skin care for eczema, psoriasis, oily skin, itchy dry skin, inflammation, and as an antiseptic.
Lemon essential oil: used as an antiseptic, thought to have antibacterial, antifungal qualities. Used in skin care products to help decrease hyperpigmentation and to cleanse your skin.
You need certain ingredients in a product to call it a cleanser, soap, or body wash. When you are looking for a cleansing product, ask yourself a few questions before you choose a product. Do you want to keep the product ingredients as natural as possible? Do you have oily or dry skin. Is your skin sensitive? Do you have skin conditions? What scents or fragrances do you like? Are these good chemicals or bad chemicals? Are your getting your money's worth? I don't mind spending money on a good bar liquid or bar soap. What I want out of them is simple. Clean my body using natural ingredients, not over dry my skin, and make my skin look as good as it can.
Works Cited “Benzyl Alcohol.” The Skincare Chemist, www.theskincarechemist.com/glossary/benzyl-alcohol/. Accessed 30 May 2022. Cronkleton, Emily. “How Does Tea Tree Oil Help the Skin?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 2 May 2018, www.healthline.com/health/tea-tree-oil-for-skin. Accessed 30 May 2022. Crowther, Tori. “From Azelaic to Tranexamic: A Comprehensive Guide to Every Skin-Care Acid out There.” POPSUGAR Beauty, 15 Jan. 2021, www.popsugar.com/beauty/skin-care-acids-comprehensive-guide-48112218. Accessed 30 May 2022. “Decyl Glucoside.” The Skincare Chemist, www.theskincarechemist.com/glossary/decyl-glucoside/. Accessed 30 May 2022. “Lemon Essential Oil for Skin: Benefits, How to Use, and More.” Healthline, 4 Nov. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/skin/lemon-oil-for-skin. Accessed 30 May 2022. Pander, Christina. “Body Wash Basics.” HowStuffWorks, 20 Aug. 2009, health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/cleansing/products/body-wash.htm. Accessed 17 May 2022. “Potassium Citrate.” Cosmetics Info, www.cosmeticsinfo.org/ingredients/potassium-citrate/. Accessed 30 May 2022. “What Is Potassium Cocoate?” LIVESTRONG.COM, www.livestrong.com/article/510881-what-is-potassium-cocoate/. Accessed 17 May 2022.