Though many soap brands advertise relief from allergies and soothing properties for sensitive skin, these claims can be misleading due to several additives and chemicals that can actually make symptoms worse. Ensure the soap you choose contains certified organic, fair trade, and natural ingredients.
How Does Soap Work?Soap is truly a magical molecule! It’s a surfactant – a compound that decreases surface tension between liquid and another type of matter. In the case of soap, one end of the molecule is “water loving” and moves towards the water; the other end is repelled by water and aligns with oils and fats. The result is one end of the molecule capturing oils, dirt, and grime, and the other attaching to water so it effortlessly rolls off our skin.
What Ingredients Should I Avoid?Many soaps on the market contain added synthetic ingredients, fragrances, chemicals, artificial dyes, and other irritating ingredients that can exacerbate allergies and irritate sensitive skin, even if the product claims to help this. The following chemicals are toxic to humans in general and especially so to people with allergies and sensitive skin.
- Alcohol – Commonly found in many face washes, hand soaps, and other products, can potentially have a drying effect on your skin and may cause irritation or rashes.
- Parabens – These are added to several detergents to extend their shelf life. It has been linked to allergic contact dermatitis reactions  that can cause existing redness or rashes to worsen.
- Fragrance – A fragrance can be an essential oil blend, but countless body care products use synthetic fragrance, often made from crude oil sources known to cause cancer. On our skin, synthetic fragrances cause irritation and other toxic effects.
- Formaldehyde – This is a preservative found in lotions, soaps, and detergents that claim to soothe and heal the skin. It’s classified as a carcinogen, causes skin irritation, and can be especially toxic if you have respiratory problems and inhale it.
- Phthalates – Though these have been banned from body care use by the European Union, they’re still frequently used by U.S. companies. Phthalates are found in many brands’ soaps, detergents, and moisturizers. They’re easily absorbed into the skin which can be especially harmful for those with allergies and sensitive skin.
- Triclosan – This chemical is found in antibacterial soaps and detergents. It causes dermatitis and can increase any preexisting skin allergies. An antibacterial and antifungal agent, this is commonly found in detergents, hand soaps, and several products with the “antibacterial” label. When absorbed into the skin, it can cause dermatitis and increased allergic reactions. Found mostly in liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.”
What Type of Soap Is Best for Allergies or Sensitive Skin?
“True soaps” are those that are created in an old-school manner – a combination of fatty acids and alkali salts. They’re derived from natural ingredients, such as plant-based oils. Because true soaps only use elements found in nature, they’re far less likely to cause skin irritation or lead to an allergic reaction. They are even safe to use on infants and pets. Castile soap is a true soap that’s known to be great on sensitive skin and those prone to allergies. This is due to the hydrating nature of the saponified oils it contains, making it a great natural moisturizer, especially when combined with sugar, as in our Organic Sugar Soaps.
Another way to elevate the moisturizing properties of Castile soap is a technique called super-fatting, which we use in our Pure-Castile Bar Soaps. In our Liquid Castile Soaps, hemp seed and jojoba oils are saponified, or converted into soap. But with our Pure-Castile Bar Soaps, hemp seed and jojoba oils are added after all the other oils have been saponified. As a result, these oils retain their original form, providing moisture and nourishment to our skin.
Additional reading: Warding Off Dry Skin with Dr. Bronner's Soaps by Lisa Bronner
Tips for Choosing a Safe, Hypoallergenic SoapPeople with sensitive and allergy-prone skin will react best to a soap that contains no artificial fragrances, alcohol, and the other chemicals listed above. A soap with natural ingredients is your best option. In addition to reading the ingredient label and being on the lookout for any of the above toxins, look for the following labels:
- Fair Trade Certification
- USDA Certified Organic
- EWG Verified seal
- The Cruelty-Free seal (the hopping bunny)
- Ecocert – for skincare products
- Non-GMO Project Certification
- EPA’s Safer Choice Certification
Frequently Asked QuestionsWhat type of Dr. Bronner’s soap is best for allergies or sensitive skin?
Our Baby Unscented Pure Castile Soap contains double the olive oil and organic ingredients. It’s safe for babies and pets and is perfect for people experiencing allergies, rashes, redness, or generally sensitive skin. Why do many commercial body care products contain chemicals? There are a number of reasons companies add chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and other chemicals to their products:
- Extending the shelf life
- Adding synthetic fragrance
- Unlike our food, FDA regulations for body care are very minimal, so some companies are less mindful about the ingredients they use