Hand Soap: The Good, The Bad and The Local

In light of the recent news that antibacterial soaps could post health risks, here are some local and healthy alternatives.

Credit: Saje Natural Wellness/Jordan River Soapworks/Rocky Mountain Soap Company

How to Ensure Your Handwashing Habit is a Healthy One

Most of us use hand soap more than any other personal care product. We wash our hands multiple times per day to remove dirt and germs to stay healthy. But have you ever looked closely at the ingredients in commercial hand soap? Some ingredients commonly found in hand soap are not innocent and can actually be detrimental to our health.

Soap Ingredients to Avoid

Three years ago, the David Suzuki Foundation put together the Dirty Dozen list of cosmetic ingredients to help consumers avoid substances that are toxic. The following shortlist of ingredients is part of the dirty dozen and is often found in soap products. It’s best to avoid any personal care products containing these ingredients:

  1. Triclosan
  2. Sodium laureth sulfate or sodium lauryl sulfate
  3. Perfume/fragrance
  4. DEA-related ingredients (e.g., Cocamide DEA, MEA, TEA, etc.)
  5. Coal tar dyes (e.g., FD&C colours, CI + 5 digit number, Red 3, Yellow 5, etc.)
  6. PEG-compounds (e.g., PEG-8, PEG-100, etc.)
  7. Parabans

Steer Clear of Greenwashing

Companies can use terms like “naturally derived ingredients” to sell products that aren’t actually natural and can contain some of the previously listed harmful ingredients. They are allowed to do this because there is no single legal definition of the word “natural.”

The only way to know for sure if the soap you are buying is safe is to read the label. To help identify the harmful culprits while on the go, the US-based Environmental Working Group developed a handy app that lets you look up specific products and ingredients to see how they rate on their Skin Deep database. You can download it here.

The good news is there are many healthier alternatives available, with many soaps made locally in BC. – so you can get better quality soap while supporting local artisans and businesses.

Credit: Jordan River Soapworks

Jordan River Soapworks – Luxurious, Organic, and Local

The soapstress behind Jordan River Soapworks handcrafts luxurious bars of soap from carefully selected local and organic ingredients. Only essential oils are used to scent these soaps and many ingredients are sourced from around Vancouver Island, B.C. where Jordan River Soapworks is based. The lavender & clay soap, for example, contains detoxifying BC glacial marine clay, while the sea salt & seaweed soap is made with wild-harvested winged kelp and sea salt with a hint of antibacterial tea tree oil.

Where to buy: Greenaby Body Care (online) and Local Shops (various locations)

Credit: Saje Natural Wellness

Saje Natural Wellness – Antibacterial Soap with Essential Oils

If you are looking for a natural liquid antibacterial soap, the Safe Hands wash from Saje Natural Wellness is fantastic. This soap gets its antibacterial properties from essential oils, not alcohol or triclosan. If you prefer natural soap bars, Saje Natural Wellness has an excellent selection.

Originating in Surrey, B.C. with multiple store locations around Vancouver, Saje Natural Wellness was founded in order to share the healing properties essential oils with the world. All of the products made by Saje are 100 per cent natural and centre around the healing and nourishing properties of plants.

Where to buy: Saje Natural Wellness (online and various locations in B.C. and Alberta)

Credit: Rocky Mountain Soap Company

Rocky Mountain Soap Company – Seductive Natural Scents

You’ll find 100 per cent natural fragrant soap bars, liquid hand and body wash, and foaming hand soap in delicious scents like Vanilla Coconut at the Rocky Mountain Soap Company. With numerous scents, you’re apt to find something that you like. Rocky Mountain Soap hails from Canmore, Alberta, with a location in Victoria, B.C. and more coming soon to Vancouver.

Where to buy: Rocky Mountain Soap (online and at Mayfair Shopping Centre in Victoria, B.C.)

Credit: Mountain Sky Soap

Mountain Sky Soap – Budget-Friendly and Local

Located in Crescent Valley, near Nelson, B.C., Mountain Sky Soap is a family-run business that creates natural soap bars and liquid castile soap, a traditional soap made from vegetable oils with glycerin for moisture and essential oils for fragrance.

Castile soap is one of the most natural soaps available and is very versatile. I like to make foaming hand soap with it by combining about 1/5 castile soap and 4/5 water in an empty foam-pump container. Making a foaming soap is very budget-friendly, because by diluting the original castile soap, you can make a single liquid soap purchase last for a few of months (depending on the size of your family).

Where to buy: Mountain Sky (online) and Whole Foods (various locations)