Clearwater Soap Works Logo
Clearwater Soap Works
Canada's Finest Natural Soap
& Pure Essential Oils
100% Natural
as important to us as it is to you
Helmcken Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park, Clearwater, BC, Canada

How Detergents Damage Your Health

In this article learn:

  • How what you put on your skin ends up in your body
  • Which ingredients to avoid
  • Why shampoos, conditioners, creams & lotions are harmful
  • How breakouts can be caused by dry skin
  • Why synthetic fragrances are toxic
  • Why FD&C colours should be avoided
  • Why some products contain animal ingredients
  • How to avoid using detergents
  • How soap works
  • Why soap is better for your skin than detergent
  • Why some soaps are better for you than others
  • Why essential oils are good for you
  • Why natural transparent soap is different from other soap

    Do you recognize this: You have a shower, you use shampoo, conditioner, and then body wash, or a soap bar. Before you even finish towelling yourself off, your skin starts to itch. First your shoulders, then your legs, arms, and the top of your head, maybe even your face! Your skin feels tight and itchy and starts to get flaky. You reach for your body lotion or cream and slather on a thick layer of it to stop that itch and cover the flakes! But, several hours later, you have to apply it again, and then again and again. What is wrong with your skin? What are you doing wrong that causes your skin to be so dry? You wonder, does anyone else have this problem or is it just me? After all, you are using expensive, name brand shampoo and conditioner, and the best smelling body wash around! Maybe you have severely dry skin, maybe even eczema!

    If this is you, then you are suffering from what I call the DRY SKIN DILEMMA! It is time to break this cycle and regain that healthy skin you were born with.

    How do I do that when everything I have tried does not seem to work?! You do it by becoming educated about what is in all these products that you use everyday without even thinking about them. Then make decisions based on FACTS, not marketing hype.

    FIRST, you have to know what the INGREDIENTS of your cosmetics (bar soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, cream, lotion, hairspray, gel, mousse, make-up etc.) are. If you live in Canada, you may not even find an ingredient list on the bottle or wrapper. If you live in the US, or you are lucky enough to find that ingredient list, do you understand what it says? Maybe if you have a chemical name dictionary! Ingredients usually have long complicated names, and there can be a very long list of ingredients on even a small bottle. Some common ingredients in cosmetics include: Sodium lauryl sulfate, Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS), Ammonium laureth sulphate (ALS), Cocomidopropyl Betaine, DEA, TEA, and MEA, Formaldehyde, Fragrance, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Diazolidinyl Urea, one or more type of Paraben, Phenoxyethanol, Phthalates, Propylene Glycol, Triclosan, FD&C colours (all). Shampoos and other cleansers that contain these chemicals are DETERGENTS, not SOAP. Why are we using detergents on our skin?

    Before World War II, no-one used detergents. Why was that you ask? No one used detergents before WWII because they were yet to be invented. Why did no one invent them before this time? Well, that is a tricky question, but my answer to that is that detergents were not needed before then. This was because everyone was happy with the real soap that was used to wash people, dishes & floors, etc. During WWII the fats and oils that were used to make soap became scarce because they were being used instead to manufacture nitro-glycerine for explosives, and so another chemical source for cleaning agents had to be found. We were finding petroleum all over the place by this time, and scientists discovered that they could make thousands of new chemicals from this petroleum, including what they called detergents. Detergents soon became a regular household item because there was no alternative during WWII. OK, so if soap was so good at its job (before the war), why did we not return to using real soap after the war was over? Well, if you ran a company that made detergents and soap, and you could make a much larger profit on one product (detergent) versus another (soap), which would you promote? Today, detergents are still much cheaper to manufacture than true soaps, and marketing has ensured that a majority of the population is absolutely convinced that detergents are safe to use, and gentle to our skin and hair. The same goes for make-up, hairspray, creams and lotions, and any other cosmetics. These also changed from being made with 'real' ingredients to being synthetically prepared from petroleum products and becoming very similar to detergents.

    OK, but how does this have anything to do with why my skin is dry? And for that matter how could detergents or cosmetics be bad for me? Well, do you remember those chemicals found in cosmetics that I listed above? What sort of research do you suppose has been done to prove that they are safe for use on your skin? Would you be surprised to learn that the vast majority (>80%) have never been tested? And that the majority of the others have been tested only by the manufacturer and not an independent testing laboratory? What is also really scary is that testing methods and regulations covering the use of chemicals in cosmetics (including shampoos, conditioners, creams & lotions) are based on knowledge from the 1960s. Back then people thought that the skin was an effective barrier to chemicals; that anything placed on the skin was not absorbed in the body in any appreciable way, so we did not have to worry very much at all about what we put on our skin. These days, it is extremely obvious that the skin is actually very efficient at transferring chemicals from the skin surface to the blood stream and to the rest of your body. In fact, this knowledge is being exploited by the pharmaceutical industry to deliver drugs via skin patches. Delivering these drugs through a skin patch is much more effective than if you were to swallow a pill. If you were to take a pill, you would have to swallow at least 10X more of a drug to get the same effect as putting a skin patch on your arm, lets say.

    So, now that we know that what we put on our skin ends up in our bodies, should we not test all these chemicals in our detergents/cosmetics by the same measures that we test the effects of drugs on our system? Yes, of course we should! Does this mean it is happening, or going to happen? No. And why is that? The cosmetics industry is simply too large and powerful, and the regulating bodies are small, understaffed and powerless. Besides, they say, we've been using these chemicals for so long now that we would have seen any problem with them already, and that's why most of them are classified as GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe). The fact of the matter is that there are so many people with chemical sensitivities, allergies, eczema, asthma, autism, Alzheimer's, breast cancer etc that are not traceable to a single source because of all the synthetic chemicals we put on and in our bodies. We have to consider that rising 'disease' rates are due to the sum total of the chemical soup that we expose ourselves to everyday. We have to take responsibility for ourselves and our children by using products that are as human friendly as possible, and removing detergents from your life is an excellent way to start.

    A 2004 study found that a very popular preservative used in cosmetics, called a PARABEN (comes as butyl-, ethyl-, methyl- and propylparaben), was found in breast cancer tissue. Parabens are classified as estrogenics, which mean they mimic estrogens. This class of chemicals is strongly suspected of causing feminizing effects of male sexual organs and falling sperm counts, as well as breast cancer. The really scary part is the role they play in affecting the unborn baby's future fertility.

    Triclosan is another chemical that has been widely used in detergents (like liquid hand 'soap' from dispensers). Triclosan kills any living micro-organism (such as bacteria), and is considered a pesticide by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). So, why is it present in detergents, deodorants, creams, lotions, toothpaste and mouthwash? Good question! The reason is that we have been conditioned to fear every little bacteria that exists, and that we have been conditioned to think we need special antibacterial soap to prevent us from catching a cold or the flu or salmonella poisoning. What we are really doing is killing massive numbers of good bacteria that live in harmony on our skin and keep the nasty bacteria under control. What we are actually doing is opening ourselves up to infections by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics: the so-called Super Bugs. And that is just what we do to our own bodies. What happens to the millions of liters of this chemical that wash down our drains every year, straight through the wastewater plants and into our rivers and oceans? Washing with plain soap and water is just as effective at cleaning our skin, without the harmful and irreversible side effect of antibiotic resistance, or throwing natural ecosystems out of balance.

    Ok, so those are 2 chemicals that I don't want to see in the products that I use, is that all? Unfortunately, the list of nasty chemicals to avoid is very long. The worst offenders in shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, cream, lotion and other cosmetics are the preservatives, the colours and the fragrances. These additives cause the largest number of allergic reactions among people, and not surprisingly contain the most toxic chemicals. So why do detergents and cosmetics contain these colours, fragrances and preservatives anyway? Synthetic chemicals are frequently unattractive to the human nose and must contain copious amounts of fragrance to mask their stink. Washing synthetic clothes in natural soap reveals that synthetic clothes also stink without synthetic fragrances clinging to them. Colour is added for the same reason. Synthetic products need to be made more attractive to encourage you to buy them. Preservatives must be added because consumers demand a long shelf life, and because of the high percentage of water in most synthetic products, the possibility of spoilage is a certainty without preservatives. So, your skin creams, shampoos, and conditioners will last indefinitely on the store shelf, but unfortunately, once in your body, they will not give you a longer life!

    Most colours are derived from carcinogenic (cancer causing) coal tar dyes and these colours are banned every so often because we finally find out that they are carcinogenic too. These are all listed as FD&C or D&C (Food, Drug & Cosmetic) colours. Oddly enough, the pigment that gives beets their colour is not allowed for use in cosmetics in the US, but coal tar dye derivatives are. A recent study showed that coloured diapers irritated the skin of some babies, leaving the same pattern on the skin as the color pattern in the diaper. Hair dye carries strong warnings on the do-it-yourself package because it is carcinogenic, but if you get your hair coloured by a professional, no law forces the hairdresser to show you a warning even though the product is exactly the same.

    Fragrances are also particularly bad because they do not have to be listed as individual ingredients even though they contain hundreds or thousands of different chemicals. When artificial fragrances are listed as parfum or fragrance, how would you ever know that there are scores of carcinogenic or otherwise toxic chemicals in it? Hospitals ban perfume and aftershave because of their health effects. Are you one of the countless people who get headaches, skin rashes, dizziness, nausea or vomiting when you even smell someone else's perfume? You know the power of these toxic chemicals. If a product is labelled as unscented, it means masking chemicals have been added to make it seem like it has no smell. Only a Fragrance Free product does not contain chemicals to make it smell good, but this still does not mean that it has no smell. This is crazier still: New car smell can be bought in a bottle to keep your car smelling 'new', but car manufacturers have recently voluntarily decided to try to reduce your exposure to this same toxic mix of chemicals that off-gas from the plastics in the car interior because they are hazardous to your health! So, can I never use a product that has a great smell? Of course you can! Essential oils give your nose and your other senses a workout without any of the negative side effects. In fact, the positive benefits of using essential oils are so many, that entire businesses exist that market their amazing powers. Once you smell authentic, pure, natural, wonderful essential oils, you will wonder why we needed to make toxic, artificial fragrances anyway! But wait, you know the answer to that: profit. Essential oils are usually more expensive because of the labour involved in obtaining them.

    Ok, but I still don't know why I have such dry skin! You're right, of course, I have been making this a long story (but it's not even the half of it!). Why do so many people suffer from dry skin? And how come so many people think they have skin problems when they really don't? The answer has to do with profit. If you sell soap that left your skin clean, fresh and not dry or irritated, would people need to buy your expensive creams or lotions? If you sell a soap that does not leave residue on your skin that aggravates acne, how could you sell an expensive cream against acne? If you made a shampoo that left the hair clean, undamaged, shiny, manageable, a cinch to blow-dry, and lets you style your hair without needing gel, mousse, or hairspray, would people buy conditioner, hot oil treatments, gel, mousse, or hairspray? Your skin is dry, your acne is aggravated, and your hair is damaged because this is what the intended result is. It is as simple as that.

    Besides the damage from colours, fragrances, and preservatives to the inside and outside of your body, detergents themselves damage your skin's protective layers and this is why your skin cannot retain its natural moisture levels. Detergents actually damage (dissolve) skin protein and draw your skin's natural oils from far beneath the surface. Once you towel dry after a shower, the urgent itch you feel is your skin telling you something is wrong. Then, you think you are doing your skin a favour by using cream or lotion to give it back the moisture it needs, but again, all you are doing is damaging your skin with the same chemicals that pulled your natural moisture out in the first place. By using detergents and detergent based creams and lotions, your skin loses its ability to defend itself from the outside world and needs repeated applications of cream or lotion just to stop itching for a period of time. All the while, the preservatives, colours and fragrances are seeping into your blood stream and doing who knows how much damage! For some people, the deep stripping of natural oils causes their skin to produce copious amounts of oil to compensate for it. This aggravates acne and can actually cause skin to breakout.

    The same thing happens when you use detergent shampoo on your hair. Because it leaves your hair dry and damaged, you also need to use conditioner. Because the conditioner leaves your hair limp and very wet even after toweling off, you have to blow-dry longer (more hair damage) and you have to put more stuff in it (gel, mousse, hairspray) to make it do what you want. All the other stuff you put on your hair damages it more and so you buy a more expensive shampoo (even though it has all the same ingredients as the cheap shampoo). You can see what I mean.

    Once you read this following excerpt you will wonder why detergent use is not banned! Amazingly, even after governments and industry know these facts on Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS), it is still considered safe to use on humans! That's like saying it is perfectly safe to be run over by a car, as long as it doesn't park on you for long.

    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
    Published in the Journal of the American College of Toxicology, Volume 2, Number 7, pp. 127-181, 1983.

    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate are irritants in patch testing at concentrations of 2 percent and greater and that irritation increases with ingredient concentration. In some cosmetic formulations, however, that irritant property is attenuated. The longer these ingredients stay in contact with the skin, the greater the likelihood of irritation, which may or may not be evident to the user. Although Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is not carcinogenic in experimental animals, it has been shown that it causes severe epidermal changes to the area of the skin of mice to which it was applied. This study indicates a need for tumor-enhancing activity assays. Auto radiographic studies of rat skin treated with radio-labeled Sodium Lauryl Sulfate found heavy deposition of the detergent on the skin surface and in the hair follicles; damage to the hair follicle could result from such deposition. Further, it has been reported that 1 percent and 5 percent Sodium Lauryl Sulfate produced significant number of comedones when applied to the pinna of albino rabbits. These two problems - possible hair loss and comedone formation - along with proven irritancy, should be considered in the formulation of cosmetic products. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate appear to pose less potential hazard when in products designed for brief, discontinuous use, following which they are thoroughly rinsed from the surface of the skin.

    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate appear to be safe in formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin. In products intended for prolonged contact with skin, concentrations should not exceed 1 percent.

    Did you notice the date of the study? Manufacturers and regulating bodies have known about the damage caused by these two chemicals for over 20 years! We are still buying shampoo and bodywash and liquid soap and bubble bath with these chemicals as the main ingredients and being led to believe that our skin will be left soft, clean, and healthy...How is this possible? Has the desire for profit stripped corporations of any ethical concerns for human health? Apparently so. Does this not count as false advertising? Apparently not.

    The best you can do for your skin is to get rid of the detergents you have in your house and replace them with healthy alternatives. For instance, stop using your mass produced, tallow based liquid or bar soap for washing your hands and replace them with a bar of our natural transparent soap. Replace your detergent shampoo and conditioner with a bar of our natural transparent soap. Replace your body wash or cleansing bar with that same bar of our natural transparent soap. Replace your skin creams and lotions with ...nothing at all! Chances are, you won't actually need to cover your skin with anything at all. Unless you do a lot of drying work with your hands (gardening or handling dusty boxes without gloves, or soaking your hands in hot water for any length of time) or live in an extremely harsh climate (dry cold, dry heat, drying winds, excess sun exposure) you can free yourself completely from all creams and lotions. Using fewer products AND having healthier skin sounds like a winning combination to me! Your skin will love you for it and you will love your bank balance!

    I've talked a lot about detergents. So what is soap, how does it work, and how do I pick a good soap? Keep on reading, we are just getting to that!

    How is real soap different from detergent? Soap is chemically different from detergent: Soap is defined as the product of fats/oils with lye (NaOH, or Sodium Hydroxide), and is not made with synthetic (petroleum) oils.

    Soap is also different from detergent in how it works:
    Soap is made up of a molecule that has a polar end and a non-polar end. When dirt and oil is washed from your skin's surface using soap, the dirt and oil are surrounded by the soap particles with the non-polar 'tails' and the polar 'heads' point away from the dirt and oil into the water. You might remember the terms hydrophilic (water loving) and hydrophobic (water hating) from highschool chemistry. Having these properties at opposite ends in one molecule is what makes soap such an effective cleanser. Soap allows dirt and oils to mix with water and let it all get rinsed away, thus leaving your skin surface dirt and oil (and soap) free. Detergent on the other hand, competes with the oils and dirt for the right to stick to and sink into the surface of your skin, thereby releasing oil and dirt from the surface and from far below the surface of the skin. Solvents in the detergent then keep the oil and dirt from settling anywhere else. Did you know that detergents foam because of foaming agents that are not necessary for it to work? Foam is only added for our viewing pleasure because people expect detergent to foam, and that the more foam there is, the better it works...but just think: your dishwasher detergent works without foaming! For the same reason, detergent shampoo, liquid soap and body lotions are thickened to make them seem rich and because we expect them to have a certain texture. Handmade natural soap does not need any of these toxic extras to make it conform to expectations. What you see is what you get - an honest bar of soap that works, is pleasant to use, and is healthy for you and your skin!

    Soaps can also differ significantly amongst themselves:

    Many different oils and/or fats can be used in making soap: There are many different kinds of fats or oils that are used to make soap (instead of a very small choice of detergents), and some are better than others. Most mass produced soaps are made from tallow (beef fat) or lard (pig fat), whereas most handmade soap makers use non-animal fats such as Coconut, Palm, Olive or Castor oils. What's the difference, you ask? Well, animal fats contain unsaponifiables (chemicals that do not turn into soap) that can aggravate acne and cause breakouts. Not only that, but all animals concentrate pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and other environmental contaminants in their fatty tissue, and therefore, these chemicals end up in soap made from these fats. Can you guess why animal fats are used in mass-produced soap? You're right! Because they are cheap!

    Glycerin is removed from mass-produced soap for resale:
    Whenever fats/oils are mixed with lye to produce soap, glycerin is produced as a by-product. Mass-producers separate this from the soap and sell it separately because they can make money from it. Why waste it in soap when no one can see it there, when it can be sold for profit? Leaving it in soap is actually not a waste. Handmade soap retains this natural glycerin, which adds an emollience and softness to the soap you just can't get with your supermarket brand.

    There is natural soap, and then there is 'natural' soap:
    Some people call their soap 'natural', even though it contains toxic synthetic fragrances, carcinogenic coal tar derivative dyes and synthetic preservatives. What then, does natural mean? It depends on whom you ask! I consider a natural soap to contain only materials that came from plants in as few steps as possible, are as pure as is possible without over-refining, and not been significantly chemically altered. For instance, I consider Castor bean oil natural even though it is obtained by pressing the beans, heating and mixing with water, and separating the oil from the rest while filtering. The castor bean oil has not been chemically changed, but only separated from the rest of the bean. I consider processing a small component from a plant through many complicated chemical reactions to obtain a raw material that bears no or only a very small resemblance to the original, to not be natural. Some ingredients on products are described as derived from some natural raw material, but invariably this means that the ingredient has undergone many chemical changes to make into the ingredient that is listed on the label.

    What do you assume when someone uses the word natural? In the same way, what does organic mean? If you ask a chemist, they will say any molecule that is carbon based. If you ask a health food storeowner, they may say anything that is grown without pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizer. Be sure you ask the source for a definition!

    You need to ask yourself questions about the products you use.

    • Do you see an ingredient label?
    • Does it contain some of the chemicals on the above list?
    • Does it contain fragrance or parfum?
    • Does it contain colour additives?

    Even if you have no known health issues, you should avoid products that don't list the ingredients, or that contain undesirable chemicals.

    Remember, not only are you taking better care of your skin when you use natural soap instead of detergent based products, you will save a lot of money by using fewer products, and you will send less garbage to the landfill.

    I had no idea how much money I was throwing down the drain (literally) on all kinds of unnecessary products until I made my own soap. After using my own soap for only a couple of days, the difference to my skin was amazing. I did not need to use cream or lotion, because my skin no longer felt dry or itchy. I was absolutely stunned that I had been so brainwashed into buying all these synthetic chemicals by these marketing gurus, when all they do is damage my body! I consider myself to be a pretty astute consumer (I don't fall into marketing traps, I thought!), but I believed that using shampoo, conditioner, cream, lotion, body wash, gel, mousse, hairspray etc. was absolutely necessary, normal, and perfectly good for me!

    If you want to take care of your health and the health of your loved ones the best way that you can, then start right now and try our natural handmade transparent soap! Not only is it made with all natural ingredients, it is also the most gentle of all natural soaps, and in contrast, it leaves no excess oily residue on your skin to irritate and cause blemishes or aggravate acne.

    Now that I know how people are poisoning themselves everyday with products they are hoodwinked into buying, I cannot stay silent about it any longer. I started my own soap company in the hope of not only making a living, but also to provide a real solution to a giant problem. Save your skin and save your money by buying a natural soap made without synthetic colours, artificial fragrances, preservatives, or animal products!

    Written by
    Helga van Oostveen, B.Sc.
    Clearwater Soap Works
    October 2005

    P.S. Our transparent soap Variety Packs make excellent gifts, and are a terrific and economical way to start exploring our wonderful soap varieties. Click here for details

    P.P.S. Be sure to email all your friends to let them know about this important information! Send the message as is, or add you own message.
    "To" E-mail Address:
    "From" E-mail Address:

    Oatmeal Rub Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Passionate Spice Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Mint Swirl Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Lavender Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Purple Rose Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Luscious Licorice Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Wild Ginger Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Sweet Love & Honey Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Spearmint & Sage Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Radiant Sunshine Natural Soap
    Reg. $4.19

    Deluxe Aromatherapy Starter Kit - 5 mL
    Reg. $111.70
    On SALE for only $99.00

    Deluxe Aromatherapy Starter Kit - 15 mL
    Reg. $188.41
    On SALE for only $172.00

    Custom Soap Quote Request


    Call to order: 1.250.674.3134 10-4 M-F Pacific Time

    How much for shipping?

    Currency Exchange on July 10, 2018:
    $1.00 CAD = $0.76 USD

    (Canada Dollar) (United States Dollar)
    Estimated exchange rate. Actual exchange determined by your bank at time of processing. is hosted by StoresOnline
    Made in Canada

    Copyright 2005-18 Clearwater Soap Works. All Rights Reserved.
    Updated July 10, 2018
    Made In Canada

    Pure Essential Oils | Transparent Soap | Essential Oil Blends
    Essential Oils - 5 mL | Essential Oils - 15 mL | Essential Oils - 50 mL
    Essential Oils - 100 mL | Essential Oils - 237 mL | Essential Oils - 473 mL
    Essential Oils - 946 mL | Carrier Oils | Bottles | Essential Oil Diffusers
    Gift & Variety Packs | Catalogue | Contact Us | Specials
    Ordering & Shipping | Privacy Policy | Resources
    Testimonials | Information Library | FAQ | Important Essential Oil Information
    About Transparent Soap | Soap Making | Soap vs Detergent
    The DRY SKIN DILEMMA | Site map | About Us | Home
    No Animal Ingredients - No Animal Testing
    Prices are subject to change without notice