13 Toxic Soap Ingredients You Need To Watch Out For

Feature | Natural Soap | Toxic Soap Ingredients You Need To Watch Out

Before you go out to restock your bathroom supplies, be mindful of these toxic soap ingredients that can harm your skin and overall health.

13 Harmful Soap Ingredients You Should Avoid


1. Triclosan

Illustration of the chemical formula of Triclosan | Toxic Soap Ingredients You Need To Watch Out

Triclosan is one of the most common and harmful ingredients in soap and hand sanitizers. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties have a high enough hazard rating to be a standard ingredient in pesticides.

This potent chemical can harm organs like the thyroid and disrupt the function of the endocrine system. It can also easily irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs.

2. Parabens

Different types of Parabens | Toxic Soap Ingredients You Need To Watch Out

Parabens like propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, and methylparaben are used in the formulation of soaps to act as preservatives. It is also used in food products to prevent microbes from growing.

Some parabens have been banned in Denmark due to their ability to disrupt the endocrine system with their hormone-mimicking nature. They also have carcinogenic properties and can cause developmental toxicity in children.

3. Fragrance

Homemade sesame soap with rose oil fragrance | Toxic Soap Ingredients You Need To Watch Out

The difficult thing about soaps with fragrance or perfume in their ingredients is that the product doesn’t tell you the exact contents.

Some of these ingredients may be petroleum products or preservatives that release formaldehyde. Fragrances may also contain diethyl phthalate which can cause reproductive problems.

Most of the time fragrances contain allergen causing ingredients and respiratory toxicants. Fragrances can also result in the development of cancer, developmental toxicity, and skin sensitivity.

4. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

SLS additives in green soap | Toxic Soap Ingredients You Need To Watch Out

SLS is added to soaps and other bath products because it is an inexpensive ingredient that acts as a foaming agent. It also acts as a surfactant which helps ingredients blend together more easily.

When sodium lauryl sulfate bonds with the other soap ingredients, it often produces the carcinogenic nitrosamine.

SLS can also result in skin irritation, allergic reactions, eczema, damaged skin, organ and neurotoxicity, and endocrine disruption.

5. Ureas

Ureas, such as Diazolidinyl urea, are preservatives in soap products that release the chemical formaldehyde which is a human carcinogen that also acts as a respiratory toxicant and a skin irritant.

They are added to soap to prevent microbe growth, but they can be absorbed through the skin and cause harm to your health.

RELATED: Watch Out For Coal Tar! 11 Things You Need Know About This Ingredient

6. Ethanolamine Compounds

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Ethanolamine compounds like DEA (diethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine) are chemical groups made up of amino acids and alcohol. They are added to soap so that water and oil-based ingredients blend together smoothly.

Exposure to these chemical groups can result in organ system toxicity, developmental toxicity in offsprings, and neurotoxic tremors. A study shows these chemicals can cause cancer and kidney and liver tumors.

7. 1,4 Dioxane

You may not find 1,4 dioxane in the ingredients list because it is created when other chemicals bond and react together. It is a common ingredient in bath products that create suds, but you may also be exposed to this chemical from laundry detergents or your drinking water.

1,4 dioxane is a potent carcinogen that can also cause organ toxicity and kidney and liver damage. It can also irritate the eyes and respiratory tract.

8. PEG-6

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PEG compounds like PEG-6 are petroleum-based chemicals added to bath products to act as thickeners, softeners, or moisture-carriers. They also act as surfactants to help blend the chemicals together.

The genotoxicity of the PEG compounds increases when its mixed with the carcinogens 1,4 dioxane and ethylene oxide. Its toxicity can irritate the skin and better penetrate the body through any broken skin.

9. Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is a synthetic organic alcohol added to soaps to act as a skin conditioning agent. It is commonly found in body and face cleansers with microbeads.

This chemical is toxic, can cause allergies, and will break down inside the body within 48 hours of exposure because it is not bioaccumulative. It is also harmful to the environment because the microbeads can kill aquatic animals.

10. Benzalkonium Chloride (BAC)

BAC is added to soap and bath products as a preservative, antimicrobial agent, and surfactant. Its antibacterial properties are also used in anti-itch ointments, antiseptic creams, and sanitary hand wipes.

BAC isn’t one of the banned ingredients by the FDA, but it is currently being investigated because it has shown signs of being an allergen and skin toxicant. Exposure to this chemical can also cause a reaction in people with asthma.

11. Bronopol

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Bronopol is a preservative soap ingredient. It releases formaldehyde and is currently being investigated by the European Union for toxicity.

Exposure to bronopol can cause lung and skin toxication. It can also cause skin allergies and stasis dermatitis.

12. DMDM-hydantoin

DMDM-hydantoin is another formaldehyde-releasing preservative. It is a strong lung, skin, and eye irritant and can cause skin problems like itching, blistering, or scaling.

13. Quaternium-15

Quaternium-15 is an ammonium salt and formaldehyde-releasing preservative. Regular exposure to this toxic chemical can cause allergic reactions, irritations, and reproductive toxicity.

Find Safer Soap Ingredient Alternatives

Most soaps are formulated with these chemicals because they:

  • are cheaper than safer ingredients
  • increase product shelf-life
  • lengthen product aesthetic

But, there are alternative soaps you can use which few to none of these chemical ingredients:

  • organic soaps: The natural ingredients used to make these soaps are much gentler on your skin, and regular exposure won’t cause any toxicity or cancer.
  • glycerin soaps: Glycerin is a gentle chemical that moisturizes the skin. It is safe to use for all skin types. Glycerin soaps are often made with natural ingredients.

Find out more about soap ingredients that FDA banned that will possibly be harmful in our health from ABC News:

These soap ingredients are not just limited to soap bars. They are also used in liquid soaps, body wash, shampoos, liquid hand sanitizers, and sanitary wet wipes.

It may take time to check the ingredients list of every product before you put in your cart, but it will decrease your exposure to these chemicals. The safest and most reliable alternative to toxic soap ingredients are soaps made from natural ingredients.

Let’s talk about safe and organic beauty. Do you have more questions about these toxic soap ingredients? Mention them in the comments section below!

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