What’s in the Products That “Clean” Your Body?

Most of us think of self-care products like shampoos and soaps as cleansing and purifying. You might even have a favorite brand that you reach for every time it’s time to restock. Personal care companies are quick to market their products in ways that might seem restorative and natural, but that isn’t always the case. 

Everything from shampoo to face wash can contain chemicals known to do more harm than good. In some cases, the products you’re using could potentially cause health issues and long-term illnesses. Even products that want to appear natural and healthy can be dangerous depending on the formulas they use.

So, what should you be looking for, and how can you make sure the products you’re using to keep yourself clean aren’t actually causing harm to your body? Let’s cover a few common ingredients used in everything from deodorant to body wash, and why certain ingredients they’re using should be avoided. 

Something Foul in Your Fragrances

It’s not uncommon for people to “fall in love” with a certain type of shampoo, body wash, lotion, or even a perfume because of the way it smells. Whether your signature scent resembles something warm and spicy or floral and fruity, using heavily-scented products can provide a lot of comfort and familiarity. 

Unfortunately, many personal care products contain phthalates

Phthalates are colorless, odorless chemicals that are found in a variety of everyday products from plastic packaging to certain foods and medications. They’re also often found in cosmetic products like

  • Haircare products
  • Lotions
  • Nail polish
  • Soaps

Phthalates are often added to these products to help dissolve fragrances, making the scent distribute more easily. 

Unfortunately, these chemicals have been linked to a variety of health conditions, including reproductive system issues (including infertility), pregnancy and birth complications, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes. When you are exposed to phthalates or they get absorbed into your skin, they can easily work their way into your bloodstream and put you at a greater risk for these medical issues. 

If you want an easy way to tell if your product contains phthalates, look for the number “3” inside the recycling symbol on your product containers. Manufacturers don’t have to list phthalates on their ingredient labels. They are often listed as “fragrance,” which most people tend to overlook as anything that could potentially be harmful. 

Moisture-Stripping Sulfates

Sulfates are one of the more commonly-known problematic ingredients. However, so many products still contain them, and they could be doing serious harm to your body. Sulfates found in consumer products are made from fatty alcohols. They are effective in many cleaning products (including everything from soaps to detergents) because they bind to grease, dirt, and oil, and lift them from surfaces. 

Unfortunately, that’s where the benefits end. 

Exposure to sulfates in consumer products can lead to

  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal issues
  • Lung irritation

If you’re using soap or shampoo that contains sulfates, they can also remove too much of the natural oil your body produces. Your hair and skin will essentially be “stripped” of moisture, which can cause skin irritation. It takes away a protective barrier on your skin, leaving you more susceptible to skin conditions like eczema, or at the very least increased redness, irritation, and itching. 

Aluminum in Antiperspirant 

Deodorant is one of the first things most people put on each day or immediately after a shower. It’s often viewed as less of a beauty product and more of a necessity for cleanliness and basic hygiene. 

Unfortunately, not all antiperspirants are created equally. 

First, it’s important to note that aluminum is not found in deodorants. It is, however, often found in antiperspirants. Although the two are often considered the same thing, they are not. If you purchase a two-in-one deodorant and antiperspirant, you can be confident it contains traces of aluminum. 

Antiperspirants are meant to help you sweat less. They block your pores so the sweat you naturally produce doesn’t “penetrate” through the skin. While there is still more research to be done on the effects of aluminum on your skin, some studies have linked it to conditions like breast cancer, kidney disease, and memory disorders. 

While aluminum-free antiperspirants don’t exist, you can use perfume-free deodorants or hypoallergenic deodorants to keep yourself clean and smelling good naturally. PiperWai, for example, is an aluminum-free deodorant that uses activated charcoal and works naturally to reinforce your hygiene. It’s a great way to feel confident knowing exactly what’s going on your skin each day without breaking the bank. 

The best thing you can do to avoid potential concerns with your self-care products is to research their ingredients. It’s important to know how “clean” they really are. From chemicals that can cause skin irritation to carcinogens that can increase your risk of cancer, understanding how these ingredients work might make you think twice about the products you’re using.