Welcome back to Texas Tallow’s Detox Your Skincare series. We’re walking you through five steps you can take each week this month to progressively eliminate the toxins that you’re exposing your skin to.
This week we’re focusing on getting clean the cleanest way possible. Building on what we learned last week, let's dive in with:
Step #6: Make the Switch to Bar Soaps
While even the simplest hard soaps contain lye, the chemical that saponifies the fats and oils into soap, it fully reacts while the soap cures and is not harmful in the final product. Most soap companies don't stop there, though. Commercial soaps are loaded with lab-derived chemicals that are meant to fulfill a variety of "product enhancing purposes". Liquid soaps can be even more tricky, requiring additional chemicals to enhance their appeal to consumers.
Most liquid soaps contain some kind of fragrance (and, thus, phthalates), which we discussed in the last blog post. I know that’s why people flock to Bath and Body Works for their favorite seasonal soaps with the little exfoliating beads, but they’re really not doing our skin any favors. They’re also likely to contain some sort of sulfate or paraben. Most also contain synthetic coloring as well as foaming agents, preservatives, etc.
My recommendation is to make the switch to bar soaps in your household. Not only does it allow you to skip some unnecessary ingredients needed to make those sudsy hand soaps and body washes, but they also last a lot longer, thus creating less waste. We exchanged the hand pumps next to our sinks with soap dishes and little bar soaps and did the same in our shower.
Now, be forewarned that bar soap ingredients can be just as tricky. Unless they specify that they’re scented with essential oils, if they have a strong smell they contain fragrances. The best option is to find smaller soap making businesses that are upfront about what they do (and do not) add to their soaps. Unfortunately most of these can’t be found in your average supermarket, so you may need to find an online retailer and stock up (which, like I said, you won’t have to do frequently since they do last).
When we create bar soaps for Texas Tallow, we opt to just use tallow, herbal-infused olive oil and lye. We don't add any fragrances (not even in the form of essential oils) because we want to keep our daily exposure to potential allergens as low as possible. We don't have soaps in stock year-round, since our soap workshop isn't climate-controlled and soap doesn't cure as well in a cold environment, but we do like to offer them from time to time as a service to those of our customers who have difficulty finding unscented, non-toxic soap options. If this is you, we recommend stocking up when they're available because we can't guarantee that we'll be able to keep them in stock for long!
Tip #7: Avoid Antibacterial Soaps, Sanitizers and Wipes.
Many commercial soaps contain antibacterial agents in the form of triclosan, which is known as a possible carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. The primary reason we recommend avoiding them, however, is because we value our precious microbiome. Keeping a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut is so important for your overall health and the plethora of antibacterial products that we over-expose ourselves to only encourage the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
While it’s great to start by discontinuing your use of these products at home (including that triple-antibiotic ointment and that go-to hand sanitizer you keep in your purse) it’s important not to overlook all the areas you’re exposed to antibacterial products in public places as well. Yes, I’m taking about public bathrooms (and maybe even your friend's house). If I’m being honest, I couldn’t tell you the last time I used the soap available in a public restroom to wash my hands. I recommend keeping a bar of soap in your purse in a handy little travel soap container (yes, we’re becoming those people) or just opt for rinsing your hands well in warm water. Your good bacteria will thank you later.
Tip #8: Shave with Soap, not Shaving Cream.
Since we’re on a bar soap kick, we have to mention shaving as well. Those heavily foaming shaving creams are not the cleanest products on the market. In fact, even our research on some of the “simplest” men’s shaving soaps and creams left us overwhelmed. The bottom line is this: consumers have come to expect a high standard for a nice, foamy lather, a strong scent and sometimes even a bright blue or pink color… so this is what commercial shaving cream companies cater to.
The reality is, pretty much any old soap can be lathered up to shave with. If you’re wanting a bare bones natural shave bar, a simple blend of tallow and shea butter have a nice, smooth lather that we love. It’s not going to overflow your sink with bubbles like a lab chemical may, but it’s going to treat your skin well and get the job done.
Tip #9: Clean Out Your Household Cleaning Arsenal
This tip could probably be a blog post all on its own, but we’ll just skim the surface. When you clean your home, does it require you to put on latex gloves, crack all the windows and put on a gas mask? That’s probably an indication that you’re cleaning with some pretty heavy chemicals.
The good news is there are natural options for a cleaner home. Essential oil companies sure haven’t overlooked the possibilities. If you’re looking to steer clear of these volatile oils, however, a few other options include: herbal hydrosols (which smell divine and can be made on your stovetop), herb-infused vinegars (try making a four thieves blend), diluted castile soap, baking soda, white vinegar or even just making a strong soap nut tea and using it wherever needed.
There are also plenty of “cleaner” brands on the market if you just want to grab something easy at the store. Overall, I highly recommend not overlooking this cabinet in your household. Not only are you exposed to it while cleaning, but they linger on in your home (or are in the air) where you can be exposed to them regularly.
Tip #10: Ditch Your Commercial Dish Soap
Here’s another tricky product that you may be exposed to daily - commercial dish soaps. These contain most of the same culprits as hand soaps and body washes, which we wouldn’t think to eat, so why do we want them on our dishes?
Also, if you have a dishwasher, you’ll want to look for both a dish soap and dishwasher detergent that pass the “safety” test. My family goes so far as to make our own dishwasher liquid out of lemons, salt and white vinegar. We can’t boast streak-free results but it helps us save money and feel good about a chemical-free alternative.
If you want to go the extra mile, look for clean brands who make baby-safe dish soaps, which are more likely to exclude fragrances and colorants, but do tend to be more expensive. Buying in bulk sometimes helps cut the costs, as well as looking for refill bags instead of hand pumps.
I hope this week’s challenge hasn’t left you feeling overwhelmed. Change takes time to adjust to but you’ll create new habits and routines in no time. It takes a little research and a little prepping to stock up the items that you need (or learn how to make them) but it’s well worth it. The convenience of running to the nearest drug store isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and your skin will be the first to pay the true costs of "cheap" products.
We hope we can be a resource for you on this journey and encourage you to keep diving deeper into simple, non-toxic living. Feel free to drop a comment below to share your own experiences or ask questions.
Co-owner of Texas Tallow