If you’re on the hunt for top quality organic skin care products, it’s important to realize a critical fact: What you put on your skin should be as clean as what you put in your mouth.
No, we aren’t advocating that you eat your body wash, but the ingredients should all be safe enough to eat. After all, your skin is your largest organ, and it absorbs the products you put on it. Since body wash covers so much surface area, shouldn’t you be hunting for the best?
There are so many products to choose from when it comes to sorting out the best organic body washes.
Let’s go over why you’d want to choose organic body care in the first place and what ingredients to look for. A quick glance on the back of the bottle will often reveal a lot of unpronounceable ingredients. Which ones are safe, and which ones are harsh chemicals you should avoid? Let’s sort it all out together.
The FDA does not regulate the term “organic” when it comes to body care. However, the USDA does regulate the agricultural ingredients in the bottle.
The USDA defines “organic” based on the practices and products employed by the farmer or rancher. Animals must be treated well and kept in conditions that “accommodate their natural behaviors.” They must be eating food grown in healthy soil not treated with certain pesticides or herbicides, and they themselves can’t be pumped with hormones or antibiotics.
Organic botanicals must be grown without the use of certain pesticides and herbicides and must also originate from seeds created using organic practices. The soil these botanicals are grown in must have been free of the prohibited list of substances for a minimum of three years. By definition, an organic ingredient is a non-GMO (genetically modified organism) ingredient.
That’s not to say that products labeled as “non-GMO” are necessarily organic. That’s an entirely separate certification process with a separate set of standards.
If the product you’re looking at has a USDA organic certification seal on the label, it means that at least 95% of the ingredients (excluding water and salt) in that bottle come from organic farms and ranches. The word “organic” can still be used if it contains a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients (again, excluding water and salt), but the seal cannot be on the front of the bottle. In the end, it’s the ingredients listed on the back that count the most anyway. And even products labeled organic can have some problematic ingredients.
Ingredients to Look Out For
Certain ingredients can create allergic reactions, irritate sensitive skin, and might even be implicated in certain reproductive cancers. Still others are terrible for the environment due to their sourcing. Synthetic fragrances, preservatives, and lathering agents tend to be the most problematic ingredients in conventional skin care products.
Parabens, the most widely used preservative in body care (including bubble baths, body washes, shampoos, body lotions, and deodorants), have been shown to mimic estrogen in your body, potentially increasing breast cancer risks in some women.
While the FDA does limit the percentage of parabens in a bottle of a body care or household cleaner, it’s the cumulative effect of parabens that can be worrying. Repeated exposure to small amounts through different products in your bathroom or kitchen cabinet can create real health problems.
Words to look out for: methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben.
It’s important to have some sort of preservative in your body wash (unless you’re making it yourself and keeping it your refrigerator!), but there are less risky preservative options out there.
Natural ingredients such as ethylhexylglycerin, a plant-based option, or phenoxyethanol, an alcohol-based option, are great alternatives. These are a few examples of all-natural ingredients that might be a little harder to pronounce, but are perfectly safe to use. Look for paraben-free body wash to be on the safe side.
Sulfates are typically the ingredients that make your shampoo, toothpaste, and shower gel lather up. They’re often derived from petroleum products (bad for Mother Earth) and tested on animals to find out how irritating they might be to your skin.
Words to look out for: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).
While there are non-petroleum sulfate sources, those can be problematic as well. Palm oil is a controversial ingredient because harvesting it destroys tropical rainforests and natural habitats for wild tropical animals. Sulfates can also be sourced from farmed coconuts, which is more ideal, but they can be irritating to the skin and eyes, no matter the sourcing. For those with sensitive or acne-prone skin, exposure to sulfates can clog pores and induce breakouts. Opt for sulfate-free products for a more gentle approach to body wash and skin care.
Great products use great ingredients. There are high-quality, natural ingredients out there that can accomplish the same results that those harmful ingredients can, without the risks to your health, lab animals, or the environment.
We mentioned two natural preservatives, ethylhexylglycerin and phenoxyethanol, to replace parabens. These are both vegan options with minimal impact on the environment and your health. Other effective natural preservatives are vitamin E and rosemary oil. Salt is also a preservative, although it’s used more often in food products than in body wash.
Opting for truly moisturizing ingredients is another great choice for long-term results and healthier skin. Natural oil-based body washes often include coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, or other vegetable and seed oils, and work really well for dry skin, as does beeswax.
Interestingly, castile soap, which is traditionally olive oil-based, is actually a great option for oily skin. If you’ve heard of Dr. Bronner, you probably know that all of those products are organic with a castile soap base. Your skin type will help you determine which products are right for you.
Fragrance can been a touchy issue for those with sensitive or problematic skin looking for a natural option. We mentioned that synthetic fragrances can cause allergic reactions in some cases, but natural fragrances can too if you’re particularly sensitive.
All natural body washes are ideally perfumed with essential oils to provide the most natural source of fragrance possible. Most often, you’ll see lavender, peppermint, and citrus scents such as pink grapefruit or lime. While these fragrances are natural, if you have particularly sensitive skin, you might want to opt for fragrance-free body wash and look for options that include nourishing ingredients such as aloe vera or shea butter.
Note that the terms “fragrance-free” and “unscented” do not mean the same thing. Unscented doesn’t guarantee that there are no fragrance-causing agents in the formula, while fragrance-free does. Opt for the latter if you’re particularly sensitive.
Shopping for Organic Body Wash
We’ve thrown a lot of information your way, but ultimately, you have to find the product that’s right for you and your skin type. The back of the label is a lot more important than the marketing on the front. Look at your ingredients to help you decide where you’ll draw the line.
Organic ingredients should be clearly distinguished on the back of the bottle, often using an asterisk (*). Be on the lookout for the problematic parabens and sulfates, and opt for the more eco-friendly and healthy alternatives we mentioned above.
Keep your post-shower skin soft and supple with the three natural products in the Super Soft Kit. Your skin will thank you in the end.