by : Nikola Gemeš | Last Updated: January 3, 2024
Traditional soap is harmful to the environment and can cause health problems. Instead, choose the best natural soap bars you can order today.
But most people think of noxious bathroom cleaners and flammable solvents that we keep stowed away from the children’s reach.
And yet the regular soap we use to keep our skin clean every day can also contain harmful substances.
After learning about this, I started looking for safer alternatives — homemade soaps and recipes to make some myself.
I mean, they had soap bars in ancient Babylon — and I doubt they contained hazardous chemicals.
If DIY soap making is not your thing, there are others who have perfected it
Here are the 10 of my favorite natural soap bars that are much kinder to your skin and the environment.
Traditional soap bars are mostly made of inexpensive oils, including animal fats like lard and tallow, and lately more often vegetable oils.
Then comes lye as the second most important ingredient. The reaction between lye and oil produces soap in the process known as saponification. The third component is water, which is added according to the specific recipe. Water helps lye and oil molecules stick together.
These are the most basic ingredients found in bar soap. So far nothing harmful about those.
Traditional soap in its purest form is pretty much harmless!
However, manufacturers often add other ingredients (!) like colors, preservatives, essential oils, scents, and fragrances.
The problem is that fragrances and coloring may be achieved by synthetic chemicals that can disrupt aquatic ecosystems through eutrophication. This is a process when a body of water becomes too rich in nutrients which causes harmful algae blooms that deplete oxygen from water.
If you’ve ever gone camping near a body of water, you must have seen the signs urging campers not to use soap in a lake, river, pond, etc. The same applies to pouring soapy water into natural bodies of water.
The detergent in soap breaks the surface tension of the water, which is essential for many water-striding insects to get around.
Lower surface tension also reduces the oxygen in the water, which causes harm to fish and other aquatic life.
Along with these synthetic fragrance and coloring ingredients, traditional soap can also contain parabens, sodium laureth sulfate, triclosan, and other questionable ingredients.
These compounds are known as carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. This makes them far from ideal ingredients to cleanse your skin with.
Did you ever notice how your skin becomes dry after using a traditional soap? Instead of cleaning and moisturizing it, traditional soap can actually dry out your skin and cause allergic rashes.
Organic soap bars, on the other hand, are made with natural ingredients that come from organic farming practices, making them more nourishing to your skin and safer for the environment.
But before we get to non-toxic soap, let’s first see what we are up against.
This synthetic detergent and surfactant (improvers spreading and wetting) is used to increase foaming in cleaning products. As a synthetic surfactant, cocamidopropyl betaine is often found in personal hygiene products including hand soaps.
However, cocamidopropyl betaine can cause allergic skin reactions and contact dermatitis, while being toxic to the environment.
The American Contact Dermatitis Society named it Allergen of the Year 2004. Cocamidopropyl betaine can appear under different names, so to be sure look for products that don’t contain:
Formaldehyde is a commonly used preservative in beauty products, but also a known carcinogen that is related to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity.
So how can you avoid it? Avoid products with these labels:
I hate to break it to you, but that charming lavender and white florals in your soap most certainly don’t come from natural essential oils. The problem is that the fragrance industry is not required to disclose the ingredients used in their products.
This means there can be hundreds of ingredients in one fragrance.
So where do the problems start?
Our skin absorbs fragrances into the bloodstream where they pose health risks, including endocrine disruption, organic toxicity, allergies, neurotoxicity, asthma, and cancer.
Fragrances also may contain phthalates that normally aren’t listed on the labels, which can lead to hormone disruption, birth defects, and developmental toxicity.
Fragrances don't make your hand soap any more efficient and may induce some serious health risks, so you better avoid them altogether.
Parabens are preservatives used in a variety of personal care products including hand soaps. However, their chemical composition mimics the behavior of estrogen in the body and is linked to endocrine disruption, cancer, and developmental toxicity. Avoid parabens by avoiding hand soap that has ingredients ending in -paraben.
SLES and SLS are surfactants that cause skin irritation and trigger allergies. SLES often contains traces of 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process and a known carcinogen. As for SLS, the health concerns include irritation to the eyes, lungs, and skin. When inhaled, this ingredient causes coughing and sore throat.
Used as an antibacterial agent in hand soaps. The good news is that the FDA finally banned this chemical in September 2016 and gave manufacturers 1 year to pull their products using the chemical from the market or find a way to reformulate it.
This means you probably won’t have to worry about it. However if it’s still not banned where you live, it’s best to avoid triclosan because it tends to accumulate over time in the body and cause hormonal imbalances and organ system toxicity.
Natural soap bars come with a variety of benefits for both our skin and the environment. Just take a look at what you’re missing out.
In most cases, commercial soap bars use various toxic and harmful chemicals like phthalates, phosphorus, petrochemicals, triclosan, and many more. These ingredients are extremely bad for the skin and the environment. Natural soap bars don’t use harmful chemicals and synthetic ingredients. Thus, it’s more soothing for the skin.
Organic soaps use essential oil fragrances like lavender, lemongrass, or peppermint which not only add a pleasant scent but also give the soap antibacterial properties. Now compare this with regular soaps that often come with artificial fragrances that contain ingredients that are associated with hormonal imbalance, reproductive issues, and even cancer.
Organic soaps are animal-friendly because they don’t require testing on animals during production. Why? Because they don’t contain any toxic chemicals so there's no need to test their safety. Natural soap bars are made with plant-based oils and if they contain lard, honest manufacturers make sure that’s visible on the label.
Organic soaps are made from essential oils, spices, and herbs. These are all-natural ingredients chosen for their regenerative and healing properties. Since they don’t contain harsh chemicals, organic soap bars can even help with skin conditions like acne, eczema, and sunburn.
Natural soap bars don’t use aggressive chemicals that could pose a threat to aquatic life. Besides, no pesticides were used during their production. However, mind that even biodegradable soap is still soap, so you should never use it or dispose of it near natural bodies of water. It has to go into the ground.
The safe way to use it outdoors is to fill a bucket with water and soap up and bathe at least 200 feet away from any lake or stream. When you’re done, dig a hole about 9 inches deep and dispose of soapy water. This will allow bacteria in the solid to biodegrade the soap.
The convenience and rich foam has driven many people away from soap bars to use bottled products. However, paper wraps are 100% recyclable and the recycling process itself is less energy-demanding. True organic soap bars come with recycled paper wraps that are compostable and recyclable.
What is the best place to shop for soap bars made with organic ingredients? Local farmer’s markets and craft fairs. As more people become aware of the environmental hazards of industrial soaps, the cottage industry of homemade organic soaps is gaining traction. We can support those green-minded entrepreneurs by choosing their products over artificial soaps.
EcoRoots is a zero-waste product, and if you order online, you get it in plastic-free packaging.
If lavender is not your thing, the good news is that this organic soap bar comes in six more fragrances — patchouli, peppermint, tangerine lavender, lemongrass, grapefruit calendula, and spearmint sage.
The way I use it is to create rich lather in my hands and use it to wash. No need to rub the bar directly against your skin. I discovered that this method is much better for sensitive skin. I also fell in love with the EcoRoots soap-saving bag made from sustainable sisal. From time to time, I place the soap in the bag and use it to exfoliate. Keep it dry and it will last much longer too!
The secret is in goat milk, which has a similar pH to human skin. As a result, the Beekman 1802 helps balance the pH level of your skin while getting rid of surface bacteria.
What is more, goat milk is rich in lactic acid, which is a natural exfoliant that keeps the pore open for healthy skin without blemishes.
On the backside of a recyclable paper wrap, you can see that only natural and harmless ingredients, like sea salt, were used with several stamps certifying that the soap is paraben and sulfate-free, and made in the USA. Finally, the Leaping Bunny stamp certifies that this is a cruelty-free product.
No goats are harmed during the production of this soap.
If you forget to apply fragrance in the morning, no worries. These soaps have such intensive fragrances that someone in your office will compliment you on the smell of the soap alone.
Cold-pressed ingredients, such as the extra virgin olive oil and unrefined avocado oil create a tich foamy lather that cleanses your lin without dryness. This makes it ideal for people with dry skin — that’s me.
The Crate 61 set is a perfect eco-friendly gift because the soaps are made of entirely vegan and cruelty-free ingredients, and packed in a biodegradable paperboard box.
These soaps are tested by dermatologists to retain natural skin moisture, but more importantly, I tested them myself as well. As someone with dry skin, I often have a problem with redness and dry spots after taking a shower using regular soap.
This has never happened to me with Tom’s of Maine products.
It may not come in a range of scents, but this organic soap uses the mild natural coconut fragrance which is paraben-free. Actually, this soap is great for people with scent and fragrance intolerance. This scent is not intrusive at all and doesn’t stick around once out of the shower.
Tom’s of Maine is a Certified B Corp company that donates 10% of its profits to local charities for health, education, and the environment.
But don’t let someone’s design vision avert you from this beautiful organic soap bar. Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Bar Soap is made with the purest certified organic oils that go smooth on your skin. No dyes, whiteners, or synthetic fragrances.
The fragrances used in this soap come from pure essential oils of lavender, almond, citrus, tea tree, rose, and eucalyptus. If you like your soap unscented, there’s a baby unscented version, too.
Dr. Bronner’s soap poses no threat to the environment thanks to biodegradable and vegan ingredients. None of their products or ingredients for that matter is tested on animals.
Now listen to this — you can use Dr. Bronner’s for your dishes and laundry, even your pets! Ideal for those of us who like to travel light.
So how does Godai achieve this? Using aromatic essential oils that turn every bath you take into a spa-like experience. The ingredients used are 100% natural, GMO- and cruelty-free, and vegan.
Since you get five bars in a set, Godai is a perfect gift for Christmas, Mother’s Day, or housewarming parties.
What I especially love about these soaps is that they provide a table that shows which element is best for which skin type and its associated benefits.
For example, the Element of Earth is best for exfoliating and cleaning all skin types, including sensitive and oily skin, and comes unscented.
These charcoal and beeswax-based organic soaps don’t contain SLS, parabens, or phthalates and are also gluten-free.
The result is an all-natural daily soap for normal to sensitive skin. The manufacturer takes great pride in its cold process soap-making method. This method allows for the highest efficacy of the essential oils used to make 360Feel.
Still, to make yours last longer, remember not to leave it in a puddle of water and keep it in a cool and dry place when not used. If you feel the bar getting soft, let it age and dry for a week before the next use.
The plant oils used for this soap have a high glycerin content to keep the skin smooth and soft. The manufacturer has vowed never to use SLS, HEDP or EDTA, detergents, or other harsh chemicals in this soap.
Australian Botanical Soaps is an Australian-made and owned brand that has never been tested on animals, while the milk comes from goats that are openly grazing on farmlands of South Eastern Victoria.
For anyone who has used Dove's fragrance-free soap for sensitive skin, this organic soap bar is an eye-opener. And the best thing is it is safe for the environment.
In this package, you get 6 citrus-scented soap bars including tangerine, bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, petitgrain, and wild orange.
As a result, every soap bar contains Vitamin C which helps smoothen the appearance of wrinkles, and Vitamin E which makes skin feel firmer and bouncier.
O Naturals bar soap lasted much longer than other soaps on this list thanks to the triple-milled process which breaks the soap into fine flakes before molding them again. This way you can get a much longer-lasting bar.
In each pack, you’ll find six exotically scented soap bars of passion fruit, sandalwood, mango, cinnamon, plumeria, and bamboo charcoal.
The gentle exfoliants found in these botanicals help gently wash away the dry skin to promote a more even complexion and bring out your skin’s natural texture.
Each bar is individually wrapped in recyclable paper and the whole set comes in a paperboard box.
My favorite? The Cinnamon Bar. It smells amazing even after a shower while the paprika powder it contains is the best exfoliant for my skin type.
A note though, for some of you the texture on these soaps may feel a bit rough. While I prefer it that way, you can solve this by making lather and applying it with your hands.
Making DIY soap is a fun pastime that some people have turned into a small business!
When I started making soap at home I quickly realized I can put whatever I want in there and still it’ll be safe for my family. Being able to play with different ingredients is actually my favorite part of making soap. You can change the scent by adding different combinations of essential oils.
For now, let’s make basic cold process soap. For this recipe, I’ll be using
These oils are all nourishing to your skin and all-natural.
NOTE: Always wear long sleeves, gloves, and safety goggles when working with lye.
In four separate dishes measure:
I’m purposely not using palm oil. Each year, palm oil plantations destroy millions of acres of forested land, creating billions of tons of carbon pollution and killing endangered wildlife. This makes the palm oil industry one of the worst environmental offenders on the planet.
Palm oil is one of the top 3 causes of deforestation in Indonesia, a country that supplies more than half of global demand.
So I’m doing my part by not choosing products containing palm oil or making sure that it’s harvested and produced sustainably.
Carefully add lye to distilled water. It’s safer to do it outside because lye fumes are caustic…like chopping the onions but 10 times worse.
Let the mixture cool to 80 °F (27 °C).
Set the heat to low and heat the olive oil and coconut oil to 80 °F.
Gently pour the water-lye mixture into the mixture of oils and stir carefully until the “trace” forms.
Add essential oils of your choice.
Pour into the plastic mold. I prefer those with removable plastic dividers, so I don’t have to cut the bars once they are set. All I do is remove the dividers and trim the bars, or use them as-is.
Cover the mold and leave it undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove the bars and leave them on cardboard to cure for at least 30 days before use.
Traditional soaps are still made with harsh antibacterial chemicals and synthetic fragrances that not only cause allergies but are also associated with hormonal disruptions and even cancer.
As a much safer alternative, I can sincerely recommend each of these 10 great natural soap bars. If you like DIY projects, you can make eco-friendly soap at home as well.
Whichever way you prefer, soap bars made with natural ingredients are much healthier for your skin and much safer for the environment.