This Perfume Makes Me Swoon! Ack, Ack, Ack…

The box of new soaps arrived yesterday from Drugstore.com. I sat on the living room floor and opened all the little brightly color packages – I couldn’t wait to try them. I must have washed my hands twenty times last night just to get an initial feel for some of these products.

After trying about half of them, I would say I got less of a FEEL than a SMELL Pee Yew!! Ack, ack, ack…

I’m not especially sensitive to fragrances in washing products, but this is over the top! I mean, if I wanted to smell this strongly of something, I’d wash with a no-scent shampoo and soap and use a good perfume. How could anything compete with this? My husband made me wrap some of the bars in plastic and air out the room!

A lot of people are sensitive to fragrances in washing products. Fragrances can cause allergies including contact allergies. Is all this really necessary?

For example, one of the bars I liked is “Johnson’s Baby Bar.” On the cover it says, “New and Improved! Better Fragrance Added Moisturizer”

If this is a better fragrance, I’d hate to smell the old one! It’s not so much that it’s so offensive as that it’s just too, too much. Especially in a bar for babies. I wish they would come out with an unscented version, it’s a great basic non-drying bar soap that strikes a pretty good balance between moisturizing and leaving the skin feeling clean.*

The ingredients of Johnson’s Baby Bar are pretty simple: Sodium tallowate, water, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate, glycerin, titanium dioxide, fragrance, pentasodium pentetate, tetrasodium etidronate.

Sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, and sodium palm kernelate are all soaps. Glycerin is a natural byproduct of soapmaking that moisturizers, this bar has added glycerin. Titanium dioxide – I wish everyone didn’t feel like they had to add titanium dioxide, I think it’s just for making the soap look white – but it is used in a lot of sunscreens and is supposedly not absorbed. The last two ingredients, I believe, are water softening agents to help keep the soap from binding with minerals and forming scum. They should help with rinsing. But that fragrance!…

Probably my favorite of the ones I tried last night is pHisoderm pH skin cleansing bar (unscented). It’s great for leaving the skin feeling pretty soft and normal, not too dry, not oily. I’m not sure I’d want to use this for my hands if I was going to put in my contact lenses, but otherwise it’s a pretty good, unscented basic non-drying soap bar. I still have to see how it does for the washing test, because there it has to do a good job removing detergents on the skin and rinsing clean, but I will report back as soon as I find out.

The ingredients of pHisoderm skin cleansing bar (unscented) are: sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, petrolatum, lanolin, titanium dioxide, pentasodium pentetate, tetrasodium etidronate. May also contain sodium palm kernelate. So that’s soap, water, glycerin, petrolatum and lanolin (both of which are in Aquaphor), titanium dioxide, and water softeners/rinsing agents. No fragrance or masking fragrance. The bar smells quite neutral and has a nice feel to it.

For people who would prefer vegetable-based products only, my old favorite is still Clearly Natural unscented glycerin soap. In my own experience, it is less drying than the usual clear bar made from vegetable soap.

Last night I also tried a bar called the healing garden organics wild honey soap. It has a fairly strong fragrance, just a warning. The printing on the label is microscopic, but it appears to say that 70% of the ingredients are organic, and it is all vegetable-based. When I tried it, it left what felt like a heavy moisturizing residue on my hands. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on what people are looking for. It seemed to take several washings with other soaps to remove the residue. Again, could be good, could be bad, depending on what you want.

The ingredients of the healing garden organics wild honey soap are: sodium palmate (organic), sodium palmate (presumably nonorganic), water, sodium cocoate (organic), glycerin, sodium palm kernelate, fragrance, shea butter, honey, pentasodium pentetate, tetrasodium etidronate, sodium chloride, tetrasodium EDTA. That is, soaps, glycerin, fragrance, shea butter, honey, and water softening/rinsing agents. I actually tried this bar because it is an organic vegetable-based product with moisturizers and rinsing agents, but it sure didn’t feel like it rinsed all that well.

Sometimes when makers try to make moisturizing products, the ingredients end up leaving the skin feeling less than clean. It’s a tough balance. Sometimes added oils don’t stop a soap product from being drying so much as they make the washed skin feel both dry and oily. Ick. I found that to be the case with a few vegetable-based soaps with added oils.

I know I’ve been kind of hard on Dr. Bronner’s products, because the ones I’ve used have been too drying for me, but I found one nice surprise: Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Unscented Baby-Mild Pure-Castile Soap. It turned out to be not so bad. I wouldn’t call it moisturizing, but I didn’t find it any more drying than, say, Ivory bar soap. For someone looking for an all vegetable, organic soap, it’s better than I expected.

Finally, the soap I have been using in the shower most recently is South of France French Milled Ultra Moisturizing Shea Butter Soap. It is traditional soap made with 100% vegetable oils, palm, olive, and/or coconut oil, shea butter, mineral pigment or vegetable color, natural fragrance and/or essential oils. Interesting that they chose to avoid using chemical names for soap, like sodium palmate or sodium cocoate, but maybe there is a valid distinction when a traditional soap is made without removing the natural glycerin byproduct of saponification.  At any rate, the fragrance is very pleasant and not overbearing. South of France also has an unscented glycerin soap that I have not tried. My one big beef with this soap (no irony intended there) is that it rinses less well than the old unscented Dove and leaves more residue in the shower even though we have soft water. On the plus side, it lasts forever – I think that comes from french milling.

I believe South of France and Clearly Natural both make liquid hand soaps as well, but I have not tried them. (Note: I just saw Clearly Natural’s liquid “soap” with iodine, and it has sodium laureth sulfate in it, which I would not recommend using. So, as always, check ingredients before buying, especially with liquid products.)

In short, I can’t say yet if I have found a good substitute for the old unscented Dove for the washing test (see http://www.solveeczema.org for details), especially for someone who doesn’t have soft water and who might have allergies to other ingredients especially fragrances, but I can say the above are all true soap products that should at least not cause the detergent-reactive eczema. At the very least, grown ups have a greater choice of what to use on their own skin, without causing baby to react.

*After using Johnson’s Baby Bar several times now, I should report that it causes my hands to itch (mildly, but distinctly). Since I have used without problems many other products with the same ingredients except for the specific fragrance, I would strongly suspect the fragrance. I would remind everyone again, always be aware of other sensitivities. When in doubt, leave it out. There are lots of products out there!

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