Ingredients in Commercial Soaps (The Scary Reality)

Saturday, 12 March 2022  |  Admin

Commercial soap manufacturers have a dirty little secret: their products are loaded with chemicals that can harm your skin. In this blog post, we will take a look at some of the most harmful ingredients found in commercial bar soaps, and why its better to use natural soap bars made using natural ingredients.

soap barsFoaming agents

The first ingredient we will look at is sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). This chemical is used in soap to create a foamy lather. However, it can also strip your skin of its natural oils, causing dryness, irritation, and inflammation. In addition, SLES is a known skin irritant and can cause contact dermatitis.

Another foaming agent found in commercial soap is cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB). This ingredient is derived from coconut oil, but it can actually cause irritation and dryness. In fact, CAPB has been shown to be more irritating to the skin than SLES.

Soap fragrances

Commercial soap often contains synthetic fragrances, which can cause allergic reactions, headaches, and dizziness. In addition, some fragrances contain phthalates, which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have been linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity.

Natural soaps tend to use essential oils, however these render the product more expensive so they are not used by commercial soap makers. Synthetic fragrance oils are not only cheaper, but they can also be more potent, which is why they are often used in commercial soap.


Another harmful ingredient found in commercial soap is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). This chemical is a surfactant, meaning it causes bubbles to form. SLS can be very harsh on the skin and can cause irritation, redness, and dryness. In addition, SLS is a known eye irritant and can cause corneal damage.

soap for childrenPreservatives

Commercial soap often contains synthetic preservatives, such as parabens, which can disrupt hormone function and have been linked to cancer. In addition, many commercial soaps contain formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, which are known carcinogens.

Sodium Palm Kernelate

This ingredient is a type of soap derived from palm kernel oil. However, it can contain high levels of carcinogenic contaminants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and furans.

Tetrasodium EDTA

Tetrasodium EDTA is a chemical used in soap to extend its shelf life. It also helps to prevent soap scum.

Stearic Acid

Stearic acid is an ingredient that is derived from animal fat. However, it can be contaminated with carcinogenic impurities, and it can cause skin irritation and dryness. Its the hardener in commercial soaps .

facial cleansing soapSodium Hydroxide (lye)

Sodium hydroxide is a caustic soda that is used in making soap. It can cause skin irritation, dryness, and even chemical burns.

Sodium stearate

 This ingredient is a type of soap derived from stearic acid, which is found in animal fat. It can cause skin irritation and contact dermatitis.


Many commercial soaps contain synthetic colourants, which can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. In addition, some colourants may be derived from petroleum products, which can be toxic. Titanium dioxide is a synthetic colorant that is often used in commercial soap.

In comparison handmade soap will often include natural colorants like seeds and spices.

Palm oil

Commercial soap often contains palm oil, which is a cheap, environmentally-destructive ingredient. In addition, palm oil is often produced in ways that exploit and abuse workers. Palm oil is the most common ingredient in many products we use, from food and cosmetics to cleaning agents. It has been responsible for destroying wildlife habitats all over Earth - especially orangutans who are now on the countdown clock to extinction because their primary habitat was destroyed by palm plantation expansion during the 20th century

The cultivation and harvesting process called “palm-oil production” leads not only to environmental pollution but also poses a major threat against the existence of different animal species including angsire organisms that depend entirely upon this type tree fruit.

Using vegetable oils like olive oil, shea butter, sunflower oil, castor oil or other specialty oils like they do in a natural soap bar leads to a mild soap which is much kind on the skin than commercial soap ingredients. A handmade organic soap will moisturize skin and heal as well as cleanse. With the additional of a specific essential oil in handmade natural soap like grapeseed oil they will also do other talks.


Commercial soap often contains polyethylene glycols (PEGs), which are petroleum-based compounds that can be contaminated with carcinogenic impurities. PEGs can also cause skin irritation and dryness.

PEGs work by breaking down the natural oils in your skin, which can lead to a loss of moisture and an increase in wrinkles.

Synthetic detergents made from synthetic ingredients produces soap that will never offer the same benefits of handcrafted soap. The only real benefit is price. Natural handmade soaps may seem dear when compared to synthetic detergent, but the health benefits and environmental benefits that come with handmade natural soaps way outweigh the price tag.

Cocamide MEA

Cocamide MEA is an ingredient that is derived from coconut oil. However, it can be contaminated with carcinogenic impurities, and it can cause skin irritation and dryness.


Triclosan is a synthetic antimicrobial chemical that is often used in commercial soap. However, triclosan can disrupt hormone function, and it has been linked to cancer.

In addition, triclosan is a known skin irritant and can cause contact dermatitis.

Triclosan is also an environmental pollutant, and it contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Petrol by-products

Commercial soap often contains petrol-based ingredients, which can be contaminated with carcinogenic impurities. In addition, petrol by-products can cause skin irritation and dryness.

Commercial soap often contains sodium chloride or sodium salt, which is a harsh chemical that can cause skin irritation and dryness. The chemical reaction of sodium chloride with other ingredients in soap can also produce carcinogenic compounds. 

These are all things that when you think about it, you really don't want to put on your bodies biggest organ, your skin. Its essential when it come to soaps for children to use ones without any of the above in. We don't know the long term affects of using these ingredients are. When it comes to soaps for your face, you really want moisturing soap made with the finest ingredients, not soap made from petrol!

So, what’s the solution?

The best way to avoid these harmful ingredients is to use natural soap bars, handmade by artisans in small batches using the finest ingredients. We've looked at the best ingredients for soap making here, so next time you want a bar of soap, check the ingredient list against this guide. On top of this most handmade soap will come in plastic free, sustainable packaging!

If you don’t have time to make your own soap, there are a few good commercial brands that use natural ingredients. Our favourites are Irish handmade brands Janni Bars and Three Hills Soap.


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