Beware the Toxins in Your Steamy Shower

08 04 2016

A shower makes a great start or end to a day… But what if the soaps and conditioners we use in the shower are making us sick?

A shower makes a great start or end to a day. The hypnotic sound of the shower spray, along with the ritual of applying our favorite bath products, offer us a respite for waking up, winding down and doing some of our most productive thinking. But what if the soaps and conditioners we use in the shower are making us sick?

The unfortunate truth is that cosmetics are not well regulated for harmful chemicals in the U.S1. The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for making sure that cosmetics (like soaps, lotions and makeup) created and sold in the U.S. are safe for use, but it doesn’t review the vast majority of them, making our grooming routines riskier for our health than we may think.

In fact, with the exception of color additives and a few prohibited ingredients, cosmetics companies in the U.S. can add (and not disclose) any ingredient they choose to their products without government review or approval. Combine that with the fact that many chemicals are absorbed through the skin, and that higher temperatures and humidity may increase absorption,2 and you may think twice about the chemical-laden products lining the perimeters of your tub or shower.

But just how prominent are chemicals in our soaps, shampoos and conditioners?

• 57% of baby soaps contain dioxane, which research shows easily penetrates the skin and is listed on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer or birth defects. 1,4-dioxane is also listed as a “probable human carcinogen” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.3

• Ethanolamines are also common in soaps, shampoos, hair conditioners and shaving creams, and are shown to cause cancer and organ toxicity. In some cosmetics formulas, ethanolamines react with other ingredients to form a carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine, which is absorbed through the skin4

• “Fragrance” is often listed as an ingredient itself (if at all) on products’ lists of ingredients, despite the fact that most fragrances are a combination of chemicals, some of which can be harmful to our health. So seeing “fragrance” on an ingredient list can be a cover for unlisted and potentially harmful chemicals.5

Toxic chemical absorption into our bodies through our skin and via our food is so common, research found over 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies.6

There is good news, though: a recent study of female teens--the people most likely to use the most beauty products every day--found that chemical levels in the body from toxic cosmetics can drop significantly after only a few days of abandoning toxic products in place of safer ones.7

But how do you know if a product is safe? Fortunately there are several reputable non-profits staffed with passionate and knowledgeable scientists who are dedicated to helping us avoid concerning products and steering us toward brands that take toxins seriously.

Made Safe provides the most rigorous assessment of product safety available today. They make it easy to find products that are free of toxic chemicals, by testing and listing safe products and brands. True Botanicals is the world’s first Made Safe certified brand, and it is currently one of only 15 companies on Made Safe’s list of brands offering safe products.8

Based on the unfortunate state of cosmetics regulation, we suggest reading up on the ingredients you bring into your shower. Here are some places to start:

Skin Deep Database

You may also be interested in exploring our bath, body and hair products, all of which are free of harmful sodium lauryl sulfates and synthetic fragrances. Because we believe your time in the shower or tub should be relaxing and rejuvenating and good for your body and mind.