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By: Natalie Rios
Is washing your face with a bar of soap bad for your skin? We’ve got the answers.
For years, women relied on simple bars of soap to wash their faces, but with the arrival of liquid, foam, and cream cleansers came the idea that bars dry the skin and clog pores.
It turns out that some soaps got a bum rap. “In general, they’re not bad,” says Jennifer Reichel, M.D., director of Pacific Dermatology & Cosmetic Center in Seattle. “Some bar soaps can be very gentle and moisturizing and do not necessarily trap oils and chemicals.”
The soaps that deserve the negative attention are those that contain synthetic detergents or surfactants (like alkyl benzene sulfonate). “Synthetic detergents can be drying, which makes them a poor choice for many skin types,”says Angela L. Bowman Wales, president and CEO of Lillian Skincare, a manufacturer of organic skincare products.
But liquid cleansers can cause problems as well, according to Julia Hunter, M.D., founder of Skin Fitness Plus, a cosmetic spa in Los Angeles. Detergents (often sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate), preservatives (such as parabens), and antimicrobials (triclosan, for example) can cause inflammation and disrupt hormones. Instead, opt for soap with coconut oil, shea butter, glycerin, or olive oil. Although these emollients are often thought to cause breakouts, there is generally not enough in soaps to have such an effect. “Personally, I would choose emollients over inflammatory chemicals,” says Hunter.
Spa’s Favorite Soaps:
Arcona Berry Fruit Bar Cranberry and raspberry extracts neutralize free radicals. ($38)
Sisley Paris Soapless Facial Cleansing Bar Calendula and tropical resins remove excess sebum and tighten pores. ($65)
Suki Sensitive Cleansing Bar Organic shea butter and lemon grass extract moisturize and soften skin. ($11)
The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), along with certified organic personal care brands Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Intelligent Nutrients, and Organic Essence, today filed a complaint with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), requesting an investigation into the widespread and blatantly deceptive labeling practices of leading “Organic” personal care brands, in violation of USDA NOP regulations. The complaint, filed collectively on behalf of 50 million consumers of organic products, argues that products such as liquid soaps, body washes, facial cleansers, shampoos, conditioners, moisturizing lotions, lip balms, make-up and other cosmetic products produced by twelve different corporations have been advertised, labeled and marketed as “Organic” or “Organics” when, in fact, the products are not “Organic” as understood by reasonable consumers.
“Unfortunately, the hands-off regulatory approach by the USDA’s National Organic Program during the Bush years failed to protect consumers from deceptive labeling in the personal care marketplace,” said Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of the Organic Consumers Association. While the USDA enforces strict standards for the labeling of organic food, the NOP has not enforced the organic regulations in regards to personal care. “Given the increased resources and staffing at the National Organic Program under Obama, we’re optimistic that the situation will be rectified before too much more damage is done,” added Cummins.
“Consumers who pay a premium for high-end organic products expect the main cleansing and moisturizing ingredients of a product labeled ‘Organic’ to be made from certified organic agricultural material produced on organic farms, and not from petrochemicals or pesticide and herbicide-intensive conventional farming,” explains Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Intelligent Nutrients (and founder and previous owner of Aveda Corp).
The corporations named in the complaint are The Hain Celestial Group, Inc.; Kiss My Face Corporation; YSL Beaute, Inc. (”YSL”); Giovanni Cosmetics, Inc. (”Giovanni”); Cosway Company, Inc. (”Cosway”); Country Life, LLC (”Country Life”); Szep Elet LLC (makers of Ilike Organic Skin Care); Eminence Organic Skin Care, Inc.; Physicians’ Formula Holdings, Inc. (makers of Organic Wear); Surya Nature, Inc.; Organic Bath Company, Freeman Beauty Division of pH Beauty Labs, Inc. (makers of Freeman Goodstuff Organics).
David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, stated, “Yesterday we re-filed our lawsuit in federal court against culprit companies under the Lanham Act for false advertising. One way or another, the era of ripping off organic consumers in personal care will soon come to an end.”
Ellery West, founder and owner of Organic Essence adds, “The predatory marketing practices of companies that take advantage of consumer trust in the organic label are cheating not only organic consumers but also small certified companies like ourselves.”
On November 5, 2009, the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) formally recommended that the National Organic Program regulate personal care to ensure that any use of the word “organic” on a personal care product is backed up by third-party certification to USDA organic standards. Immediately following the recommendation, the OCA launched a consumer boycott of the major “Organic” cheater brands, and has produced a list of USDA certified organic brands that are true to their claims and are safe for organic consumers.