Making Sure that Soap Ingredients ‘Come Clean’

By Leah Lancione 

          Wikipedia says soap, “in chemistry, is a salt of a fatty acid. Soaps are mainly used as surfactants for washing, bathing, and cleaning, but they are also used in textile spinning and are important components of lubricants.” Yes, we know a bar of soap is used for cleaning our bodies. It’s in our showers and bath tubs and by our kitchen and bath sinks. It can be altered to be in liquid form or molded into a bar of varying shape, size, smell and color. 

          The online site Discovery Health found at asserts that “at a very basic level there is no real difference” between bar soap and liquid soap. All types of true soap are composed of the same essential components—alkali salts of fatty acids and detergent properties.” The site does reveal, however, that both have their separate advantages and disadvantages. Bar soap is often considered harsher than liquid soap because it can strip the skin of necessary moisture and damage surface cells. On the other hand, liquid soap often has added dyes and fragrances that can be harmful or irritating to skin. With that said, what are the ingredients that cleanse our skin and eliminate germs? 

          The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) discloses that there aren’t many “true” soaps on the market. The ones that are, have to be labeled “pure” and are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. While soaps were made from animal fats and wood ash in the past, “most body cleansers are actually synthetic detergent products.” “True” soap that is made to be moisturizing or deodorizing has to meet FDA requirements for a cosmetic and list all ingredients. If the soap is made with antibacterial, anti-acne or antiperspirant properties it is considered a drug and must also list all ingredients for consumers. 

          Soap is still made by combining fats and oils with an alkaline material to form an organic compound called a stearate. Other additives, like dye and fragrances, are combined to enhance the soap properties. So, the basic ingredients are: fats (plant oils or animal fats), alkalines (lye, sodium hydroxide or ammonium hydroxide and sodium carbonate), glycerin (a skin softener), antibacterial agents (usually triclocarban (an antibacterial and antifungal), pine oil or an ammonium compound, abrasives (e.g., calcite, feldspar, quartz or sand), preservatives and cosmetic additives, according to the website 

          The health website WebMD says the ingredient Triclosan, which is often added to soap (and other consumer products) to inhibit bacterial contamination, is being investigated by the FDA because though “it is not currently known to be hazardous to humans,” some studies on animals have demonstrated that it “alters hormone regulation.” Studies have also revealed that Triclosan may make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The FDA has been reviewing this ingredient and will present findings in 2012.

          So whether you choose to use a moisturizing soap like Dove or an antibacterial like Dial it’s important to check out the ingredients in that bar or body wash by visiting  Enter the name of the ingredient for a description and other important product safety information.

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