Many consumers all around the world have become more conscious of the products they put on their skin. We covered skintelligence at length in a blog post for our skin care ingredients that covered why consumers are focused on learning more about the ingredients that go into their favorite products. But ingredient-savvy consumers seldom stop at skin care, and since home care products often come just as close to our bodies as skin and personal care products do, we wanted to talk about how gentle home cleaning products, such as gentle dish soaps, are just as important to consumers as having a cleanser that won’t dry out their skin are.
Dish soaps, while effective for combating food particles and dirt left over on dishes, can be particularly harsh on people with sensitive hands or allergies to fragrances and other soap ingredients. Most dish soaps common to the home care industry contain ingredients like phosphates, fragrances, or dyes that can irritate or dry skin out. In some cases, the soaps will likely just make your skin feel dry, but for many people it can cause irritation and red patches, as well as triggering symptoms for different skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and even respiratory issues for those that suffer from allergies.
Many people suffer from allergic reactions to artificial dyes. These are the pigments in the dish soap that give it different colors. Most artificial dyes are made from chemical ingredients like petroleum, a product of crude oil that allows the dye to dissolve easily and mix with other ingredients found in the soap. While artificial dyes are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (and come with strict regulations in the EU) to be used in food and personal care, as well as home care products, there have been studies that link artificial dyes to a variety of health risks, one of which are rashes and skin irritation.
Some consumers are aware of these health risks, and the prevalence of information available on the internet means that consumers are more likely to research the ingredients in their foods and personal or home care products before they purchase. Some bloggers even dedicate their websites toward this type of education, teaching the importance of using products that are free from irritants like artificial dyes. In dish soap, this is especially true, as so many people suffer from dry skin that can be easily irritated on their hands—particularly in the winter.
Many companies are opting to create products that are free from dyes for this reason. Companies like Dawn have created a line of dish soaps that are free from artificial dyes that could cause irritation. Other companies, like Mrs. Meyers, have built the ethos of their brand upon the idea that products should be free from potentially harmful additives. These products are generally more popular among consumers that like to focus on their health, such as those that are more likely to buy organic produce over non-organic produce at the grocery store. Mrs. Meyers prides itself on transparency—something that is evident both in the packaging, as it is quite literally transparent, and in the branding of the product, which is evident by the fact that it labels its ingredients clearly on its website, as well as in the product description.
While artificial dyes can cause irritation, fragrances are often the culprit for most negative reactions to skin and body care products. Unsurprisingly, the same goes for home care products such as dish soaps and laundry detergents. Allergies to fragrances, which is otherwise called fragrance sensitivity, can culminate in a variety of symptoms from itchy, dry skin, a rash, headaches, sinus problems, or asthma.
For many, fragrance sensitivity is a reaction to artificial fragrances that contain ingredients like phthalates and benzene derivatives, as well as petroleum byproducts created through chemical processing. Many that are sensitive to natural fragrances might have a sensitivity to one fragrance over the other, as this can be a response to different allergies rather than a negative reaction to a certain chemical. For consumers that experience negative side effects from exposure to fragrances, fragrance-free dish soaps are often an easier solution than finding products with the right type of fragrance in them.
Surfactants, the active ingredients added into cleaning solutions to give them their ability to break down and get rid of dirt, are responsible for a lot of skin irritation related to synthetic ingredients that are used in dish soaps. The most common type of surfactant in products like dish soaps is called sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate. The ingredient is affordable and easy to use in abundance, making it an ideal additive to more affordable lines of soap products that will retail for low prices.
Surfactants are ingredients used in soaps that help the water and oil molecules in the soaps bind together to create the product (because oil and water has a hard time binding together on its own). Without surfactants, soaps would simply separate when left alone for too long. It works by weakening the molecules within both water and oil that prevent them from binding together which, surprise, can cause adverse effects on your skin because your skin also contains both oil and water.
Synthetic surfactants, for this reason, can be irritating when they come into contact with your skin. Many consumers that suffer from skin irritation associated with these ingredients are opting for products with naturally-derived ingredients. Natural surfactants are often more gentle because they’re derived from plant-based ingredients like coconut oil or sugars.
The downsides to eliminating these chemicals is that natural ingredients are not guaranteed to kill bacteria in the same ways that harsher chemicals are. Sulfates, which are the ingredients in soaps that help them to get a rich, foamy lather, are also associated with the harsh chemicals that cause skin irritation.