I’m still looking for good soap-based shampoos. As I’ve tried to find alternatives—because none of CalBen’s liquid products meet the SolveEczema.org criteria anymore since they changed their formulations, and they used to have the best soap-based shampoo—I’ve found some pretty good foaming liquid soaps.
The task of reporting on my soap product experiences continues to be somewhat daunting. To really test a given soap, it’s necessary to try it several times, continuously and exclusively, over the course of at least 3 days. With only one wash, even the most drying soaps don’t necessarily cause the cracking, dryness, even peeling or hangnails that surface with regular use. See this SolveEczema post about washing hands without drying them for why.
So, I am going to use this post as my master list, editing it as I go rather than adding new posts on this topic.
I have done my best to determine that each of these products is a true soap, but as I recommend on the site, always, always check first. These are my subjective experiences and opinions. This earlier blog post on dry skin, eczema, and soap, may be helpful for evaluating products.
PLEASE NOTE THAT EACH OF THESE RECOMMENDATIONS IS FOR JUST THE SPECIFIC SOAP LISTED, OF THAT SPECIFIC “FLAVOR.” A RECOMMENDATION FOR ONE PRODUCT IN A LINE OF SOAPS DOES NOT IMPLY A RECOMMENDATION FOR OTHER SOAPS IN THE SAME LINE. SOMETIMES THE OTHER SOAPS IN THE SAME LINE HAVE PROBLEMATIC INGREDIENTS, FOR EXAMPLE. Also, not all of these soaps are necessarily okay for bathing infants because of other ingredients—I wanted to give grownups in the household some options, too. Always read ingredient labels for individual needs and sensitivities, and because manufacturers can change ingredients. If you order online, check the ingredients when you buy AND when you receive the item. In ordering products to try recently, I’ve received no fewer than 3 with only soap ingredients on their sites but detergent products as received.
I have by now tried so many liquid soap products, I am only going to list the ones I really, really like, or for one reason or other, think should be mentioned for problems (like dryness).
Please note that “moisturizing” soaps backfire, causing the skin to feel soft or moisturized at first but increasing the permeability of the skin and causing it to lose water over time. (Refer to “Lumsdaine’s Law” in previous blog posts and to how to wash hands frequently without drying out skin .) Too many soap makers make the mistake of adding oil to their products. I no longer recommend using bar soaps with added oils or glycerine, or “superfatted” soaps. I no longer recommend glycerine soaps at all. After trying many products, I also suggest caution with liquid soap products with added rosemary oil, usually as a preservative, they are often too oily/drying.
Aging soap, by putting a bar away on a shelf for 6 months to a year, could turn a drying soap into a great one. I have recently tried a bar of Tact, for example, that I put away for over a year, and it went from being unacceptably drying to absolutely luxurious and gentle to the skin. Liquid soaps can benefit some too, but they obviously won’t last as long. Look on liquid soap bottles for expirations, they aren’t likely to be good as long as bar soaps. (I don’t know if they get old, and I don’t worry for myself, but I always think you can’t be too careful with infants).
If a soap makes your hands feel oily or not clean after you wash, yet dries your skin over time, such a soap will probably never get better from aging. If a soap feels neutral when you pick it up, but your hands feel dryer after using it, that’s a soap that may be completely different if aged. Some soaps are completely different after six months, others take a year or two. One of my very favorite bar soaps I won’t use until I’ve aged it three years. (I’m not mentioning it below, because I don’t think the maker would like to be known for having to age their soap three years before using!)
You can always take solid bars, grate them, and turn them into soap gels with hot water. Many websites suggest ways to do this. Start with a good soap and do not add glycerin or oils, which, in my observation, reduce cleaning and backfire in terms of moisturizing.
COMMISSION DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Links that don’t go to Amazon, don’t earn a commission.
I feel I should be very clear that typical earnings are less than $10/month. Although it always helps, it’s not what most people imagine, and does not even cover web expenses. When a major soap producer changed its formulation recently (2022), I spent hundreds of dollars to try to find good alternatives, most of which aren’t even worth mentioning. The reality is that I’ve never even been able to use easy mainstream advertising tools that would have earned much better commissions, because they would advertise things that don’t meet the SolveEczema criteria and could even be dangerous to site users. Some of the below links won’t even work, but are left to show the product. So, please use the links, it helps, but no, they are not a major source of income.
Lastly, I have purchased and used all of the above products myself, although I haven’t used all of them recently. Product makers change ingredients—check before buying to be sure they are consistent with SolveEczema.org strategies.
I do not endorse nor have I accepted any payment to mention or represent products. I list product ideas for convenience, since people ask— and if I don’t, I am swamped with requests for specific product recommendations.
COMMISSION DISCLOSURE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Links that don’t go to Amazon, don’t earn a commission.
I need to let SolveEczema site users know that a representative of Cal Ben Pure Soap Company has told me they are switching to a different formula for their SHAMPOO and DISH-GLOW LIQUID. THESE WILL NO LONGER BE SOAP-BASED AS DEFINED ON SOLVEECZEMA.ORG, BUT WILL BE DETERGENT PRODUCTS PER THE SOLVEECZEMA.ORG DEFINITION.
According to their representative, their supplier has ceased production and they can no longer get the previous formulations. Their liquid laundry will be changing, too, but I already did not recommend it as meeting SolveEczema site criteria.
Cal Ben’s soap-based shampoo was the best soap-based shampoo on the market, hands down. The Dish-Glow concentrate which was such a fantastic all-around soap-based washing product. Both will truly be missed around our household.
New ingredients (which no longer meet the SolveEczema site criteria) will be:
Five Star Shampoo (Triple Concentrate)Water, Fatty alcohol (C12-14) ether sulfate, sodium salt, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Decyl glucoside, Sodium chloride, Fragrances, Methylisothiazolinone, Red #40, Yellow #5, Blue #1.
I’m very happy to report that Dr. Bronner’s released a new non-detergent toothpaste almost a year ago today. I’m also happy to report that the toothpaste has been a hit in our home. It’s made of 70% organic ingredients yet fairly economical compared to the other non-detergent toothpastes we use. The news release contains a list of all the ingredients in the three flavors of Peppermint, Cinnamon, and Anise:
I’m always happy to see good non-detergent options in categories like toothpaste, shampoo, and dishwasher powder, where the commercial choices (or really good, competitive products) are fairly limited.
Always check ingredients first, manufacturers change product ingredients all the time. A small % of Amazon purchases linked through here goes to SolveEczema if purchased through the link, on the order of $15/month).
To save money or time, do it yourself! There are many online recipes for laundry powder and gel using bar soaps, and various amounts of borax, washing soda, and baking soda.
Here are the pre-packaged products I found (some of the photos are of older version of packaging, but all the links are up to date as of 9/30/2022).
Pure Soap Flake Company Laundry powder, soap flakes, soap bars
Pure Soap Flake Company http://puresoapflakes.com/ They have an unscented laundry powder which is just simple soap, baking soda, borax and washing soda. They also produce a laundry power without borax, and one with just plain soap flakes. I have personally found the plain soap flakes plus washing soda get the best results in my machine, but I have very soft water. Their laundry products benefit from first being dissolved in hot water.
Given the ingredients, it might also make a good laundry booster when combined with a liquid soap or soap flakes, especially for people with hard water. (Always check the ingredients when ordering, their products have changed over the years, and they make other products that look similar that do have detergents in them.)
Dr. Bronner’s 32-oz Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild liquid on Amazon
For many people, the only easy soap to access is Dr. Bronners. Unscented Baby Mild as probably the best place to start. Combine with baking soda, borax, and/or washing soda for better efficacy in laundry.
Cal Ben Seafoam Laundry Soap More complicated list of ingredients than most of these, plus sprayed with citrus oil, but it’s essentially soap-based. I have used this product successfully. [Update 2022: After skin problems for everyone in the household, we discovered that CalBen had switched many of their product ingredients. The Dish Glow and Shampoo, long staples in our household, no longer meet the site criteria, which is truly sad since they had, hands down, made the best soap-based shampoo on the market. I am still trying to assess the situation with other products like the laundry powder. Stay tuned for further updates.]
Zum Clean Laundry Soap (the product now has updated packaging)
Zum Clean Laundry Soap 64-oz Sweet Orange on Amazon http://www.indigowild.com/category/natural-home-cleaning/
Liquid laundry soap, various fragrances. No unscented, although I have seen them make a run of unscented for customers wanting to buy a lot, then they sell the rest (it’s been awhile though). Zum has been around a long time and has stayed an entirely soap liquid laundry product. I recently looked on their site (2022) and found they are now making a powdered laundry soap product
Softly Pure Soap Flakes (Australia and New Zealand) formerly Lux Flakes In 15kg and 1kg boxes
Always double check ingredients before buying, but this appears to just be just soap flakes, formerly Lux Soap Flakes. Pure soap flakes may work better if combined with baking soda, washing soda, and/or borax, per recipes on the web. In my experience, having a water softener is more important than laundry conditioners, because soap works better in soft water than detergents do.
Savon de Marseille Soap Flakes Marius Fabre Marseille soap flakes on Amazon
Traditional soap flakes. Can be combined with washing soda and borax, especially in hard water. This is a long-standing company that makes other true soap products. Their liquid soaps use minimal ingredients and pure olive oil, and are also an option combined with washing soda and borax.
Pure Soapworks Liquid Laundry Soap or Laundry Powder (Canada & USA) http://www.puresoapworks.com/specialtysoaps.htm
This company seems to carry a full line of soap products, both powdered and liquid laundry soap. (The powdered appears to be part tallow soap, so not vegetarian. The liquid appears to be all plant-based soap.)
A lard-based soap flake product, so, not vegetarian. This appears not to have any dyes or unnecessary ingredients. This company also sells a soap-based stain remover stick and bar soaps. They seem to understand the difference between soap and detergent per the site.
There’s a saying about the weather in many places, if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes.
Something similar might be said of real soap, except we’re talking a time scale more akin to aging wine.
Fine soap may need aging
Many soapmakers discuss the need for aging soap. How much time it needs depends on the ingredients, the process to make it, and to a large extent, the opinion of the soapmaker. I’ve read opinions that newly made soap should sit anywhere from 48 hours to several weeks to months. Real Aleppo soap*, a type of soap thought to have been made in Aleppo, Syria, for thousands of years, is reputedly aged for six months to a year before it is sold.
While I find many soaps are drying because of a common practice of adding too many moisturizing ingredients on the erroneous belief that more moisturizing ingredients make the soap more moisturizing to the skin (see the SolveEczema view on dry skin), other soaps that may be too drying just after production are fine and lovely after sitting for a few months. The aging process is said to reduce alkalinity and water content (for bar soap).
I have so benefitted from letting soap sit before I use it, I now just keep a stock handy and try never to use anything brand new. So many times now when I have experimented with a bar or a liquid soap and found it too drying, I find if I simply put it away for 6 months, it’s usually different, sometimes a completely different product, when I try it again. I had an $8 bar of Savon Extra Pur Orange that I found unacceptably drying, but didn’t want to give away because I had paid so much for it. It sat on the shelf for a year before I used it, and when I did then, it was a revelation, one of the loveliest soaps I had ever tried. I find this over and over again, even with Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap, which many people use to implement SolveEczema.org, but I find unacceptably drying when new.
Some soaps I never have to let sit. Sappo Hill is consistently one of the best soaps I have ever used. Maybe they let it sit before selling it, maybe they just really know soapmaking, I don’t know. Sometimes all the sitting in the world doesn’t fix a soap; I just got up and tried one I’ve been keeping around for two years and no luck.
Anyway, I just wanted to pass along that tip: if a real bar soap seems drying at first, put it on a shelf for six months to a year like the soapmakers of Aleppo do. I think they’re on to something there.
Aleppo soap, Syria Photo by Bernard Gagnon, from Wikimedia Commons
*I’ve read there are now many pretenders, as Aleppo soap is a luxury item that doesn’t yet enjoy the kind of place “brand” protection of products like champagne. Link. Link2. Having tried to find the real stuff myself, I’d appreciate if there were an official designation!
Well, add stage makeup to another class of products that appears to frequently have detergents in them, sometimes pretty strong detergents like SLS. Wow, I was a theater buff as a teenager and remember the thick oily makeup and the greasy cold creams necessary to remove it. Things must have changed. I’m guessing detergents help the makeup go on easier and wash off with less pain and … grease (elbow and otherwise).
I was handed a container of stage makeup recently that was supposed to be hypoallergenic. SLS was the second or third detergent on the list! I don’t even know what came after. No wonder Brad Pitt, who I’ve read has eczema, had so many problems finding makeup that didn’t bother his skin when he was filming The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. (I wonder if that has anything to do with why he plans to retire from acting? I hope not! It would be such a waste and so totally unnecessary.) Given the odds, it’s also possible one or more of his kids has some eczema, dry skin, asthma, or allergies. (I did try to find a contact address to send a link to SolveEczema, but Pitt is famously private and anyone online these days gets so much spam, it seemed a fool’s errand.) Note from the universe to Brad: Switch to true soaps at home and use only makeup that contains no detergents!
Photo attribution: Thomas Peter Schulzen
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