Monthly Archive for May, 2007

This Perfume Makes Me Swoon! Ack, Ack, Ack…

The box of new soaps arrived yesterday from I sat on the living room floor and opened all the little brightly color packages – I couldn’t wait to try them. I must have washed my hands twenty times last night just to get an initial feel for some of these products.

After trying about half of them, I would say I got less of a FEEL than a SMELL Pee Yew!! Ack, ack, ack…

I’m not especially sensitive to fragrances in washing products, but this is over the top! I mean, if I wanted to smell this strongly of something, I’d wash with a no-scent shampoo and soap and use a good perfume. How could anything compete with this? My husband made me wrap some of the bars in plastic and air out the room!

A lot of people are sensitive to fragrances in washing products. Fragrances can cause allergies including contact allergies. Is all this really necessary?

For example, one of the bars I liked is “Johnson’s Baby Bar.” On the cover it says, “New and Improved! Better Fragrance Added Moisturizer”

If this is a better fragrance, I’d hate to smell the old one! It’s not so much that it’s so offensive as that it’s just too, too much. Especially in a bar for babies. I wish they would come out with an unscented version, it’s a great basic non-drying bar soap that strikes a pretty good balance between moisturizing and leaving the skin feeling clean.*

The ingredients of Johnson’s Baby Bar are pretty simple: Sodium tallowate, water, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate, glycerin, titanium dioxide, fragrance, pentasodium pentetate, tetrasodium etidronate.

Sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, and sodium palm kernelate are all soaps. Glycerin is a natural byproduct of soapmaking that moisturizers, this bar has added glycerin. Titanium dioxide – I wish everyone didn’t feel like they had to add titanium dioxide, I think it’s just for making the soap look white – but it is used in a lot of sunscreens and is supposedly not absorbed. The last two ingredients, I believe, are water softening agents to help keep the soap from binding with minerals and forming scum. They should help with rinsing. But that fragrance!…

Probably my favorite of the ones I tried last night is pHisoderm pH skin cleansing bar (unscented). It’s great for leaving the skin feeling pretty soft and normal, not too dry, not oily. I’m not sure I’d want to use this for my hands if I was going to put in my contact lenses, but otherwise it’s a pretty good, unscented basic non-drying soap bar. I still have to see how it does for the washing test, because there it has to do a good job removing detergents on the skin and rinsing clean, but I will report back as soon as I find out.

The ingredients of pHisoderm skin cleansing bar (unscented) are: sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, water, glycerin, petrolatum, lanolin, titanium dioxide, pentasodium pentetate, tetrasodium etidronate. May also contain sodium palm kernelate. So that’s soap, water, glycerin, petrolatum and lanolin (both of which are in Aquaphor), titanium dioxide, and water softeners/rinsing agents. No fragrance or masking fragrance. The bar smells quite neutral and has a nice feel to it.

For people who would prefer vegetable-based products only, my old favorite is still Clearly Natural unscented glycerin soap. In my own experience, it is less drying than the usual clear bar made from vegetable soap.

Last night I also tried a bar called the healing garden organics wild honey soap. It has a fairly strong fragrance, just a warning. The printing on the label is microscopic, but it appears to say that 70% of the ingredients are organic, and it is all vegetable-based. When I tried it, it left what felt like a heavy moisturizing residue on my hands. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on what people are looking for. It seemed to take several washings with other soaps to remove the residue. Again, could be good, could be bad, depending on what you want.

The ingredients of the healing garden organics wild honey soap are: sodium palmate (organic), sodium palmate (presumably nonorganic), water, sodium cocoate (organic), glycerin, sodium palm kernelate, fragrance, shea butter, honey, pentasodium pentetate, tetrasodium etidronate, sodium chloride, tetrasodium EDTA. That is, soaps, glycerin, fragrance, shea butter, honey, and water softening/rinsing agents. I actually tried this bar because it is an organic vegetable-based product with moisturizers and rinsing agents, but it sure didn’t feel like it rinsed all that well.

Sometimes when makers try to make moisturizing products, the ingredients end up leaving the skin feeling less than clean. It’s a tough balance. Sometimes added oils don’t stop a soap product from being drying so much as they make the washed skin feel both dry and oily. Ick. I found that to be the case with a few vegetable-based soaps with added oils.

I know I’ve been kind of hard on Dr. Bronner’s products, because the ones I’ve used have been too drying for me, but I found one nice surprise: Dr. Bronner’s All-One Hemp Unscented Baby-Mild Pure-Castile Soap. It turned out to be not so bad. I wouldn’t call it moisturizing, but I didn’t find it any more drying than, say, Ivory bar soap. For someone looking for an all vegetable, organic soap, it’s better than I expected.

Finally, the soap I have been using in the shower most recently is South of France French Milled Ultra Moisturizing Shea Butter Soap. It is traditional soap made with 100% vegetable oils, palm, olive, and/or coconut oil, shea butter, mineral pigment or vegetable color, natural fragrance and/or essential oils. Interesting that they chose to avoid using chemical names for soap, like sodium palmate or sodium cocoate, but maybe there is a valid distinction when a traditional soap is made without removing the natural glycerin byproduct of saponification.  At any rate, the fragrance is very pleasant and not overbearing. South of France also has an unscented glycerin soap that I have not tried. My one big beef with this soap (no irony intended there) is that it rinses less well than the old unscented Dove and leaves more residue in the shower even though we have soft water. On the plus side, it lasts forever – I think that comes from french milling.

I believe South of France and Clearly Natural both make liquid hand soaps as well, but I have not tried them. (Note: I just saw Clearly Natural’s liquid “soap” with iodine, and it has sodium laureth sulfate in it, which I would not recommend using. So, as always, check ingredients before buying, especially with liquid products.)

In short, I can’t say yet if I have found a good substitute for the old unscented Dove for the washing test (see for details), especially for someone who doesn’t have soft water and who might have allergies to other ingredients especially fragrances, but I can say the above are all true soap products that should at least not cause the detergent-reactive eczema. At the very least, grown ups have a greater choice of what to use on their own skin, without causing baby to react.

*After using Johnson’s Baby Bar several times now, I should report that it causes my hands to itch (mildly, but distinctly). Since I have used without problems many other products with the same ingredients except for the specific fragrance, I would strongly suspect the fragrance. I would remind everyone again, always be aware of other sensitivities. When in doubt, leave it out. There are lots of products out there!

Alternatives to Unscented Dove

Now that Unscented Dove has changed its surfactant formula, I can no longer recommend it for the washing test. The new formula may be fine, but I cannot make further recommendations until I know. I will update my web site as soon as I can. (I wish it were easier to update the site!!)

I looked at the ingredients lists of nearly every bar soap on Fortunately, lists ingredients for most products and is easy to search. They have a sale right now with large discounts on most of the bar soaps. At any rate, I found many pure soap products, I will see which ones are non-drying, and post some opinions on those as soon as I can.

The products I looked at fell mainly into a few categories:
1) True soap(s), fatty acids, glycerin, water softening agents, non-surfactant additives (like colors, fragrances).
2) True soaps(s), glycerin (whether added or from the soap-making processing), non-surfactant additives (like colors, fragrances, oils).
3) Mild detergent-true soap combinations nearly identical to the old unscented Dove formula, with fatty acids, water softeners, non-surfactant additives like fragrances and color.
4) Detergents, non-surfactant additives.

I have a lot of hope for products in categories 1 and 3. The water softening agents in particular are a great help for rinsing. So not only is the soap safe for kids with detergent-reactive eczema, but these products tend to rinse well from skin and shower walls (reducing mold that tends to grow on residues). I have found some good products in category 2, and I am presently using one, but it leaves quite a film in the shower even though I have soft water.

Surfactant composition varied within the same brand. One “flavor” of a given brand might be all soap, another all detergent. I found I had to be very careful to get EXACTLY the right “flavor”, some of the products within the same brand looked nearly identical per packaging, but had vastly different ingredients. In some cases, only one of the “flavors” would be okay for those with detergent-reactive eczema. Browser Compatibility

I have heard from several readers who had difficulty viewing the site with Internet Explorer. Most importantly, they can’t view the full site; IE only shows half of The Solutions page.

The Solutions page has a list of products that work. The list can be found near the end of the page. If you can’t view it with IE, Firefox works fine. You can get a free copy of the Firefox browser on the Mozilla site.

I have heard from many people asking for a list of products. I assumed they had contacted me after reading an article, so I referred them to, thinking they hadn’t seen the web site. I wonder now how many of them had IE and couldn’t VIEW the site.

Since I can’t figure out how to put a permanent link to the site on this page, for anyone who found the blog first, the site URL is .

Unscented Dove Discontinued? … Continued

I spoke with a telephone representative at Dove today. Apparently, both unscented Dove and unscented Dove for Sensitive Skin have technically been discontinued.

Dove has replaced both with a bar called unscented Dove Sensitive Skin. The new bar has a different ingredients list than either of the two products it is replacing:

Ingredients of the new unscented Dove for Sensitive Skin, as of January 2007:
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate
Stearic Acid
Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate
Lauric Acid
Sodium Isethionate
Sodium Stearate
Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Pam Kernelate
Sodium Chloride
Tetrasodium EDTA
Tetrasodium Etidronate
Titanium Dioxide

As I have noted on my site, unscented Dove was a combination of soap and mild detergent. (For more about this, please see the web site, www., The Solutions page, search on the term “Dove”.)

The following are chemical names for true soaps:
Sodium Tallowate – soap from tallow
Sodium Cocoate – soap from coconut oil
Sodium Palmitate – soap from palm kernel oil
Sodium Stearate

Soap has gotten kind of a bad rap in some circles since the introduction of detergents. Some of it was deserved, as some soaps can be quite harsh. But so can some detergents. (This is all separate from the eczema issue as discussed on my site.) It’s unfortunate for people with eczema that all soaps were tarred with the same brush. But this is likely why products like Dove list “Sodium Tallowate” (tallow soap) and Sodium Cocoate (coconut oil soap) rather than just saying the product contains soaps.

The first ingredient listed for the old unscented Dove was Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, a mild detergent.

A good resource describing most of the ingredients in the old and new products can be found at this blog [link]. (There is a straightforward discussion of the purpose of various ingredients, but just remember the issue of eczema, detergents and membrane permeability is a different discussion.)

The first ingredient listed on the new unscented Dove Sensitive Skin bar — the product replacing both the old unscented Dove and unscented Dove for Sensitive Skin — is Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, a mild detergent that I believe is similar to Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate. The true soaps in the bar are essentially the same as in the previous products.

However, when I say “similar”, I do not know what that means from the standpoint of what it does to the hydration properties of the final product. I will have to watch and see what happens with this product before I decide how to best update the web site. I have bought the new product, and my only comment at the moment is that the old unscented Dove had, in my opinion, a nicer feel to it.

Some positive developments: The new product does not contain a masking fragrance as the old unscented Dove did. The old unscented Dove was so well-tolerated by people with eczema even with the masking fragrance, but it’s one less concern for anyone who doesn’t think the masking fragrance was necessary. The oils in the old unscented Dove for Sensitive Skin, including Sweet Almond Oil, are not in the new product. This is probably a good development for people concerned about nut oils. (I like Sweet Almond Oil in soaps, but my son is not allergic to nuts.)

So, in the meantime, if you are trying to locate a new soap product, I will try to put some reviews of my experiences with new products on this blog soon. Bottom line: if you are making the switch, find a non-drying true soap, it’s the safest if you are problem-solving the eczema. Products with the same surfactant and fatty acid profile as the old unscented Dove (the soap and mild detergent combination) are probably also fine, there are a few on the market, I believe. Just remember that the combination of ingredients is probably an important factor. I will try to post more about this soon.

Later post on this issue: No longer recommend Dove for the washing test.