Tips for Buying Chemical Free Soaps And Shampoos

brain cancer children eyes hormones immunity nervous system nose pregnancy reproductive health self-care skin Jun 25, 2018

by editorial team and Sophia Ruan Gushée


Our kids watch our every move. They learn by example, by our actions. When we choose nontoxic products—like soaps and shampoo—they’re noticing, and developing values around health, wellness, and nontoxic (or toxic) purchasing decisions. These values and choices can influence your children's health and the health of your entire family.

Why choose safe options

Shampoos and soaps can contain different types of chemicals that may contribute to health effects. The following ingredients are commonly found in soaps and shampoos: DEP, 1,4 Dioxane, Glycols, Interts, synthetic colors, synthetic fragrance (including synthetic essential oils), Solvents (VOCs, surfactants/sulfates), and preservatives (formaldehyde, parabens, sodium benzoate). (1)

These categories of chemicals contain many individual chemicals, too many to list here.

Possible health effects from these chemicals include: (2)

  • cancer of the nose, throat, blood,
  • hormone disruption
  • eye, nose throat and skin irritation
  • menstrual cycle disruption
  • endocrine disruption
  • reproductive toxicity
  • immunotoxicity
  • neurotoxicity
  • hyperactivity in children
  • liver and kidney damage
  • dermatitis
  • low fertility in men
  • damage to developing fetus

Chemicals—like parabens—have been detected in nearly all people tested.

Nontoxic components in soap and shampoo

Chemicals that may be in soaps and shampoos may be: (3)

  • behavioral toxins
  • carcinogens (cancer-causing)
  • developmental toxins
  • endocrine disruptors
  • fire retardants
  • heavy metals
  • neurotoxins
  • high risk pesticides
  • reproductive toxins
  • toxic solvents
  • harmful VOCs

Look for chemical-free shampoos and soaps free of DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine), SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), SLES (sodium laureth sulfate). (4)

Ways to identify chemical-free soap and shampoo products

As consumers, we’re not able to see or know each ingredient used to make soap and shampoo products. Under the U.S. Consumer Protection Act, manufacturers are not required to list all ingredients of fragrances, personal care products, and other products on the market. As a result, it’s difficult for us to make nontoxic choices alone. Two resources that are helpful for identifying chemical-free soap and shampoo products are the Environmental Working Group ( and Made Safe (

The Environmental Working Group allows consumers to search their database of soap and shampoo products to find healthier options. Each soap and shampoo reviewed is given a health rating making it easy for consumers to find a nontoxic option. The Environmental Working Group also has EWG Verified products, which allow consumers to quickly choose products with better health ratings.

Made Safe also has a database of certified products that consumers can easily use. When certifying products as nontoxic, Made Safe checks products against their Hazards List of over 80 chemicals. 


Kids learn from our actions and can develop values of health, wellness, and nontoxic buying. Soaps and shampoos commonly contain chemicals that have been linked to health conditions—including cancers, hormone disruption, hyperactivity in children, liver and kidney damage, dermatitis, and more.

Consider choosing soap and shampoo that has the least amount of chemicals in them. The Environmental Working Group and Made Safe are two organizations that make product health ratings and certifications available to consumers. Parents and consumers can use these lists to make healthier soap and shampoo choices and provide a nontoxic option for their families.



(1)(2)(4) A to Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Part 2

(3) Made Safe

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About Ruan Living

Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

In no event will Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living be liable for any damages or loss of any kind resulting from the use of this website. Anyone relying upon or making use of the information on this website does so at his or her own risk.

Some of the services and products recommended on this website provide compensation to Sophia Ruan Gushee or Ruan Living. All recommendations are based foremost upon an honest belief that the product, service, or site will benefit our site visitors in some way.  

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