The problem is this: Companies use the cheapest possible ingredients in their products, without much concern about how they might affect your skin and body.
The product is made with only one concern: to clean your body. Virtually all of these mass-produced washes are filled with synthetic fragrances, dyes and potentially damaging chemicals like sulfates and parabens.
On the other hand, a more conscious product will skip the harsh chemicals, and ideally use nourishing and safe natural ingredients and extracts.
Ingredients To Know About
This list includes both ingredients we found in the body washes we reviewed, along with some found in regular body washes but not in the products we looked at.
Three of the brands we reviewed used fragrance in their formula. The problem with fragrance is that they can be made from a combination of chemicals that are hidden from the user, and we have no idea what they might be. Any product that uses "fragrance" or "parfum" will never get a good rating on Better Goods.
Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB)
Found in 12 of the products we looked at, this functions as both a cleanser and foaming agent. It's an organic compound derived from coconut oil, and is found in several of the natural cleansers we looked at.
CAPB is known to cause skin irritation in some users. In fact, CAPB was named The American Contact Dermatitis Society’s “Allergen of the Year” in 2004. (source),
It's not the ingredient itself that causes contact dermatitis, but the residues of other chemicals used in its production. While pure CAPB should not have the risk of causing irritation or dermatitis, it's impossible to know whether a product is using pure CAPB or not.
While we don't give a product a negative rating based on including this ingredient, we highlight all products that do so you can make a decision accordingly.
Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
This ingredient is a cheap and effective surfactant and foaming agent. SLES is one of the most controversial ingredients in the world of conscious beauty. The problem with SLES is that goes through a process called ethoxylation, which can lead to contamination with 1,4-dioxane, a possible carcinogen. While it's possible to prevent this contamination, it's impossible to know whether or not a company does this. None of the products we looked at contained SLES, but you'll find it in many soaps, shampoos and cleaners.
Preservatives are a necessary part of cosmetics and personal care products. They prevent mold and bacterial growth, and these days, there are many safe preservatives that can be used.
- Benzoic Acid
Preservatives to avoid:
- Parabens - While none of the shower gels we looked at had parabens, they're a common ingredient in products you'll find in stores. Any ingredient ending in -paraben (ethylparaben, butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben) should be avoided; they're linked to endocrine disruption and increased risk of breast cancer.
- Triclosan (TSC)
- Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
- Methylchloroisothiazolinone (CMIT)
Ingredients marked with an asterisk (*) are potential irritants or allergens. Unfortunately, almost all of the products we looked at contain at least one potential irritant. The most common irritants are essential oils and some alcohols.
We searched online stores, blogs and social media to find the most popular brands advertising themselves as clean and natural.
Each ingredient in every product was researched and analyzed for safety based on available public research. Where possible, sources for information are included.
Products are ranked from best to worst with an internal score based on the ingredient rankings.
We reviewed 15+ of the most popular clean shower gels on the market and rated them as follows:
Best ???? – These products are the best of the best. They contain all-clean ingredients, are non-toxic and are often the best choice for our environment.
Good – These products are typically quite good, but don’t go above and beyond like our best choices.
Iffy – These products are typically okay, but have some issues that make us unable to give them a “Good” rating. Often times they contain ingredients that are questionable.
Bad – These products typically have toxic ingredients or issues that make them dangerous or unsuitable to use. These products should typically be avoided.
Body Washes Rated: Best
These body washes were the best of the best. With simple non-toxic ingredients, any of these are a great choice.
This product has a clean list of natural ingredients, and it doesn’t dry the skin. It has a pleasant vanilla scent that doesn’t linger after you get out of the shower. It is however rather expensive compared to some of the other products we reviewed.
Every ingredient in this body wash is organic, making it an easy decision to give it a “best” rating. Because of this, it is quite expensive for the amount of product you get for your money, however.
There are no ingredients of concern in this product, and it comes at an affordable price. While the ingredients aren’t quite as natural as some of the others on our list, they’re still clean.
This natural (but expensive) body wash from Pai Skincare contains a great, clean list of natural ingredients and is a safe purchase.
With a large amount of organic ingredients and the lack of any iffy ingredients like cocamidopropyl betaine, this product easily receives a “best” rating.
Body Washes Rated: Good
While these body washes didn't go above and beyond like the ones rated "Best", they're still a great safe choice.
The scent of this body wash fades quickly, and won’t transfer to the skin which you may dislike.
This shower gel from Rahua contains a clean list of natural ingredients, and the rather expensive price is the only real downside to the product.
This is an inexpensive body was with clean ingredients and none to be concerned about. This is a good budget buy, although there are other body washes we looked at with more simple ingredients.
This soap from Dr. Bronner contains organic ingredients and is naturally scented with organic lavender. This is a safe choice with no ingredients of concern.
This body wash from Puracy has a clean list of ingredients, although not quite as natural as some of the others on our list. Nevertheless, there are no ingredients of concern here.
The only ingredient of concern in this shower gel is tocopheryl acetate, which can sometimes be contaminated with hydroquinone. However, since you’ll wash this product off immediately, it shouldn’t be a concern. The rest of the ingredients are benign, and many of them are organic.
The formula is quite watery, so it’s best to use this shower gel with a sponge or loofah. It has a pleasant peppermint aroma, and comes at an affordable price.
Body Washes Rated: Iffy
These body washes contain a few ingredients that make us unable to recommend them over better products.
This body wash contains “fragrance” and the brand is not transparent about exactly what ingredients are in the fragrance. For this reason, we cannot recommend it.
This product contains polysorbate-20, which has the risk of being contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a possible human carcinogen. For this reason, we can’t recommend it.
Because this product from JASON contains mystery fragrance, we cannot recommend it.
Body Washes Rated: Bad
We only looked at one product that deserved a bad rating. We recommend avoiding this product.
Love Beauty and Planet
The name of this brand would lead you to believe that the product is clean and conscious, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a greenwashing product and should be avoided.