Why You Need a Cleaner Soap

Photo: Courtesy of Seventh GenerationBy Kate Rockwood

The back of a soap bottle may not seem like a fascinating read, but ignoring the label can be bad for you and the planet. I remember the first time I idly scanned the ingredient list on my dollar-store body wash. "What the heck is ethyl paraben?" I wondered. Squeaky clean and seated at a computer ten minutes later, I learned that parabens (a common synthetic preservative in soap, body wash, and shampoo) can be hormone disrupters, potentially affecting fertility. Yikes.

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So when Seventh Generation, masters of eco-friendly household cleaners, launched a new line of soaps, lotions, and body washes this summer, I was game to get my suds on. Like any packaging, you should skip the marketing hype on the front ("natural," "pure," and "healthy" aren't regulated claims) and flip to the backside. Here, the science is transparent and promising: No parabens, phthalates (hormone disrupters that have been linked to increased cancer risk), or synthetic fragrances.

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Equally noteworthy: This line is one of the first to qualify as a USDA Certified Biobased Product. The new seal discloses the percentage of materials that are made from renewable plant and marine elements versus petroleum products. All certified products must meet a threshold of 25 percent renewable resources, but Seventh Generation's mandarin-scented body wash, for instance, is 93 percent plant-based. Consider it a clean routine that leaves no residue of environmental guilt. ($4 to $8, seventhgeneration.com)

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