I was recently asked by a customer, “What makes your product better than everyone else’s?” I wanted to say “Because it is, trust me” but that would not have answered the real question which was "Why us?" Pretty packaging, fun scents, spa quality craftsmanship, customer service and enthusiasm aside I think the real reason to use The Brown Barn Bath Company’s products is safety. We try our very best to bring you products that you can feel safe and confident using.
When we design recipes we consult a number of research databases to determine the safety of each ingredient in the recipe. Most databases rate ingredients on a 0-10 basis with 10 being the worst for carcinogens, skin irritants, metabolic disruption, allergens and more. For products we make “from scratch” we use ingredients with a rating of 5 or less.
We also use pre-made bases in some of our products. The reason we use bases is because we cannot produce as fine a product from scratch at as reasonable a price as the base maker, who makes barrels of the base and can bring ingredients in at the lower bulk cost, thus passing the savings on to us and our customers. Another reason we use bases is because we are too small a company right now to provide the man hours and space to properly produce all of the items we eventually plan to make from scratch. We also use bases for products that are patented or for which we cannot determine the recipe. Our “Soap Sudz” whipped soap is a good example of this.
Occasionally we find that a base may use a tiny amount of an ingredient with a 6 or 7 safety rating, usually as part of its preservative. In this case we may choose to use the base while we search for a better alternative. The decision to use the base in this case is determined by how much exposure the customer would have to the questionable ingredient and if the benefit/demand for the product is high. If we feel the exposure is minimal and will not be enough to accumulate into a health risk, we choose to use the base.
Sometimes our commitment to providing a healthy product gets in the way of our ability to produce a quality product for the consumer. In that case we may offer an alternative. A good example of this is our Bubble Bath. I feel it is impossible to make a high foaming liquid bubble bath that can compete in the marketplace without the use of the high foaming detergent, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). We recently tried an all natural base from a reputable company that on the surface seemed a perfect solution to our Bubble Bath problem. The customers quickly disagreed, even bringing the bubble bath back with the complaint that it did not make enough bubbles. (Of course we happily refunded their money and then immediately pulled the product from the shelf.) We have been working on developing a solid bubble bath to use as an alternative.
So why not use Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and just make a bubble bath? Because that product is a known carcinogen with a host of other issues. There are a wide variety of opinions out there about exactly how bad SLS is and what it can or cannot do to your body if you use it. Some “experts” say its fine to use this ingredient even though there is so much risk to it because the amount used is so small. This may be true, a little bit won’t hurt you BUT SLS is used in SO MANY products!!
Right now, please go to your bathroom. Get your toothpaste, shampoo, liquid soap, face wash, bubble bath, body scrub, face scrub, foaming sugar scrub. Then go to your kitchen sink and get your dish soap. Go to your kids bathroom and get the liquid hand soap, shampoo, toothpaste they use. Get your cleaning agents. Go to the garage and get the floor cleaner. I’m sure there’s more that I’m missing.
Have you gathered all of your products up? Look at all of their labels for the ingredients Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and/or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). How many of them have this ingredient? I’m betting A LOT. I was stunned to read one article that stated that SLS can cause mouth ulcers and then to find that SLS was found in EVERY toothpaste on the shelf of my local grocer except Sensodyne.
So no, a little might not hurt, but there is no way to know how much exposure a single person may have in the course of a day, week or year to SLS when it is found in so many products. Then think about your child. A five year old child uses shampoo, hand wash, bubble bath, etc. but weighs much much less than an adult resulting in a much higher ratio of SLS in their system versus their weight.
Need more information? The following is a compilation of information about SLS that I found in one brief Google search:
- Both Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and its close relative Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are commonly used in many soaps, shampoos, detergents, toothpastes and other products that we expect to "foam up". Both chemicals are very effective foaming agents, chemically known as surfactants.
- Unfortunately, both Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) are very dangerous, highly irritating chemicals. Far from giving "healthy shining hair" and "beautiful skin", soaps and shampoos containing sodium laureth sulfate can lead to direct damage to the hair follicle, skin damage, permanent eye damage in children and even liver toxicity.
- A report published in the Journal of The American College of Toxicology in 1983 showed that concentrations of SLS as low as 0.5% could cause irritation and concentrations of 10-30% caused skin corrosion and severe irritation.
- National Institutes of Health "Household Products Directory" of chemical ingredients lists over 80 products that contain SLS and SLES. Some soaps have concentrations of up to 30%, which the ACT report called "highly irritating and dangerous".
- Shampoos are among the most frequently reported products to the FDA. Reports include eye irritation, scalp irritation, tangled hair, swelling of the hands, face and arms and split and fuzzy hair. This is highly characteristic of sodium laureth sulfate and almost definitely directly related to its use.
- Both SLS and SLES are known to have many effects that can potentially be detrimental to health. Among the possible dangers are the following
- Another report states that "Other studies have indicated that Sodium Lauryl Sulfate enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain from skin contact. This poses question of it being a serious potential health threat to its use in shampoos, cleansers, and tooth pastes."
“But it must be safe!! The FDA would never allow this!!” you cry. The FDA says SLS and SLES are safe…IN SMALL CONCENTRATIONS. Once again…how many times does the average Mom use products with SLS or SLES in the course of a day of cleaning, washing, etc.? I have been unable to find any studies showing the results of long-term usage of multiple products containing SLS by an average person. And also, consider that this is just ONE type of known problem-causing ingredient found in the cosmetics industry. Now add in your SLS and SLES to all of the other ingredients in your products and their potential to cause harm.
The Brown Barn Bath Company has made a commitment to offer the safest alternatives we can locate and to work diligently to continually decrease the amounts of any ingredient that has even the slightest hazard potential. We use an all natural alternative to SLS called SLSa. It has a perfect safety recrod. We are happy to answer your questions about ingredients and to work with you to produce custom made products that do not use specific ingredients you know you are allergic to. Please ask!
Have a great weekend and look for our new store in Tomahawk soon! Chris