After I posted about the “Story of Cosmetics” and the amount of the at best unnecessary and at worst harmful products in some of the washes for kids, someone asked me to recommend specifically some soaps that we had used with Miss P. In this household we are big fans of good, old-fashioned bars of soap. They work, the process to make them is less complicated and, most importantly, they are easier to handle when washing down a child. Grabbing a jar or pump is fine, it’s not like it puts me out, but sometimes it can become tedious to have to keep going back to it again and again to squeeze out more. Overall the bars are cheaper, easier and last longer. They just don’t usually make the cut because everyone wants their cute packaging instead of a bar.of.soap. Not exciting people, just useful. Of course not all soaps are made the same, but here are some that we’ve used with Miss P that were truly all-natural, long-lasting and hard workers: the Avocado Soap from Dimpleskins, Saipua Soap (which is a bit more artisanal), and the Erbaviva baby soap which is about double the price of the others but I’m thinking that’s just because they’re so big that they a)have to cover their costs, and b)well, they can. But again, you’ll spend close to the same on a bottle of wash. We just think of bars of soap as going faster but the truth is that with such little kids they really do last a l-o-n-g time. Itty bitties.
Of course you can just go to your local health food store and buy something off the shelf if you don’t want to wait. We’re fans of the Kirk’s Naturals brand they sell at Whole Foods which is made from pure coconut oil, the most hydrating thing there is. The company does say that their products are only 99% natural as there is a small amount of synthetic fragrance, though. Not sure how I feel about that. Mainly I think to myself, if Kirk’s has that small amount of fragrance I can only imagine what the other products have, so they win by default. But that’s also why the Internet is such a great place – you can search for producers creating small batch, hand-crafted products. My next try is going to be this pure goat milk soap from Beekman 1802, the specialty merchandiser. Their ingredients come from goats that graze on their land and the manufacturing process is all done by hand. It would seem that alot of things done in that manner can still be pretty useful.
A little over one year ago the Environmental Working Group published their “No More Toxic Tub” report which listed well-known brands and their well-known products which (conversely not well-known) contained harmful substances which were not required to be listed on the labels. By far the biggest fallout was for Johnson & Johnson, whose iconic baby shampoo was among those listed as containing formaldehyde in questionable levels as well as additives that posed problems. The green mom blogosphere went wild and the posts about it were swift and intense. And over the last year that momentum has only been building, leading up to this class action lawsuit just recently approved to sue the company for selling products known to contain carcinogens.
So you can imagine my surprise (and yet, not entirely surprise since this is the way the markets work) when I’m reading my Kiwi magazine the other day and see a 4-page insert from Johnson & Johnson which touts its new “Natural” line. If you click through to the website, the company states that their:
long-standing commitment to pure, mild and gentle baby skin care has driven us to set a new standard: the BEST FOR BABY NATURALS™ Standard.
Excuse me while I, um, cough. Yeah, not so much. The wording on the advertising insert seems to say it all: “The label says “natural.” But how do you really know everything is good for your baby? Look for us in the baby products aisle (in the environmentally responsible recyclable green bottles)” Wow. No subtlety there. They go from being the problem to the alleged solution in the span of one year. And the company doesn’t stop there. They are reaching for a certain demographic whom they have fallen out of favor with and that person is conscious of the choices they make, so the advertisement lists that it “uses recycled paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. It was printed with soy-based, non-toxic inks by a company that runs on wind power.”
Right there is the proof that knowledge really is power and that the choices you are making everyday are having a tremendous impact. Whatever shortcuts a company needs to take in order to get us a cheap product will no longer work en masse. J&J is no more doing this because they care about being environmentally responsible, but they don’t need to be doing it for that reason so long as they do it. They’re market driven, bottom line, and it’s their job to produce money for their shareholders. That’s not a terrible thing if the market demands products which are safe and ecologically friendly, then everyone wins. Except that obviously requires an informed consumer. And that’s where we come in. Where your money goes, the market will follow. So feel good about the ways you’re questioning your purchases, because it’s having an effect.