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15 Hand Soaps Experts Say to Avoid (+5 of the Best on the Market)

Worst: Triclosan Soaps

Triclosan and triclocarban have been largely banned in the United States for use in hand soaps, but old products weren’t destroyed. This means that hand soaps containing these ingredients could be floating around out there, especially if you buy stuff for cheap online.

Triclosan and triclocarban were used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent depending on the product. Many products labeled “antibacterial” contained triclosan, including Softsoap and Dial. Now, these products should contain benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, or chloroxylenol.

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Concerns: Triclosan

The biggest concern with triclosan and triclocarban is that it can cause hormonal changes. Studies in China discovered that triclosan caused increased testosterone levels in infants. When tested on rats, triclosan also suppressed thyroid hormones in the rats’ babies. If it had this effect on human children, this could cause a number of issues, including hypothyroidism.

Triclosan has also been associated with a higher risk of food allergy, and many people experience contact dermatitis when using products with triclosan. Contact dermatitis is a rash that forms on the skin and causes major sensitivity to sunlight, which could make the skin irritation worse.  

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Worst: Softsoap Aquarium

Softsoap Aquarium is probably one of the more popular soaps on the market. Sure, it smells good and does the job, but what’s in it? Turns out that the ingredients aren’t too great. It contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), Cocamidopropyl betaine, and BHT.

It also has “fragrance.” This general catch-all term could contain a variety of chemicals considering companies are not required to report what causes the “fragrance.” Overall, this soap could cause a number of issues that would be quite irritating.

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Concerns: Softsoap Aquarium

Let’s start with the most common side effects. Softsoap Aquarium is most likely to cause skin irritation, but it can also cause eye and respiratory irritation. SLS is a common ingredient that’s one of the “dirty dozen” ingredients people should avoid. However, we’re going to focus on Cocamidopropyl betaine (CAPB) and BHT.

In 2012, CAPB was listed as a known carcinogen, according to California law. Allergies first came to light in 1983. It caused a number of issues, including skin irritation, eczema, and even rosacea. BHT isn’t much better. The European Food Safety Authority found that BHT caused liver cancer in animals. More than one peer-reviewed study discovered the substance is a “tumor promoter.”

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Worst: Method Pink Grapefruit

Method is fairly inexpensive and smells good, but is it worth the risk? Most of the ingredients are pretty good, but fragrance is pretty high on the list. The problem with this is that no one besides Method knows what’s listed under this blanket-term.

This soap also contains Methylisothiazolinone. The FDA allows it to be in cosmetics, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s also listed as a standardized chemical allergen. For this reason, the European Commission Committee on Consumer safety banned this in products. The Canadian government also only permitted the ingredient to be used in certain circumstances.

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Concerns: Method Pink Grapefruit

The problem with “fragrance” is that companies aren’t required to disclose what the ingredients are. Since fragrances are absorbed through the skin and potentially into the bloodstream, this could pose health risks that we don’t know about. It could include a variety of things, from endocrine disruption to allergies and cancer. Some fragrances are also known to exacerbate asthma symptoms.

As far as Methylisothiazolinone goes, the most common reaction will be an allergy, which causes dermatitis (a rash or skin irritation). While more research is necessary, the International Agency of Research on Cancer (IARC) lists Methylisothiazolinone as a probable human carcinogen, meaning it could cause cancer.

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Worst: Simple Pleasures Hand Soap in Coconut Lime

Simple Pleasures Hand Soap in Coconut Lime may look like a great product for the family but look elsewhere. One of the top ingredients contains the aforementioned “fragrance.” This blanket-term can be dangerous because companies don’t actually have to list what’s in their product.

In addition to this, Simple Pleasures soap also contains Methylisothiazolinone. This ingredient is a known allergen for many people. This ingredient has been banned in some countries due to the dangers, some of which could be pretty bad. Even the FDA found that it causes allergic reactions.

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Concerns: Simple Pleasures Hand Soap in Coconut Lime

There are a few things about Simple Pleasures hand soap that we want to mention. The overall blanket-term fragrance is pretty concerning since no one knows what’s in it. It could be a skin irritant, or it could be toxic to nerve cells. The only way to tell is by changing regulations to include ingredients that make up “fragrance.”

Then there’s the whole Methylisothiazolinone issue. The International Agency of Research on Cancer lists Methylisothiazolinone as a probable human carcinogen. More research is needed to determine what kind of cancer, but that’s not great odds. 

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Worst: Softsoap Coconut & Warm Ginger Hand Soap

Do coconut and warm ginger smell good? Yes. Yes, they do. Is it safe in this soap? No, not really. This Softsoap scent contains stuff we’ve already brought up, making it definitely not worth the risk. These ingredients include SLS, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, and more.

Fragrance is also an issue. You’d think with coconut being in the name that there would be something coconut-y. Well, there is. The coconut and ginger are the second- and third-to-last ingredients, meaning that there’s only trace amounts found in the soap. This isn’t the tropical island paradise you’re looking for. 

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Concerns: Softsoap Coconut & Warm Ginger Hand Soap

Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or SLS, is a very well-known skin irritant. So much so that many brands are removing it and marketing the lack of SLS. It’s totally understandable since no one wants to end up with dermatitis. SLS is the second ingredient listed.

The third ingredient? Cocamidopropyl Betaine. This one causes major skin irritation, and the FDA has suggested that it should be removed from all products. The longer someone is exposed to Cocamidopropyl Betaine, the worst the skin irritation gets. Some studies even suggest that it could cause cancer.

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Worst: Nature’s Gate Liquid Hand Soap in Oatmeal

Nature’s Gate sounds like a quality brand, but this goes to show you that names aren’t everything. The only way to keep yourself and your family safe is by reading the ingredients. It’s also important to know which ingredients to look out for, but we have some info on that.

For Nature’s Gate, the worst ingredients are the blanket-term “fragrance,” sodium hydroxide, and phenoxyethanol. While it’s legal to use sodium hydroxide in cosmetics, some countries have found issues with it. Canada determined that it’s toxic or harmful to the human body. Phenoxyethanol isn’t much better. 

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Concerns: Nature’s Gate Liquid Hand Soap in Oatmeal

Fragrances are a mysterious blanket-term and not regulated, so any number of ingredients can be in this soap. Considering how high it’s listed in ingredients, it could cause any issues, from skin irritation to long-term skin issues.

Sodium hydroxide can cause major skin irritation and was determined to be toxic by government agencies in Canada. Then, there’s phenoxyethanol. Phenoxyethanol is restricted for use in Japan in all cosmetics. The United States once had a recall of a product due to this ingredient. In 2008, Mommy Bliss cream was recalled because the FDA was concerned that it would affect a baby’s central nervous system.

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Worst: Jergens Lotion Enriched Cream Hand Soap

Apparently, with Jergens, soft hands come at a price. The toxicity of this product is an issue considering how high parabens rank on its ingredients list. Honestly, it shouldn’t be there at all. It’s been proven time and time again that parabens are harmful to the human body.

Jergens has not one, but two parabens – methylparaben and propylparaben. Nowadays, companies advertise that their products have zero parabens, so why doesn’t Jergens get with the times? Then, there’s DMDM Hydantoin. That one is dangerous on its own. 

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Concerns: Jergens Lotion Enriched Cream Hand Soap

We’ll start with the parabens first. It’s been proven that they’re terrible for our body because they have a negative effect on the human endocrine system. One of the worst things that it can do is cause cancer. Parabens could also affect fertility in both men and women. Overall, not something people want in exchange for clean hands.

The next concerning ingredient is DMDM Hydantoin. It’s pretty low on the ingredient list, so it’s less of an issue. That being said, we’d rather our soap not contain it at all because it’s a formaldehyde-releasing possible carcinogen. Who knows if it’ll be the next triclosan, especially since some studies already show that it could cause breast cancer.

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Worst: Bath & Body Works Deep Cleansing Hand Soaps

This one is bad on two fronts. The ingredients are pretty gnarly, and fragrance naturally leads the pack. Bath & Body Works notoriously has tons of ingredients and fragrances in their products. Going down the line, some of their deep cleansing hand soaps can also include Propylparaben, BHT, and Diazolidinyl Urea.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the deep cleansing part of the soap causes micro-abrasions on your skin. Normally, this is no big deal. However, with this soap, those harmful ingredients are able to penetrate deeper into your skin. This could potentially cause even more harm depending on the person and their sensitivity to these chemicals. 

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Concerns: Bath & Body Works Deep Cleansing Hand Soap

So these ingredients are pretty bad when you look into them. Propylparaben is one of those dreaded parabens that everyone warns you about. It can cause endocrine issues from infertility to cancer. BHT is also pretty bad. This chemical is a known allergen and even a possible carcinogen, although more research is needed.

Diazolidinyl Urea is a formaldehyde-releasing agent. This often causes skin irritation and dermatitis, meaning a rash could occur. Formaldehyde-releasing agents could also cause cancer. Instead of going for a “deep cleaning” product, wash your hands for a little longer. It’s better for your hands and destroys what’s on your hands. 

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Worst: Jergens Extra Moisturizing Cherry-Almond Hand Wash

This one hit us hard since it was one of our favorites for a while. Something about cherry-almond hit the spot, but not anymore. We’re learning that unscented is the way to go, especially since we have no idea what’s creating the scent we like. Could it be cancerous ingredients? It definitely could be, and we wouldn’t know until years down the line.

Looking past that, some other ingredients stand out as concerning. The first is Cocamidopropyl Betaine. This chemical is an interesting one because the longer people are exposed to it, the more irritating it becomes. Getting to the bottom of the ingredients, this soap also has two parabens and DMDM Hydantoin.

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Concerns: Jergens Extra Moisturizing Cherry-Almond Hand Wash

Cocamidopropyl Betaine needs significant studies, but there is one that indicates that this chemical could be dangerous. A study in Dermatitis med journal found that sensitivity to it has increased by 7.2% over the years. It was also named Allergen of the Year in 2004. Skin sensitivity may not seem like a big deal, but that’s usually the start of bigger problems.

DMDM Hydantoin is sure to be the next banned ingredient. It’s a formaldehyde-releasing agent that often causes skin irritation. Finally, the parabens have been linked to reproductive issues and even cancer. This is exactly why so many brands have worked hard to get rid of parabens in their products.

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Worst: Softsoap Black Raspberry & Vanilla Hand Soap

Oh, Softsoap. How could you be so bad but smell so good? Oh, wait, that’s right. Fragrance! Fragrance is one of the top ingredients in this one, and only Softsoap knows what’s actually in this “fragrance” label. We’re guessing the brand would rather go to the grave with the secret than expose the chemical cocktail.

The other ingredients aren’t really that great either. It includes SLS, which is the second ingredient listed. That means it has a pretty high concentration of it. It also has Cocamidopropyl Betaine, so that’s not great. Finally, some formulations even have DMDM Hydantoin.

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Concerns: Softsoap Black Raspberry & Vanilla Hand Soap

Softsoap Black Raspberry & Vanilla is super irritating to the eyes, and this is thanks to a few things. One of the biggest culprits is the fragrance. However, Sodium Laureth Sulfate is also a pretty bad irritant for both the skin and eyes. It can even cause breathing issues in some that can’t take strong scents.

Going down the line, Cocamidopropyl Betaine should be avoided at all costs due to the risks. If something is banned in California due to cancer risks, the rest of America should probably listen. Unfortunately, many people still use this product every day.

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Worst: Bath & Body Works Anti-Bacterial Gentle Foaming Hand Soap in Kitchen Lemon

Nothing says clean like Kitchen Lemon. The only problem is that this one isn’t really that healthy, despite sounding natural enough to eat. The product naturally has a ton of fragrance. It’s Bath & Body Works, so everyone saw that one coming.

Next up are Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone. They’re a mouthful, so we don’t expect anyone to know how to say these chemicals. These two agents kill bacteria, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe for use. Finally, some formulations of Kitchen Lemon have Triethylene Glycol.

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Concerns: Bath & Body Works Gentle Foaming Hand Soap in Kitchen Lemon

Fragrance causes skin rash, so no one should be surprised by that. That’s why there’s so many products on the market that focus on unscented. Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone are one of the bad ones, though. A newer study in An Bras Dermatol in 2014 released showing that people were getting more sensitive to these two chemicals. It often causes dermatitis and bad rashes.

Triethylene Glycol has been studied extensively for one reason: it causes birth defects. A study in Epidemiology found this connection as well as a higher risk of stillbirths. It shouldn’t be used in products a pregnant woman may grab without knowing the dangers.

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Worst: Jason Calming Lavender Hand Soap

We always assumed that Jason was a great hand soap. After all, they say that they’re all-natural. Unfortunately, we found evidence that shows they’re not as good as we may have been led to think. If you want your lavender fix, you may have to look elsewhere.

One of the bad ingredients found in this particular scent is Hydroxycitronellal. While it’s used in quite a few floral soaps and perfumes, it’s not the best to put on human skin. It’s also pretty awful for the environment. Some formulations of Calming Lavender could also have Lilial. 

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Concerns: Jason Calming Lavender Hand Soap

Jason Calming Lavender seems safe until you learn that it could cause skin or eye irritation. This is thanks to Hydroxycitronellal. It’s known to cause sensitization, and other countries have banned the use of it. The EU found that it was an allergen and an “immune system toxicant,” meaning it’s bad for the very system that keeps us healthy.

Lilial is also pretty bad. It used to be used in conjunction with Hydroxycitronellal until the toxicity was discovered. Lilial was quickly banned in the EU in 2017, and the UK quickly followed suit in 2019. The reason was that it caused a lot of people to have skin reactions from dryness to dermatitis. 

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Worst: Up & Up Gentle Skin Cleanser

Up & Up Gentle Skin Cleanser can be used as hand soap for those with eczema or even makeup remover. Does that mean you should use it? No! The reason is that it contains Butylparaben. Yeah, that’s right – another paraben.

While this one isn’t nearly as bad as some of the others, that doesn’t mean you should voluntarily subject yourself to it. This ingredient has a hard time absorbing into the skin, but when it does, it can have devastating effects.

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Concerns: Up & Up Gentle Skin Cleanser

Parabens are bad, and we’re getting that message loud and clear. Butylparaben is one of those you certainly want to avoid. It’s a known endocrine disruptor. Along with causing skin irritation, this paraben can also cause men to be infertile.

It doesn’t stop there, either. A study by the Technical University of Denmark found a lot more in 2016. The research outlined that it disrupted reproductive systems in rats. The male mice had infertility, reduced sperm quality, and changes to the prostate and testicles. In women, there were negative changes in the ovaries and decreased breast development. 

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Worst: Bath & Body Works Gentle Foaming Hand Soap in Japanese Cherry Blossom

Gentle must mean that it’s safe to use on skin, but we’re the bearers of bad news. It isn’t as gentle as you’d want, mostly because it has a ton of fragrance. Bath & Body Works has a hard time making anything that doesn’t assault your nose via strong scents.

Then, it contains Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone. As these two get rid of your moisture barrier, another terrible ingredient is able to make its way into your system – Lilial. Not all formulations have these ingredients, so it’s essential to read the label before buying. 

(Image via Bath & Body Works)
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Concerns: Bath & Body Works Gentle Foaming Hand Soap in Japanese Cherry Blossom

The fragrance in Japanese Cherry Blossom can cause major skin irritation and dermatitis due to allergies, but that varies from person to person. We don’t know what’s in the “fragrance” because it’s a blanket-term and hardly regulated.

That being said, Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone are researched. It causes skin irritation, dryness, and contact dermatitis. Since your skin is irritated (and probably open to other ingredients), the Lilial is able to penetrate the skin much easier. This ingredient is banned in the UK and Europe because of allergic reactions. It’s also suspected to be an endocrine disruptor.

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Worst: Dial Liquid Antibacterial Hand Soap Gold

Dial Liquid Gold is one of the more popular soaps on the market. However, those with allergens or irritated skin may not want to pick up this brand. Fragrance is always an issue for those with sensitive skin, but that isn’t the only thing to worry about.

This is another brand that contains Lilial. For Gold, it’s under the name Butylphenyl Methylpropianol. It’s low on the ingredients list, but it’s still something that could be an issue down the line. When in doubt, avoid it and go with another brand without awful ingredients. 

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Concerns: Dial Liquid Antibacterial Hand Soap Gold

Those with eczema or skin irritation should avoid Gold because of the fragrances. A quick search on Consumer Affairs shows that several people developed a rash while others also got painful sores from using this soap. This is likely due to the fragrances, but it could be due to the other nasty ingredient – Butylphenyl Methylpropianol.

More research is needed to determine if Butylphenyl Methylpropianol, aka Lilial, is seriously dangerous for human use. It’s already been proven that this ingredient causes skin irritation, but some scientists believe it could be an endocrine disrupter.

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Best: Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Hand Soap Lemon Verbena

Mrs. Meyer's is certainly one of the best brands on the market. This soap focuses on using natural ingredients, especially for the scent. There is no fragrance. Instead, it uses essential oils, aloe vera, olive oil, rosemary, and other plants. Because of that, the scents are quite light.

The formula is cruelty-free and not tested on animals. Mrs. Meyer's really cares about the environment, so the bottles are designed to be used over and over without danger of chemicals seeping into the soap. When you're done with them, wash them out, and recycle them.

(Image via Mrs. Meyer's)
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Best: Everyone Hand Soap, Lavender + Coconut

Everyone Hand Soap is a newcomer, but it's already shown that it's a fantastic brand. The brand comes in a variety of scents from lavender and coconut to spearmint and lemongrass. Each scent is soft to avoid rashes and skin irritation.

Some scents are also enriched with vitamins like vitamin E and B5 to keep your skin healthy and glowing. This brand is free of parabens, phthalates, dyes, and harsh detergents. This soap isn't tested on animals and is free of GMOs and disodium EDTA and polysorbate.

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Best: Sally B's Skin Yummies Foaming Hand Soap, Unscented

Sally B's isn't cheap, but it's certainly fantastic for your skin. There's a variety of scents, or you could go with scent-free for a truly healthy, hypo-allergenic formula. Sally B's hand soap is completely free of GMOs, artificial ingredients, and parabens. It's also gluten-free, cruelty-free, and vegan.

One of the best things about Sally B’s is that the company uses organic ingredients when available. You can find a list of ingredients on their website, listing the ones that they can get organic. It’s also a great way to check the possible allergies. There are no mysterious ingredients like the all-encompassing “fragrance.”

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Best: Be Green Bath & Body Citrus Hand & Body Soap

As you can tell from the brand name, Be Green is all about creating skincare and soaps that are healthy for us and the environment. The ingredients are clean, which is perfect for sensitive skin or those with skin conditions like eczema. In fact, they have an entire line of soaps and lotions for those with eczema.

If you want a little fragrance in your hand soaps, they use small amounts of essential oils to keep their ingredient list non-toxic. Of course, Be Green also has a line of unscented items for those that can’t tolerate any kind of scents.

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Best: ATTITUDE Baby Natural Foaming Hand Wash

Baby soaps are some of the best things to buy out there, but this brand is especially great. No matter which scent you choose, the ingredients are formulated with "worry-free ingredients." It's also PETA certified, meaning it’s vegan, cruelty-free, not tested on animals, and biodegradable.

As an extra bonus, it has low aquatic-toxicity. ATTITUDE is all about keeping things safe, so this soap is dermatologist tested to ensure that it's hypoallergenic and safe for skin. Naturally, this soap is also free of any parabens, SLS, SLES, silicone, PEG, phthalates, triclosan, formaldehyde, and synthetic fragrances.

(Image Attitude Living)
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