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You would think that the soap you use to wash your hands would be clean, but most hand soaps contain a bounty of chemicals it’s best to avoid. Not only can these dry out your hands and cause skin irritation and even respiratory irritation, they can also harm the environment and hurt fish and other wildlife as they get washed down the drain into wastewater.
All natural soaps can be especially important for our friends and family members who suffer from eczema and sensitive skin. And with the FDA recalling a popular foaming soap sold at Walmart over bacterial contamination concerns, more consumers than ever are looking for more natural soap options.
In this post, I share my top picks for soap brands you can trust.
Highlights: Certified Organic and cruelty-free and available in recycled and recyclable packaging, this is a fantastic hand soap for frequent handwashing as it helps hydrate skin. Concentrated refills also help cut down on carbon emissions!
Moon Valley Organics hand soap is certified organic and cruelty-free and is available in recycled and recyclable packaging. It’s a great choice for frequent handwashing because it’s rich and moisturizing and helps skin stay hydrated.
The ingredients for this Grapefruit Thyme Hand Soap are sustainably farmed and non-GMO and the formula is free from colors or dyes, parabens, SLS, and other nasty chemicals. Instead, the soap features organic grapefruit, thyme, coconut and sunflower oils along with soothing calendula and comfrey.
Moon Valley Organics also offer concentrated refills to help cut down on carbon emissions and plastic waste. The refill pouches contain three refills of the reusable bottle for just $11.99 – just fill the bottle with one-third concentrate and two-thirds water to recreate this luxurious foaming handwash. The packaging is eco-friendly and BPA-free, as well as being 100% recyclable and recycled!
This company has been in business since 1998 and has always focused on providing ethical and sustainable personal care products. Moon Valley Organics partner with local farmers, beekeepers, and herbalists to source Certified Organic and sustainable ingredients while supporting local biodiversity (especially bees!) and keeping things affordable for customers.
INGREDIENTS: Organic Calendula and Organic Comfrey Infused Saponified Oils of Organic Coconut, Organic Sunflower and Organic Castor, essential oils of Organic Grapefruit and Organic Thyme, and Citric Acid.
Highlights: This all-natural moisturizing bar soap gets rid of germs and helps hydrate your skin and because it’s a bar soap packaged in FSC certified recycled paper and card it’s super eco-friendly too! Made by a B Corporation in the US from mostly organic ingredients.
Made in the USA by a certified B Corporation, this hydrating bar soap is super-moisturizing thanks to organic coconut and olive oil as well as glycerin. Every bar is hand-poured, meaning it lasts longer and is less liable to fall apart. The soap is free from sulfates, parabens, phthalates, silicones, synthetic fragrance, artificial colors, and dyes.
Grove Co. use 100% natural fragrances made from essential oils and other plant-derived ingredients. This Hydrating Bar Soap is available in: Cedar & Sage, Lavender & Oatmeal, Lavender & Rosemary, and Peppermint.
This soap is also 100% plastic-free! It comes packaged in a paper box made from recycled paper and responsibly harvested wood, making it fully recyclable and FSC-certified.
INGREDIENTS: Cedar & Sage: Elaeis guineensis (palm) oil,* cocos nucifera (coconut) oil,** olea europaea (olive) fruit oil,** sodium hydroxide, bran,** oatmeal,** essential oils (cedarwood (atlas), sage, lavendin, eucalyptus), chlorella.
Lavender & Oatmeal: Elaeis guineensis (palm) oil,* cocos nucifera (coconut) oil,** olea europaea (olive) fruit oil,** sodium hydroxide, oatmeal,** bran,** essential oils (lavendin, lemon).
Lavender & Rosemary: Elaeis guineensis (palm) oil,* cocos nucifera (coconut) oil,** olea europaea (olive) fruit oil,** sodium hydroxide, oatmeal,** bran,** essential oils (rosemary, lavendin, lemongrass), dill.**
Peppermint: Elaeis guineensis (palm) oil,* nucifera (coconut) oil,** olea europaea (olive) fruit oil,** sodium hydroxide, essential oils (peppermint), peppermint leaf.**
*Responsibly sourced palm oil (RSPO) certified
Highlights: USDA Organic, biodegradable, vegan-friendly, and cruelty-free. Dr. Bronner’s is also free from parabens, soy, sulfates, and synthetic detergents.
Dr. Bronner’s Organic Sugar Soap is USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, biodegradable, vegan-friendly and cruelty-free (Leaping Bunny certified). It is also free from parabens, soy, sulfates, and triclosan, with no synthetic detergents or preservatives. This soap is a great choice for washing your hands, face, body, and even your hair (depending on hair type).
Dr. Bronner’s soap is made in the USA by a certified B Corp with a charitable giveback program. It comes in responsible BPA-free packaging that can be reused and refilled time and again, with an easy-to-use pump. The company exclusively uses 100% post-consumer recycled polyethylene (PET) plastic bottles for their liquid and pump soaps.
Dr. Bronner’s Organic Sugar Soap is available in Peppermint, Lavender, and Lemongrass Lime.
INGREDIENTS: Organic Sucrose, Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Palm Kernel Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Organic Olive Oil, Organic Shikakai Powder, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Lavender Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol
Other excellent hand soap choices from Dr. Bronner’s include:
Dr. Bronner’s Organic Peppermint Hand Soap – Organic Sucrose, Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Organic Olive Oil, Organic Shikakai Powder, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Peppermint Oil, Organic Spearmint Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol (View on Thrive Market)
Dr. Bronner’s Organic Unscented Liquid Baby Soap – Organic Sucrose, Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Organic Olive Oil, Organic Shikakai Powder, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol. (View on Thrive Market)
Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lavender Hand Soap – Organic Sucrose*, Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Coconut Oil*, Organic Palm Kernel Oil*, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Shikakai Powder, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Lavender Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol *CERTIFIED FAIR TRADE INGREDIENTS (View on Thrive Market)
Highlights: One of the best green hand soaps you can find! No dyes or color additives, no artificial anything.
Truce Foaming Hand Soap is made with non-toxic, eco-friendly ingredients making it one of the best green hand soaps around. This foaming hand soap formula is free from dye and color additives and instead relies on coconut, olive, and sunflower seed oil, essential oils, shea butter and aloe alongside natural preservatives such as citric acid.
Truce was founded by an ecologist specializing in the link between chronic illnesses and chemical exposures and her friend, a house cleaner who had long been cooking up a recipe for better cleaning products that didn’t irritate her skin. Now, Truce makes safer cleaning products for your home and has branched out into making body washes and soaps too.
The company’s entire product line uses just 14 effective ingredients, with no artificial anything. Their plastic bottles are made with recycled materials and they sell large refill sizes to encourage reuse of these bottles and cut down plastic and shipping waste.
Highlights: Packed with seaweed, charcoal, volcanic ash, and green tea extract.
Made in the USA, and packed with nourishing seaweed, cleansing charcoal and volcanic ash, and green tea extract, this facial bar can also double as a hand soap if you’re so inclined. It’s a great choice for gardeners, mechanics, and anyone else who needs to get rid of serious grime after a day’s hard work. Despite its purification properties, though, this bar soap supports softer, smoother skin and can be used for face and body.
The Seaweed Bath Co. Purifying Detox Facial Bar is free of sulfates, parabens, and gluten and is vegan, cruelty-free (not tested on animals) and Leaping Bunny Certified. This bar soap is unscented (fragrance free) and can be used daily. They also offer a Detox Exfoliating Body Soap (view here) that contains Arabica coffee and cinnamon to clear dead skin cells and soften skin.
The Seaweed Bath Co. uses organic bladderwrack seaweed sourced sustainably in Maine and soap bars are inherently better in terms of carbon emissions than liquid hand soaps. However, because there’s no specific information on how they package their products, this products gets a lower Leaf Score than it might otherwise.
INGREDIENTS: Sodium Palmate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Unrefined Shea) Butter, Organic Fucus Vesiculosus (Bladderwrack Seaweed), Volcanic Ash, Volcanic Sand, Charcoal Powder, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Sodium Gluconate, Caffeine.
Highlights: Its formula features vitamin E, whipped shea butter, aloe, and grapeseed oil to assist in the healing of cuts and scrapes.
Messy Monkey Organic Hand and Body Wash is a great choice for kids as it is 100% natural and almost totally organic (96%). It features vitamin E and whipped shea butter along with aloe and grapeseed oil to help keep busy little hands healthy and happy and support healing of cuts and scrapes.
This formula contains no SLS, parabens, artificial dyes, preservatives, or colors.
It seems like this is the only product available from this company, which has barely any online presence and offers no information as to the packaging used for the soap. This is why it only gets ⅖ leaves.
INGREDIENTS: Purified Water, Decyl Polyglucose (From corn, glucose, and starch), Vegetable Glycerin, *Apple Cider Vinegar, Pure Vitamin E, *Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, *Grapeseed Oil, *Grapefruit Seed Extract, *Shea Butter From Africa, Essential Oils of *Lavender, and *Calendula Flowers.
What to avoid in hand soaps
Hand soap is commonly riddled with some of the better-known nasties we all like to avoid at Leaf Score. These include:
- SLES and SLS
- Artificial colors and fragrances
- Synthetic preservatives
- Antibacterial agents like triclosan that can lead to antibiotic resistance
- Palm oil that isn’t responsibly sourced, meaning it’s likely linked to deforestation and destruction of orangutan habitat.
So, what should you look for in a hand soap? In short, natural and organic ingredients that have been responsibly and sustainably sourced, ideally directly from fair trade partners.
It’s also a good idea to look for hand soap that helps to cut down on plastic waste and shipping weight. After all, an awful lot of the bulk of liquid hand soap is simply water. So, look for concentrated refill options that you ‘activate’ at home by adding water or for bar soaps that last a long time and are less bulky to ship, meaning lower carbon emissions overall.
Other good things to look for in natural hand soap are essential oils like lavender, thyme, peppermint, and lemon. These add a bit of fun (natural!) fragrance and help to kill pathogenic microorganisms naturally, without adding to antibiotic resistance.
Natural oils and fats such as organic coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, and hemp oil are also beneficial in that they help cleanse without drying out your hands.