Top 5 Tips for Choosing a Daily Body Cleanser


Scrub Locally, Think Globally

With the number of body cleansing products being sold and used each day, the staggering amount of chemicals being returned to our environment as waste products can adversely affect the world around us.

Many cleansers have chemicals that can agitate sensitive skin. Once these wash off your skin, they make their way in time back into the water and ground. Some of these chemicals, such as benzene, are carcinogenic.

Soap products aren't regulated by the FDA unless a medical claim accompanies the product. This wasn't such a big deal back when soap was soap, but now most body cleansers are complicated chemical cocktails. Some chemicals are tested on animals, some are known to cause cancer in animals and others aren't tested at all for long-term effects on humans.

Common ingredients such as phthalates (a common substance used in fragrances) are believed to contribute to a list of health conditions, including asthma, kidney damage and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Parabens are preservatives found in some body cleansers that can harm the endocrine system, enter breast milk and cause hormonal disruptions. These chemicals don't break down when absorbed by the skin.

If you experience allergic reactions, have sensitive skin or just want to keep both yourself and the world clean, consider trying "green" or organic body cleansers. Industry standards for what is considered "green," "organic" or "all natural" are still being sorted out, but a little research will point you toward body-cleansing product lines that use biodegradable, nonhazardous and eco-friendly ingredients.

Want more skin care advice? Try the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • GreenYour. "Body Cleansers." (Aug. 4, 2009)
  • Griffin, Morgan R. "What's Causing Your Dry Skin Problem?" (Aug. 5, 2009)
  • Jacknin, Jeanette, M.D. "Body Scrubs: Which One Should You Use?" Jan. 16, 2009. (Aug. 5, 2009)
  • KidsHealth. "Your Skin." March 2007. (Aug. 6, 2009)
  • MedlinePlus. "Skin Layers." Aug. 22, 2008. (Aug. 5, 2009)
  • National Skin Care Institute. "Skin Types." (Aug. 5, 2009)
  • New Zealand Dermatological Society Incorporated. "The Structure of Normal Skin." June 15, 2009. (Aug. 6, 2009)
  • Organic Consumers Association. "Consumer Alert: Cancer-Causing 1,4-Dioxane Found in Personal Care Products Misleadingly Branded as Natural and Organic." 2008.
  • Pure Zing. "List of the More Widely Known Dangerous Ingredients in Body & Food Products." (Aug. 5, 2009)
  • Shapley, Dan. "How to Avoid Phthalates In 3 Steps." Jan. 4, 2008.
  • Snowdrift Farm. "Emollients & Humectants." (Aug. 5, 2009)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Carcinogenic Effects of Benzene: An Update." April 1998.
  • WebMD. "Anatomy of a Skin Cleanser." (Aug. 5, 2009)
  • WebMD. "Sensitive Skin: Causes and Treatments." (Aug. 5, 2009)


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