Now that body wash has become more popular among men, Americans are using more of the stuff than bar soap for the first time. The shift is probably at least partially due to the increased advertising for men's body washes (like the fantastic Old Spice commercials), but it has brought an important question to the table: what should the environmentally conscious shower taker use? Bar soap or body wash?
Even on the surface level, a bar of soap has body wash beat. Body wash is packaged in plastic bottles, meaning way more waste is created when the bottles are empty. Plastic bottles can be recycled of course, but unfortunately most of them still end up in landfills.
The main ingredient in most liquid body washes is water, which makes the bottles considerably larger and heavier than a bar of soap. More weight and volume means more energy used in transportation. Way more bars of soap can fit in a truck than bottles of body wash, meaning less transportation is needed to transport soap. Use more body wash, create more pollution from transportation.
Of course, how much of each product you use varies by user. Some can make a bar of soap last for ages -- others can go through one in a week. If you find that your soap disintegrates in the shower, try drying it out before you use it, storing it in a soap dish so it can dry between uses or keep soap in a net to make it last longer.
It's a common misconception that sharing bar soap spreads germs and bacteria between users, but a study published in the journal Epidemiology and Infection found that there is little hazard in sharing soap bars. If the idea of sharing soap is still worrisome, give the bar a rinse before use for good measure.
No matter which product you're using, it's a good idea to look out for these chemicals, which may be harmful to your health and the environment:
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that builds up in the body's fat cells over time. It's been found to cause thyroid problems and has been linked to dioxins -- known carcinogens. Most triclosan products are consumer hygiene products that get flushed into drains and end up contaminating the water supply.
Parabens are found in many cosmetic products, but some scientists fear that they may mimic estrogen hormones, and possibly may lead to cancer. They have been found in high concentrations in breast tumors, although a direct causal link has not been proven.
BHA is a preservative put in many soaps and body washes. It can cause dermatitis -- an itchy skin rash.
Even if you've been using body wash for a long time, give soap another try. Make sure to choose one with natural ingredients and none of the chemicals listed above, and you'll be doing your body and the environment a big favor. It's the greenest way to get clean!
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