Read The Label : Demystifying Body Wash

When was the last time you read the back label of a product you purchased? And when was the last time you looked up the ingredients used in that product?

As I continue to explore the possibility of living off-grid, so too does my interest in leading a more chemical free existence.

Read the Label
Common body wash back label

Before I get too hung up on natural remedies, I thought it only fair to conduct some research into my regular body wash – Palmolive Naturals with Milk and Honey. 

  • The cost of a 750ml bottle of Naturals is RRP£3.49. (£4.64/L)
  • The cost of 500ml of home made coconut body wash and shampoo, £1.50. (£3.00/L)


Here’s a summary of all the 27 products found in this product. You will notice quite a few products are synthetic, some natural. What astonished me the most was the inclusion of Tartrazine (CI 19140) as a colourant. Definitions courtesy of Wikipedia and other websites.

  1. Water
  2. Sodium pareth sulfate is a surfactant found in some detergent products such as hand or body washes, but not as commonly as other chemicals such as sodium laureth sulfate. It is produced similarly to sodium laureth sulfate starting fromsynthetic fatty alcohols with 12 to 13 carbon atoms.
  3. Cocamidopropyl betaine is a popular synthetic surfactant used as an emulsifier, cleansing agent, and foam booster in many hair products. CAB is a zwitterionic molecule, possessing both a positive and a negative charge, which create a polar, hydrophilic head group to the molecule. It has a hydrophobic tail, made up of a linear hydrocarbon chain that is usually 12 carbons in length. This gives the molecule a dual-nature that is responsible for its surfactant properties, enabling it to modify the surface and interfacial tension in aqueous solutions.
  4. Lactose is a type of sugar found naturally in the milk of most mammals. Lactose intolerance is a condition characterized by symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea, which are caused by lactose malabsorption. In humans, an enzyme known as lactase is responsible for breaking down lactose for digestion.
  5. Sodium Chloride – Salt
  6. Glycerin – a colorless, odorless, viscous liquid that is sweet-tasting and non-toxic.
  7. Parfum – The word parfum on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients
  8. Cocamide –  formed from the mixing of fatty acids from Coconut oil.
  9. Styrene/Acrylates – Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer is a synthetic polymer used as a film former in cosmetics and personal care products.
  10. Sodium salicylate is a sodium salt of salicylic acid. Historically, it has been synthesized by hydrolysis of methyl salicylate (extracted from wintergreen plants or the bark of sweet birchtree) with an excess of sodium hydroxide and heating it under reflux. That’s all could find about it but I’m still unsure that it does.
  11. Sodium Benzoate –  Food preservative. and is often produced synthetically by reacting Benzoic Acid with Sodium Hydroxide
  12. Polyquaternium-7 is used as modifier, for example in shampoo, hair conditioner, hair spray, mousse, soap, gel, styling agent, shaving product, deodorant agent, antiperspirant.
  13. Citric Acid – organic acid found in citrus fruits. Is a natural preservative.
  14. Glycol Distearate – This is often used by the producers of personal care products (e.g. shower gel) to increase the visual appeal of their products. It’s derived from palm kernel, vegetable or soy oil.
  15. Tetrasodium EDTA -Used as a preservative for body products, however, please have a read of this article about this high controversial ingredient and make up your own mind. 
  16. Retinyl Palmitate – Synthetic Vitamin A supplement
  17. Tocopherol – Vitamin E
  18. Linoleic Acid – Fatty Acid
  19. Mel – very pure honey often used by pharmacies
  20. Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract – Aloe vera extract
  21. Lactis Serum Proteninum – Milk protein
  22. Amyl Cinnamal – Synthetc perfume reminiscent of Jasmine
  23. Benzyl Benzoate can be added in its synthetic form because of its amazing scent and excellent solvent properties. Indeed, it dissolves other perfume materials, allowing them to blend more easily.
  24. Hexyl Cinnamal – Found naturally in essential oil of chamomile, however is often synthesised for use in body wash products.
  25. Limonene – naturally occuring lemon flavouring.
  26. CI 19140 – Tartrazine – Synthetic yellow food colouring
  27. CI 16255 –  Ponceau 4R – Synthetic red food colouring


My decision to switch to natural products doesn’t stem from only a financial need but also an ethical one. I don’t see the need to buy expensive synthetic products when I can produce a more natural, more satisfying product that’s better for my body and the environment for much less than it’s synthetic equivalent.

Having now tried and tested my second batch of natural coconut shampoo, I’m very satisfied with the results. I used the lotion all over my body, my hair and my beard. It left my beard feeling soft and fluffy and my skin feeling smooth and nourished.

The best part is knowing that I’ve replaced three (chemical) body wash products with just one (natural) product.




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