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/ Source: TODAY contributor
By By Marisa Belger

Having trouble keeping up with our increasingly organic, eco-friendly world? Let me be your guide! From all-natural makeup to the best in eco-conscious jeans, I will test and review the products and treatments that are best for you and the planet.

I don’t know about you, but I take showers and baths for one primary reason: to get clean. (Secondary reasons: to relax, reduce stress and push through writer’s block.) But if you dissected the average bar of soap or broke down a teaspoon of a popular body wash, you’d probably find a handful of highly unsavory ingredients — harsh detergents, synthetic preservatives, artificial colors and fragrances, greasy mineral oils, even animal fats. How clean is that?

As with all personal care products — I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but I can’t stop … I just can’t stop! — it is essential to read the label on that bar of soap or bottle of body wash before you decide to take it home with you. The ingredients should either a) be extremely easy to decipher; b) be accompanied by clear explanations; c) all of the above. And when shopping for soap, be on the lookout for two of the most common ingredient red flags:

  • Parabens (petroleum-based preservatives): These toxic ingredients often sneak into even the most “natural” products. They can be (loosely) disguised by the addition of prefixes like “propyl” and “butyl.” Parabens have been linked to breast cancer, impaired fertility and skin irritation — from mild itching to scaling and blistering.

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate and propylene glycol (petroleum surfactants): These synthetic ingredients are often used as foaming agents to create extra-fluffy lather in soaps and shampoos. They’ve been connected to skin irritation and, more alarmingly, to disrupting the structure of the skin to allow deeper penetration of other toxins.

In honor of truly clean cleansing — with soaps, scrubs and body washes made only from ingredients derived from nature — I present the first annual GreenDay All-Natural Soap Awards (just like Sunday’s Golden Globes, the winners don’t actually have to be present to accept their awards. Living in your shower one day will be reward enough).

And the winners are:

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Dr. Bronner's liquid soap in lavender,


Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap for best all-over body wash.

If you have a phone that can check e-mail, search for local Italian restaurants and organize your monthly meetings, why shouldn’t you also use a body wash that can also step in as dishwashing soap, shampoo and laundry detergent? Dr. Bronner is the ultimate multi-tasking cleanser. Made from organic coconut, olive, hemp and jojoba oils, the no-frills soap has been a staple of the camping set for years (one little bottle covers lots of ground), but it has increasingly been making its way into the homes of those who are anything but outdoorsy. While it is safe to use for household cleaning and on any part of your body (including hair, feet and face), the liquid soap serves its purpose best as a highly effective daily body wash. Warning: The peppermint is extremely pepperminty. I turn to the lavender (made with organic essential oils) when I need a break from the frosty mint.

Body wash runner-up:Avalon Organics’ body wash in rosemary, lavender or lemon.

Pangea Organics for best bar of soap.

I definitely did something right this holiday season, because I received not one, but two big bars of Pangea Organics soap. Even though Pangea has been one of my favorite all-natural body care companies for years, and I know exactly where to purchase their products throughout my city, I still spend more time wishing somebody would buy them for me then actually purchasing them myself. This year, a great (and wise) friend gave me the Dhyana bar (made with organic soybean, coconut, and hempseed oils and enhanced with essential oils of clove, Canadian pine, sage and lavendin) and the Damiana Tea Lavender Aphrodisia bar (same oils plus damiana tea and essential oils of French lavender and patchouli). This is a soap experience — just try to take a five-minute shower (though, of course, it is the most eco-aware thing to do).

Bar soap runner-up:Blooming Lotus — check out coconut lime or lemongrass spearmint.

Shea Terra Organics for best body scrub.

Yum. That’s really the only description that applies to Shea Terra’s outrageously decadent, all-natural Dead Sea salt scrubs. In addition to using delicious ingredients (literally delicious: bourbon, vanilla bean and burnt-sugar extracts in the Bourbon Vanilla scrub and pomegranate-seed oil and pink guava extract in the Pink Guava Pomegranate scrub), Shea Terra also incorporates indigenous ingredients from Tanzania, Morocco, South Africa and Mozambique. It’s pretty exciting to scrub down with African Potato, Bush Mango and East African Shea Butter.

Body scrub runner-up:Collective Wellbeing’s bamboo-fennel seed scrub.

Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.

Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor have been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.