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Jan 122010

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

The last time I picked up some “natural” hand soap, I got burned. It turned out to be natural in only the most nominal way. It had a couple herbal ingredients, but these were far outnumbered by a fleet of synthetic preservatives and unpronounceable components that included parabens.

Desert Essence Organics Vanilla Chai Hand WashSolutions have been coming. Many health conscious cosmetic companies are offering new, non-toxic hand soaps (see this list at Skin Deep) for those of us getting away from discredited antibacterial formulas and other unnecessary additives.

Desert Essence is among the latest to step up with a purer line of hand washes. The company’s new Organics hand washes that are moisturizing and free of parabens, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates, phthalates, artificial fragrances or colors, silicones, EDTA, glycol or petroleum based ingredients.

The new hand washes come in four varieties: Grapefruit, Lavender, Coconut and Vanilla Chai. Each is affiliated with an outcome, with Lavender being calming and Grapefruit energizing, and so on.

Oddly, Desert Essence Organics are not holistically certified Organic by the USDA, meaning some of the ingredients are not organic. The company describes the product as being made with a combination of organic and natural ingredients, and a check of the label backs this up. Several of the herbs and plant ingredients used and the Jojoba Oil are certified organic. Other products are not identified as organic.

Still, the list of harmful and potentially harmful ingredients that have been exorcised from the Desert Essence formulas is impressive.

Parabens and Phthalates, both used as preservatives and stabilizers in a wide array of personal products, have been implicated as potential endocrine disruptors and studied for possibly causing everything from skin irritation to triggering breast cancer. Some studies have found these ingredients to pose a health threat; and other studies have found they do not cause damage. The Environmental Working Group, which analyzes chemical threats in our environment, has flagged them as adding to human’s personal “body burden,” the chemicals we carry around with us in our bloodstream.

The bottom line here: If you can get your hands clean without a lot of artificial additives, it could be a good thing.

The new hand washes are available online, at the Desert Essence, Amazon and, and at natural food markets across the nation.  They retail for $6.75 each.

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