As I have become more and more mindful of chemical ingredients found in the average cleaning supply, toiletry item, beauty product, or almost anything else that lines my cupboards and sink – I have made conscious efforts to detoxify those items. The shower is a primary area where I think that it’s important to kick the chemicals to the curb. Think about it – those very unnatural products, full of chemicals and dyes are applied directly to the skin (body washes, face wash, lotions, make up, the list goes on,) sometimes applied multiple times a day. And our skin is our largest organ, which is porous and absorbent.
For over a year now I have made the switch from cheap, packaged grocery aisle soaps to handmade soaps. Fortunately, artisan soaps are prevalent and easy to find. Many small boutiques often sell beautiful handmade soaps, made of few ingredients which are non-toxic. You can search online to find suppliers as well, whether you search large scale with Amazon or find a small producer on Etsy. Make your way to a farmers market or craft show and I’m sure someone there will have some soaps. You could also go for a big brand name, such as Dr. Bronner’s.
Back in 2013 I found my natural soap supplier while browsing a foreigner market in my former Korean city of Ulsan. A lovely market had been organized in which mostly foreigners set up tables and sold their handmade items. Amongst those tables was a well-stocked soaps table by Mama’s Binoo (binoo is soap in Korean.)
Mama’s Binoo is an artisanal soaps producer run by Stacey Fells, originally of Canada, but now living in Korea. A short list of her products are: soaps, massage oils, lotions, bug spray, shampoo bars, candles etc. You can find the full list directly on her Facebook page, or visit her table at one of the foreigner markets that has since been started up here in Busan.
Stacey is extremely knowledgable about her products and their benefits and she freely shares that knowledge with her customers in order to keep them clean and satisfied. Some of her most popular products are: zinc cream, shampoo bars and Bug Off, a natural bug spray that smells amazing. Stacey began making homemade products a few years back for her son who suffered from eczema. As she explains, “Even though I could speak Korean well it was hard deciphering the ingredients on the labels here sooo… I decided if I couldn’t find what I needed that I’d make it myself.” I can relate to that feeling of helplessness as an expat who doesn’t know the native language, but I’d challenge anyone to pull their body wash out of their showers and try to read those ingredients, even in their native language: sodium lauryl sulfate, toluene, propylene glycol anyone?
“Even though I could speak Korean well it was hard deciphering the ingredients on the labels here sooo… I decided if I couldn’t find what I needed that I’d make it myself.” – Stacey of Mama’s Binoo
The main reason that I made the switch from chemical to natural was because I was weary of what I had been applying to my skin day after day and what sort of long term effect that might have been having on my health. My boyfriend and I have a simple rule that we try to stick to when it comes to what we keep in our house – If we can’t eat it, then it doesn’t belong. Of course, we’re not going to be having our soaps with dinner, but you get the point. The products we buy and the companies we support are as natural as we can find and afford.
By buying and using handmade, natural soaps I not only make my home a little less toxic, but I am also supporting those making the soaps. Another benefit is decreasing the amount of packaging that comes home with me from the shop.You could go the next step and take a class on soap making and provide for yourself, I however, will just continue to shop local and use the wonderful products of Mama’s Binoo. Who’s your favorite local soaps producer?