3 Sneaky Ways Toxic Ingredients Make It into Everyday Products - Even If You Think They’re “Clean”

3 Sneaky Ways Toxic Ingredients Make It into Everyday Products - Even If You Think They’re “Clean”

All of us retail consumers are getting smarter each year, so it makes sense that the demand for clean and natural products has never been higher. Just last year, over 60% of consumers admitted they prioritized and sought out healthier product alternatives for themselves and their families. 

If you’re like me, someone who has been in the clean products game a while, you’ve already become accustomed to seeking out products with 

  • No parabens
  • No phthalates
  • No silicone
  • No sulfates
  • No formaldehyde 

At first, I was so empowered by my armor of buzzwords, tossing aside any product with the dreaded paraben mentioned in fine print…but it’s not so straightforward anymore. 

Since buyers have become increasingly wise to long-term effects of many of the toxic ingredients listed on the backs of our favorite products, corporations have had to turn to marketing and labeling loopholes to keep pushing these products off the shelves. 

What does that mean for us as consumers? It’s getting harder to determine which everyday products are safe…or not. It would take forever to memorize the growing list of chemical names to avoid.

Instead, here are some quick tips to use to avoid toxin-filled products hiding in plain sight. Steer clear of products that use the following in their marketing and labels:


1. Fragrance

Fragrance can mean anything from a drop of natural essential oil to a medley of harmful chemicals. The truth is companies are allowed - due to an FDA loophole - to protect their fragrance ingredients, much the same way that grandmas protect their family cookie recipes. 

Why You Should Avoid It

Using “fragrance” is a way for companies to sugarcoat the fact that they’re using phthalates, a scientific word for a preservative, in this case, a chemical that enhances the longevity of a perfume’s scent. However, recent years have shed light on phthalates’ harmful effects on the endocrine system, with prolonged exposure leading to hormonal disruption and fertility issues. 

Since companies’ special fragrance recipes are legally allowed to be hidden, there’s no telling what harmful toxins are hiding inside a bottle of lotion, shampoo, or perfume. Best bet? Err on the side of caution, and pass on anything with undisclosed “fragrance.”

How to Spot Non-toxic Alternatives Instead

Truly healthy products will typically have no problem being transparent about the actual ingredients because companies with integrity have nothing to hide.

Look for shorter lists of ingredients that include essential oils, or spices as the base for their scent. This was our exact approach when we developed our 4 ingredient Goat Milk Soap, with each ingredient chosen for its hydrating properties while still being safe enough to use in your family kitchen. 


2. The Word "Natural" Without a Percentage

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to trust the word natural on product labels? Unfortunately, the technicalities surrounding the use of the word “natural” on packaging make these products a bit suspect. 

The truth is, unless the product clearly states a percentage, there’s no way to confirm how much of the product is natural. 

Why You Should Avoid It

There are stricter regulations for companies to use the word “organic” and “certified organic” on products, namely that a certain percentage of the product is derived from an organic source. Not true for “natural”!

Companies can use the word “natural” in their advertising even if only 1% of the actual product is derived from a natural source, meaning “natural” soaps, lotions, deodorants, and shampoos could be harboring some chemical enemies that cause irritation, inflammation, or worse. 

How to Spot Non-toxic Alternatives Instead

Never take a product with the word “natural” in the title at face value. Be alert to products that use the word natural. 

Help yourself and your family avoid harmful ingredients by looking for products that

  • Clearly advertise what percentage of the product is natural (like our 100% All-Natural Goat Milk Lotion.Thanks to false advertising regulations, companies can’t legally advertise 95% natural or 100% natural unless the product actually meets that standard.
  • Have an expiration date. Natural products without harmful preservatives typically don’t have as long of a shelf-life and will specify the timeline.


3. Non-GMO and Other Feel-Good Filler Words

Non-GMO, or non-genetically modified, is an adjective advertisers like to slap on everything from food to skincare products…and water? I did a double take the first time I walked past a water bottle with “non-GMO” proudly written across the front. I was immediately annoyed. Water can’t be genetically modified. Did companies think it would be that easy to deceive customers? 

Apparently so. 

However, when it comes to clean products, “non-GMO”, “green”, and the like are meaningless descriptors, which is why it’s easy to add them to any product without objection.  

Why You Should Avoid It

Genetically modified can mean anything from scientists bioengineering plants in a lab to farmers selectively breeding stronger crops. While it’s still a good practice to purchase non-GMO if possible, it’s not the top priority when it comes to looking for non-toxic products.

Here’s what non-Gmo doesn’t mean: 

Non-GMO doesn’t mean NO pesticides. 

Non-GMO doesn’t mean NO chemicals. 

Non-GMO doesn’t mean SAFE. 

Non-GMO and similar words are intentionally misleading, tricking consumers into thinking something is healthy or good for them when it’s not.

How to Spot Non-toxic Alternatives Instead

If you’re going to buy a product that flaunts a non-GMO label, make sure it is in conjunction with other elements that indicate it is a healthier alternative, such as 

  • A certified USDA label, if shopping in the US
  • A certified organic by the Soil Association, (UK equivalent)
  • A listed percentage of natural ingredients
  • No chemicals hiding in the ingredients list


The journey to a toxin-free household isn’t an easy one to start, but the result of a happy, healthy family - a mission we take seriously at Bend Soap Co. - is well worth the effort. 

Check out our backstory, and learn how we got started on our healthy product journey.

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Thanks for reaching out to us about this! ​While I’m not sure what could be causing the red dots that you mentioned, we’ve received countless testimonials from customers with a wide variety of conditions that have found relief and improved skin by replacing other products with ours. With that said, we recommend our Unscented or Oatmeal & Honey Goat Milk Soap as neither of these bars contain any essential oils and are very gentle on delicate skin types (sometimes too many stimulating essential oils can be irritating for fragile skin). Check out all of the products we recommend to those with sensitive skin here: https://www.bendsoap.com/collections/best-soap-sensitive-skin
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any further questions or concerns or need more product recommendations. Our customer support team can be reached at info@bendsoap.com and are always happy to help! :)

Bend Soap Company


This is a great question. Some of our products do have a shelf life. For example, for our goat milk lotion, rather than using fresh goat milk in our lotions, which would be impossible to naturally preserve for more than a week or two, we use a high quality powdered goat milk. Even with the powdered milk, a safe, natural preservative to give our lotion a shelf life of 8-10 months before the product may begin to go bad. Furthermore, all of our lotions are tested for various strands of bacteria before distribution. Our bars of goat milk soap on the other hand have a shelf life of at least a year before they start to lose a little bit of their scent. But, even after the scent begins to fade, the soap is still 100% safe to use. There is no set shelf life or expiration date for these 2 products. If you have a question about the shelf life of a specific product you purchased, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer support team at info@bendsoap.com and they will be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Bend Soap Company

I was a little confused about the comment -“Have an expiration date. Natural products without harmful preservatives typically don’t have as long of a shelf-life and will specify the timeline.”
Does your products have an expiration dates? I have some items I have ordered awhile ago, and sometimes wonder if they are still okay to use??

Eula Barnum

I am getting little red dots around my ankles and on my feet. I am using hydrocortisone cream and goat milk soap. When they almost get cleared up, it is like some of these red dots the size of a pinprick start appearing again. It is only on my feet and ankles. I am using the Bends sweet orange soap. Any suggestions. Oh, I was in ICU for 58 days last year. My lungs,kidneys, and liver shut down, so my body is still not back to the new normal. I have had surgery and have lost parts of my finger and toes. Thank you. I love your products and buy them exclusively.


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