Easy and Cheap Safer Hand Soap


Before my kids were old enough to use hand soap, I stocked our bathrooms with the Beautycounter hand soap pump.

Then my daughter started wanting to wash her hands and I watched tablespoons of my soap go down the drain each wash. I still love this soap and have it next to my bathroom sink, but I needed a cheaper option for around the house. And I wanted it to have clean ingredients for their little hands, especially since they are so often in their mouths (whyyyy?).

Here's the deal with regular old hand soap - it can include a bunch of things I don't want on my kids' hands or my own, and definitely not in their mouths. Common ingredients include:

  1. Fragrance is something I talk about all the time on Instagram, but the quick story is that "it" is protected by IP law, so companies don't have to disclose the ingredients that are in it. The simple word "fragrance" on a label (or "pafrum") is rarely just one ingredient. It's often tens or hundreds of ingredients. Often times, harmful ingredients like phthalates (see below) hide undetected in fragrance.

  2. Phthalates are a class of plasticizers that are often used in personal care products to make fragrance stick to skin. Unfortunately, they are known endocrine disruptors (studies have shown a link to early breast development, which is a risk factor for breast cancer) and have been tied to birth defects.

  3. Sulfates are what is used to make soap lather or bubble. They aren't necessary in terms of cleaning, but over time advertising has equated lather with cleanliness and here we are. SLS (sodium laurel sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) are two of the most common that you will see. The problem with sulfates is that they strip our skin of natural oils, which means our skin is more penetrable and they are a known allergen/skin irritant. Together that is a crappy combo.

But there are plenty of safer options out there! I recommend Seventh Generation or Everyone. You can easily find these at Target, Whole Foods, or on Amazon.

And while I really try to focus on the positive and share brands I love, I need to call out Method and Mrs. Meyers. Both brands definitely look cleaner (and may even charge a bit more for this) but almost always include fragrance. A quick look at the label will tell you if it does or not.

I am 99.9% DIY-free, it’s just not my thing. For a while I bought the brands above.

But I’ve found that if I grab a bottle of Dr. Bronner's concentrated castile soap and foaming soap dispensers, I can make really clean hand soap and the kids always think it’s a fun activity. Also, it’s super cheap so if they want to play with it in the bathroom for twenty minutes, I’m all for it.

A bottle of concentrate usually lasts us over a year and cuts down on waste because we are no longer no throwing out or recycling the soap dispenser every time we run out.

Foaming soap dispensers are really simple to use. Simply fill to the first line with the concentrated soap and then with water to the top line. We have them at every sink in our home with the exception of mine. Because a mama’s got to have a tiny bit of luxury, right?

For on-the-go hand washing, I try to keep two things in my bag. A mini bottle of Dr. Bronner's for use in public restrooms and a spray sanitizer from Honest Co or Everyone. The sprays are great when leaving the park, store, etc. I buy them at Target (in the travel toiletries section) or Whole Foods where the prices tend to be better.


Cheap and easy safer hand soap. Plus, a fun activity for kids!

Safer Makeup Options for Kids

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Any one else’s kids love to do their makeup? I’m not even sure why we buy our kids toys, because they would much rather play alongside Greg and I, with the “real stuff” we use all day, cosmetics included.

Most days I keep my son entertained while I get ready with my blush and a brush - he even knows when I hand him a non-blush brush and demands the real thing. My daughter drew herself some amazing eyebrows a few days back while I got ready. And a little shout out to Beautycounter’s brow pencil - the double brow was still going strong a full 24 hours later (we did skip bath that night for whatever reason).

I love a made up kid as much as the next, but I do think that what we let little ones put on their skin matters. Sadly, most of the makeup marketed to kids is full of harmful ingredients. I reviewed several products on Amazon, as well as did a walk thru at Target and Ross to review makeup sets marketed to kids. Here are a handful of the ingredients that I found commonly used across the sets:

  • Fragrance - Fragrance is my biggest pet peeve - it can be made up of tens or hundreds of ingredients, including things like phthalates (which I also found as stand alone ingredients in some of these sets), a class of plastics used in cosmetics that are also endocrine disruptors. The last thing we want our kids using are products that have ingredients that may mess with their hormones - especially young girls with developing breast tissue.

  • BHT - I actually wasn’t sure what this was but saw it listed in the ingredients of many of the sets so looked it up. Turns out it is an antioxidant used to extend shelf life, but also likely carcinogenic, an endocrine disruptor, and may harm the liver.

  • PEGs - these are a compound used for various different functions in products, like softening or thickening, but depending on how they are manufactured can be contaminated with carcinogens.

  • Parabens - another endocrine disruptor, parabanes are used as preservatives. But there are other safer preservatives that don’t mess with our hormones.

Even more maddening than products made with crappy ingredients, is that some companies aren’t even willing to act when their products test positive for contaminants like asbestos. The FDA recently found through independent tests that products from both Justice and Claire’s were contaminated with asbestos. While Justice immediately recalled their products, Claire’s took quite some time to do so. Current legislation does not give the FDA power to make recalls in the personal care industry, they are only able to ask companies to voluntarily recall products.

Safer Makeup Options for Kids

Here are a few favorites I recommend regularly, a few I found online for this post that are safer options, and what my kids currently use. Note that I’m never looking for perfection - I’m always on the lookout for significantly safer without stressing about only using the best of the best.

Wooden Play Makeup - I did not realize this was a thing until an Instagram friend shared it with me. These would be great for toddlers who don’t need actual makeup. Keep a few pieces in your bathroom and make them a special toy they play with only when you get ready. Here are a few options: 1, 2.

Little Cosmetics Pretend Makeup - I’m intrigued by this pretend makeup - it’s fake (i.e. no color comes off) but it’s made to look and feel real. Since it’s not an actual cosmetic I can’t find ingredients for it. I’m assuming it’s plastic of some sort? This might be a great option for preschoolers, if you want something that does not transfer to the skin but need something that looks a bit more real than the wooden options.

Klee Kids and Klee Girls Natural Mineral Makeup - Klee is a great brand making clean makeup for kids. They exclude phthalates, parabens, and synthetic colorants. Because they use no preservatives, keep in mind that they recommend swapping out makeup after 6 months and to toss powders if they get wet. You can find several sets on Amazon or directly from their website. They have a line targeted to little ones (the play makeup) and to tweens (the mineral makeup).

Piggy Paint - We love Piggy Paint nail polish, it’s the only brand I use for my daughter, and it looks like Target now has a Piggy Paint Makeover set (I’m not seeing it available on Amazon or even on the Piggy Paint site). It’s free of parabens (big win!) and many other harsh chemicals. Does include synthetic dyes (which are not necessarily harmful, it really depends on which ones they are using), but overall this is much safer than most products marketed to kids.

Beautycounter - At this point, my kids just use whatever is in my makeup drawer, which means all Beautycounter. I am not suggesting you run out and buy your kids high performing safer makeup, definitely not necessary, but this is where I would start for a teenager who is starting to experiment with makeup outside of playing. Though if you’re already a Beautycounter makeup user, let your little ones use it! And if they want their own, from time to time there are deep discounts on holiday and seasonal palettes - it’s a great time to grab one for kids and add a small brush set from Amazon.

What I like about Beautycounter is you won’t find fragrance or flavors, so no hidden ingredients, there is a list of 1500 ingredients they will never use, and they are the only brand (I’m aware of) testing for heavy metals and contaminants. They do use synthetic dyes as this is high performing adult makeup.

I can’t control everything my kids come in contact with and I’d go crazy trying to. But where there is a safer option that is affordable and accessible, I’d much rather have them playing with that than the alternative.