Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Additive free soap

There is a gap between scientific knowledge and our common sense which is learned by our everyday experiences. I will illustrate this gap by describing my recent experience with additive free soap. I have concluded that as long as there are people who feel “additive free” products are “good”, these products will flourish.

Recently, there have been many “additive free” products on the shelf of the grocery store, and these products are advertised as “safe” products. Now, I am skeptical of these “additive free” things for a scientific reason. One of the reasons (I am skeptical) is because I question the safety of “natural” or “traditional” products. Another reason I am skeptical is because of the definition of “additive free”.

First, “natural” or “traditional” products can be just as dangerous as “artificial” or “synthetic” products. The most toxic substance known to human beings is Botulin, which is created by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. The strongest cancer causing substance known to human beings is Aflatoxin, which is naturally created by mold. Tobacco is traditionally used by Native Americans, yet it causes more cancer than any other chemical substance. Contrary to these naturally occurring substances, additives may actually improve safety. Additives are often added for safety reasons. For example, preservatives prevent bacterial decomposition of food. Such decomposition of foods creates cancer causing substances. Aflatoxin is an example of such substances. If you want to prevent decomposition by traditional methods, you need, for example, to add more salt to food. Unfortunately salt causes high blood pressure and stomach cancer.

Another issue concerning “additive free” products is the definition of “additive”. For example, let us consider additive free soap. How do we define additives to soap? In a sense, soap itself is an additive. During most of human history, people washed themselves by hot or cold water. Only in the industrial age was soap available for ordinary people to wash their body. So, we can say that soap is an additive to the natural cleaning process of the human body. Moreover, soap is created by a chemical reaction called Saponification, so it can be said that soap is a chemically synthetic product.

So, do I use additive free products? Funny thing is that actually I do. Recently, I switched facial and body soaps from soap with chemically synthetic ingredients to “additive free” soap. I have sensitive skin which tends to be dry. I often suffer skin irritation because of this. When I was using soap with chemically synthetic ingredients, I had an itchy feeling around my lips. Also, I had inflammation of the skin around my eyes. After switching to additive free soap, the itchy feeling around my lips disappeared. The inflammation around my eyes is still there, but it has gotten better. I do not know the reason for this change. Maybe it was just a change of weather which caused the improvement. But I like the feeling of additive free soap because it does not have an artificial odor.

More recently, I learned that there is a difference among additive -free soaps. I bought a soup made by “wakuneri”. Now, I do not know what “wakuneri” means, but I just know that it is a more “traditional” method of making soap. At first, I was skeptical. If the ingredients are the same, the method of making soap does not matter. But after I used this “wakuneri” soap, I found that it is creamier than ordinary soap. Now I use “wakuneri” soap for washing my body and face.

Conclusion? Experience outweighs scientific knowledge. Science cannot explain every detail of our daily life. As long as there is a problem which cannot be solved by science, we will continue to rely on our experience, and as long as there are people who feel that “additive free” products are “good”, these products will flourish.

P.S. Ms Maria Schneider pointed out that there is a long history of making soap by traditional methods before the industrial production of soap began. But I still concur that only after industrial age ordinary people can use soap in a bath room everyday.

Acknowledgement: Ms Maria Schneider check the English and did many suggestion to improve the article. I thank her greatly.

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