Just like with our own shampoo choices, the decision to steer away from commercially made shampoos for our pets usually stems from sensitivity and/or the growing awareness of the potentially toxic chemicals often added to skin and hair care products. Why risk potential problems from the presence of unnecessary ingredients.
Emulsifiers, preservatives, solvents, and fragrances are all used to achieve the thick, creamy consistency we want and a long shelf life for the commercial market. However, they have their drawbacks and risks of toxicity.
Examples of common additives are as follows:
Propylene glycol is an inexpensive phytochemical that serves as a solvent and skin conditioner. The concern is that it alters skin structure, allowing the penetration of other chemicals into the bloodstream.
Methylparaben is a common synthetic preservative with concerns being possible hormonal changes and its link to certain types of cancer.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a surfactant which means it helps emulsify and blend different liquids. It can cause problems with skin irritation and again is a substance which alters skin structure.
Phthalates are fragrances which can effect the immune system, respiratory and endocrine function.
Shampoos advertised as leaving hair or fur squeaky clean does do so but eventually may strip away protective oils and dry out hair, fur or skin. Dogs and cats rarely need baths anyway so when the need does arise there is no reason to create a problem with dry, flaky skin. No one wants a scratching dog.
Soaps and detergents are not the same thing. Both are what are called surfactants, which means a washing compound that mixes grease and water. The purpose is to act as a solvent in removing oil and grime.
Soap is made with fats originating from either animals or vegetable sources. This fat is combined with an alkali to create what is called saponification. All soaps are made with some form of alkali (Potassium Hydroxide).
Soaps are made of natural materials and have less environmental impact.
Even though some of the ingredients in detergents may be natural, basically detergents are synthetic.
We also have to take into consideration what gets washed down the drains into our water supply and the bio-accumulative effects on our wildlife.
Our choice as the base for our shampoo is Dr. Bronner's liquid, vegetable-based castile soap.
This is an olive oil based soap made without additional chemicals, coloring agents, preservatives, and artificial scents.
Ingredients in castile soap are:
Water, Organic Coconut Oil*, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Vit. E.
* CERTIFIED FAIR TRADE INGREDIENTS
** None remains after saponifying oils into soap and glycerin
Dr. Bronner's castile soap does contain coconut oil. For those who need an alternative due to a coconut allergy, request the 100% olive oil and castor oil castile soap.
I discovered this 100% Olive oil and Castor oil liquid castile soap when I needed a liquid soap without coconut oil.
Whether you need to avoid coconut or not, if you prefer this blend instead of Dr. Bronner's castile soap just let me know.
Added with the castile soap is a bit of apple cider vinegar. Vinegar has antibacterial properties, helps deodorize, and leaves the pet's coat nice and shiny. Once washed off you won't smell any lingering vinegar scent.
Aloe vera gel is a nice substitute for simply adding water. Aloe is very cooling, soothing, and healing for the skin should there be anything causing your pet to itch and twitch.
The added essential oils are very useful for pets with itchy, twitchy, allergy prone skin. Chosen for this blend are Lavender, Chamomile Patchouli and Carrot seed. These contain anti-inflammatory and healing properties to soothe and help calm down the inflammation.
Baths are soothing and this shampoo is gentle on the skin, but just don't over do it with the frequency. You don't want to dry out your dog's skin and make things worse.
You have to be very careful with the use of essential oils on cats. Cats are very sensitive to oxygenated compounds in plants with high phenols, ketones, D-Limonene and Alpha-pinenes. That leaves out most of the pines, mints and citruses. The livers of cats cannot break down these compounds therefore they would be stored in the fatty tissue and create problems as they build up.
If you plan on using this shampoo on a cat, please request that only the Lavender and Chamomile be added.
Cats usually don't take kindly to getting a bath but often if you feel a bath will soothe irritated skin than try it.
Lavender and Chamomile are also very emotionally calming, so perhaps they will help with the stress of getting wet.
This shampoo will not result in a billowing sudsy foam being it lacks detergents, nor does it have the thick, pouring consistency of commercial shampoos. However, the high coconut oil content does make for a rich lather and it is concentrated so you don't need very much at a time. Only use what is necessary so it isn't so hard to rinse out of the fur.
The shampoo comes in an 8 oz. plastic bottle with a pop-up type cap.
Being there aren't emulsifiers added, give the bottle a little shake before each use to reblend the ingredients.
Should the shampoo be exposed to temperatures dropping to about 50 degrees F, you will notice a cloudy appearance. Put the soap in a warm room, or warm water, and it will clear up at around 70 degrees F. Clear or cloudy, the soap is fine.
Avoid contact with the eyes as it will irritate.
An informative blog post on pet care at home:
Natural, environmentally friendly and affordable home remedies and personal body care for the family. Homemade, handmade, organic when possible, all with a touch of the love and wisdom from past generations. Knowledge of what is in your products is the start to taking back control as a consumer.