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Antibacterials Do More Harm Than Good

posted by Idaon December/3/2016


Natural Soap


When you need soap, body wash or household cleaners, do you reach for products labeled “antibacterial?”

I understand why folks (especially those with children) are choosing products labeled “ANTIBACTERIAL,” hoping to keep their family safe in the war against germs. 

There are so many commercials and ads that extol the virtues of antibacterial soaps and cleaners. After all they "kill 99.9% of germs." Sounds terrific, right? Shouldn’t we all want germ free hands and countertops?

"Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.



In 2013 the FDA issued a proposed rule that required the manufacturers of antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to prove that their products were more effective than plain soap and were safe for long-term use. The proof never came

Organic Soap

So, on September 2, 2106, the FDA issued a final rule banning the use of 19 active ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban, found in antibacterial hand and body washes.

If a product makes any antibacterial or antiseptic claims, chances are pretty good that it contains one of these 19 ingredients. (Source:; graphic from:

Companies have one year, until September 2017, to remove these ingredients from their products or remove the products from the market. 



While the FDA's new ban seems to be good news, the ban only applies to hand and body washes – products that are “intended for use with water, and are rinsed off after use.” (Source:

Triclosan Banned

The problem is -- there are many other products, including cosmetics, shaving creams, toothpastes, deodorants, lip balm, body lotion, fragrances, household cleaners, sponges and even facial tissues and mattresses, that can still use antibacterial chemicals under the present ban. Antibacterials are also found in workout clothes and children's toys. 

The ban also does not affect antibacterial soaps used in hospitals and food service settings or the hand sanitizers and wipes that have a pervasive presence in our daily lives.

Countless other products still contain triclosan, despite the ban on hand and body washes. The FDA claims that it needs more information before making a final ruling on these other products. 



While the majority of bacteria that we encounter every day are not our enemies, millions of Americans continue to want antibacterial products. As long as consumers want them, the industry will figure out a way to provide them.

Wash hands with natural soap

Many companies have already removed the banned ingredients and replaced them with one of three other chemicals called quaternary ammonia compounds; benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride or chloroxylenol.

While it is easy to find triclosan on an ingredient list, these ingredients go by so many different names they can easily hide and may be difficult to identify.

Health officials worry that these antibacterial agents, which have not been approved by the FDA, will have the same problems as triclosan and the other banned additives. Manufacturers have been given a year to gather evidence that supports the safety and effectiveness of these new antibacterial additions.





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By the year 2000, triclosan was present in 75% of liquid soap and almost 30% of bar soaps in the United States. 

However, a study done by the FDA showed that "antibacterial soaps have shown no evidence of preventing infections more effectively than hand washing with regular soap.” (Source:



The word Germ is not a technical term, but we use it to reference microscopic organisms, like bacteria and viruses, that cause disease. The problem is that we

Wash hands with natural soapoften think that all bacteria are disease causing germs, but nothing could be farther from the truth. (Right Picture From: "Tending the Body’s Microbial Garden." Drawing by Hank Osuna)

Most of the bacteria that live in and on our bodies are not only helpful but are also necessary for our good health.
 Sadly, the belief that having bacteria on our skin is bad, feeds our obsession with antibacterial products.

We have all heard about about the importance of the natural microbiome in our gut that is necessary for good digestive and overall health. Well, the microbiome on our skin is equally as important.

Natural bacteria that live on our skin act as a first line of defense to help fight off bad bacteria. For this defense to work properly, the good bacteria needs to stay on our skin. Unfortunately, antibacterial agents do not discriminate between bad and good bacteria, they kill them all.

Researchers believe that one possible cause of the increase in inflammatory skin diseases, like eczema, is an imbalance of the normal skin bacteria. (Source: Immune System, Skin Microbiome "Complement" One Another, Finds Penn Medicine Study at



Wash hands with natural soap


While antibacterial agents do work on bacteria, they do nothing to protect against viruses which cause the majority of minor illnesses like colds and flu.

Furthermore, antibacterial soaps strip away the helpful bacteria that help keep the balance of our microbiome. As a result fungal and viral infections are able to flourish.

The natural bacteria present on your skin actually compete for space with bad bacteria, fungi and viruses to keep our microbiome healthy. (Picture from:



What the commercials do not tell you is that in order for an antibacterial soap to kill 99.9% of germs on your hands, the soap must remain in contact with bacteria for about two minutes. How many of us spend that much time washing our hands? The same is true for kitchen cleaners . . . the cleaner must sit for at least two minutes. 

Wash hands with natural soap



Scientists know that long-term exposure to chemical antibacterial agents causes bacterial resistance. Only a few years after the first antibiotic, penicillin, became widely used in the 1940s, penicillin-resistant infections were already seen. 

“Superbugs,” are stronger than the original bacteria. These resistant bacteria force the development of stronger and stronger antibacterial agents to fight illness. (Picture from: 



As these antibacterial agents are washed down our drains, they contaminate our rivers, streams and groundwater. A 2004 study by the CDC found that, “about three-

Wash hands with natural soap

quarters of adults and children older than six had detectable levels of triclosan” in their bloodstreams."

A study in Environmental Health Perspectives found triclosan in 74.6% of people’s urine samples. And triclosan has been found in 97 percent of breast milk samples studied. 

Eventually, what we put into our drain water makes its way back to us. Most modern treatment processes cannot fully filter out triclosan. In fact, the wastewater treatment process often breaks down triclosan into more dangerous forms. 

The Great Lakes basin receives waste water from about 40 million surrounding residents. Triclosan has been detected in 90 percent of surface water samples and found in many fish in the Great Lakes. (Picture above from:



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According to Dr. Mary Ruebush,
"For decades, we’ve been a culture obsessed with avoiding germs, convinced that getting dirty is dangerous."

"But some health professionals insist that exposure to a range of bacteria is not only safe, it’s essential to human health and immunity."

"The immune system is like an athlete: To become strong and adept, it needs training and practice. Hyper-sanitized environments deny it that opportunity and keep it sedentary and out of shape." (Source: "Dirt, Germs, and Other Friendly Filth")



Wash hands with natural soap

For personal use: A study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that antibacterial soaps provide no benefit over washing your hands with plain soap and water.

So we recommend a good hand washing with soap and water.

Simply washing your hands with old-fashioned natural soap and water rids your skin of most fungi, bacteria and viruses. Soap does not kill germs, it surrounds them and carries them away.

The best way to keep your hands free and clear of germs is to take 10 to 20 seconds and rub your hands with soap under running warm water to create lots of lather. Then rinse with plenty of clean warm water.

Natural Organic SoapAlthough cold water will work, warm water helps dissolve oily dirt making it easier to rinse it off of your skin.


Of course our Chagrin Valley Soapsmade with organic ingredients, are a great choice to naturally clean your hands and body. 


If soap and water are not available using a commercial alcohol-based hand sanitizer for 20 seconds will offer protection between hand washings.

  • sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol
  • while alcohol can kill bacteria, it will not clean hands
  • not effective against e-coli -- so not good in the kitchen
  • be sure to read ingredients--some alcohol sanitizers still contain antibacterial agents

I make an assortment of my own versions of hand sanitizer. They are all a bit different, but basically they contain essential oils mixed with ethyl alcohol (like vodka), or organic aloe gel or witch hazel. Check out the Internet for recipes. 


For household use my go-to cleaner is plain, ordinary, vinegar. I use full strength vinegar to clean counter tops and greasy stovetops etc. I use a 1:1 dilution of water and vinegar in a spray bottle as my all purpose cleaner around the house. (I sometimes add essential oils)

clean with vinegar

White vinegars, like Heinz, contain at least 5 percent acetic acid and are called 5 percent vinegars. The acidic properties create a low pH which is too strong for most germs to survive, making vinegar a great inexpensive household cleaner.

Vinegar is non-toxic, biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and does not give off dangerous fumes. While vinegar does have a distinct odor, the smell dissipates quickly.

I also like to make essential oil cleaners using oils known for their antibacterial properties, like tea tree, thyme, lavender, oregano or rosemary. There is a lot of information available on the Internet about making your own natural and effective household cleaners.

One added note, be sure that you are not using a crusty, old, bacteria laden sponge or dishcloth to clean your home!



I hope you enjoyed our blog. Please share your thoughts with us. 

Do you have any recipes for homemade natural cleaners?

Do you have any recipes for homemade natural hand sanitizers?


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Categories: Educational

My Many Shades of Gray

posted by Idaon July/24/2016

About ten years ago I was visiting with my mom (left photo). She was 88 at the time. All of a sudden she plucked 
a hair from my head and said, “You’re too beautiful to let your hair go gray.” 

Although I had noticed a few gray strands, my hair had always been a mixture of blonde and brown strands and I thought the gray blended in rather well. As the months passed more and more gray sprouted up. So I went into “mad scientist” mode and created an herbal rinse to help enhance the blonde and darken the gray.

It worked rather well (meaning no comments from mom) for about a year until I finally realized that my bangs were not really blondish anymore—they were totally gray.



At that point I decided to just go gray—after all I was a grandmother now and besides--why question Mother Nature.

Unfortunately, as the gray strands grew so did the negative comments and I succumbed to the pressure. Feeling somewhat defeated I trotted off to the drugstore and bought a box of color. (Right photo is an ad from 1924. Taken from the National Library of Medicine)

It looked quite natural and I actually liked it! Every six months did the trick for a few years. But then it became every five months, then every four months—you get the idea.

About 18 months ago I decided I had enough. What was I doing? Seriously, I believe so much in natural skin care and I am dumping these chemicals all over my head—for what?

Sadly, our society reveres youth and makes us fearful of aging. But I was never anxious about getting older, frankly it is much better than the alternative. 

My fine lines, wrinkles and age spots (called freckles in my youth) are a part of my life story. So if I was happy with who I am and comfortable in my own skin why not be happy with my own hair? I would have never thought that what seemed like such a minor issue would become such an emotional challenge.

After making the decision to welcome my gray hair, I began to notice so many confident women wearing gray hair in many shades, styles and lengths. They did not look old and frumpy, they looked beautiful. There is something elegant, graceful and sophisticated about a woman with gray hair who still exudes youthfulness. I realized it is not the gray hair that makes you old—it is your attitude, how you live your life and how you feel about yourself. I was ready to embrace this new chapter of my life.

Ida Chagrin Valley Soap

So the transitional journey began and it is truly a process that takes patience and perseverance. The transition can last quite a long time depending on your hair length and genetics.

I had long hair, about 4 inches below my shoulders, and was not ready to cut it short--one drastic change was quite enough. The first few months of the root stripes growing out was the most discouraging time. Once again the comments came and I must admit I started having second thoughts about my decision. But this time I would not surrender to pressure.

My hair is now shoulder length. I cut a bit off the ends every month or so and am now about 70% gray!




Young Hair Follicle

The hair follicles on our heads number about 100,000. The number varies with hair color—blondes have the most follicles and redheads the least.

Each of these follicles works autonomously, meaning that each individual hair is on its own individual cycle. If all of our hair strands were on the same cycle they would shed all at one time and we would be bald until they grew back. Each hair lasts for two to six years before it falls out and then another takes its place.

Old hair Follicle


Graying hair occurs when pigment producing cells in hair follicles, called melanocytes, stop producing melanin, the pigment responsible for hair color.

Since the number of melanocytes decrease as we age, the amount of melanin that is produced also decreases. The process of going gray is mainly determined by our genetics. 

 Pictures of Hair Follicles taken from the Library of Congress website





I have read so much information over the past year about how to care for my graying locks. The problem is that the whole process—when graying occurs, where it occurs, how long it takes and the resulting colors and textures are genetically determined. Since each of us is unique, the best I can do is to share my experience.


TEXTURE: There is no doubt that my hair texture is different . . . it feels thinner but not brittle. While there are some coarse, wiry strands, most are actually softer.


Organic Goat Milk Shampoo

My hair used to be oily—not anymore. As we age, oil glands slow down and produce less sebum, which can result in drier hair. So I now use shampoo bars for normal to dry hair. My hair still loves any bar with coconut milk. I have also found that brushing my scalp helps distribute oils and add shine.

SHAMPOOING: How often I shampoo is a balancing act. While I don’t need to shampoo every day, I find that my hair looks so much better after shampooing. Using the more moisturizing shampoo bars allows me to shampoo often without drying out my hair or scalp.

Chagrin Valley Hair Oil

MANAGEABILITY: My thin hair was never easy (almost impossible) to style. Actually the best thing that happened to my hair was the body I got from using shampoo 
bars. Although my hair still has nice body, some of the graying strands can be wiry and unruly. I now use the tiniest bit of hair oil to smooth out those unruly strands. The oil also adds extra body and shine.



YELLOWING: At times my silver locks get a yellowish cast. The outer covering, or cuticle, of gray hair is very porous meaning that it more readily absorbs things like mineral deposits in hard water, chlorine in pools, environmental pollutants, smoke or styling product residue which may give gray hair a yellowish tint. I have found two things that help.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: I make a diluted rinse using about 1 to 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar to 1 quart of water. An ACV helps remove the residue in hair that can cause yellowing. We have a lot of information on our website about vinegar rinses (Click Here). Since gray hair tends to be dryer, this recipe is more dilute.
  • Botanical Infusion Rinse: If you think back to art class we learned about the color wheel and color theory. Complementary colors lie opposite one another on the color wheel and tend to neutralize each other. Since blue is a complement to orange and purple is a complement to yellow, a rinse made with an infusion of purple or blue botanicals can help minimize the yellow or brassy colors often seen in gray hair. 

    I usually use cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, but in the summer I will often use blooms from other purplish blue blooms, like purple coneflower, growing in my garden. Simply make a strong tea (infusion) of purple or blue flowers with hot water. Allow the flowers steep in the water until you get a nice rich color. The more concentrated the infusion, the stronger the color. I use this rinse after shampooing as needed. Sometimes I use it as the water to dilute my apple cider vinegar rinse.



Going gray may not be for everyone. The most important thing to remember is that it is your life, your hair and your choice. Don't allow yourself to be bullied by the opinions of others. Just keep your goal in mind and remember if you don't like it you can always go back to coloring.


A few days ago my mom, now 98, looked at me, pushed my bangs away from my forehead and said, “you look beautiful with gray hair.”  


Have you gone gray? Are you thinking about it? Please share your experience!


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Categories: Educational | For the Hair | Tips & Advice

Natural Insect Repellents: An Alternative

posted by Idaon April/17/2016


Natural Bug Repellent Mosquito Season

There are natural alternatives to chemical laden insect repellents. Plants have been repelling insects and bugs to protect themselves since the beginning of time. So why not harness the power of plants? 

Mosquito season has already begun in some parts of the country. Generally, when temperatures no longer dip below 50°F (10°C), mosquito eggs begin hatching and the mosquito season begins. In southern Texas and Florida this may be as early as February.

Mosquitoes thrive on hot weather and as the summer temperatures increase, the mosquito breeding cycle time shortens meaning even more mosquitoes. The mosquito season reaches its peak during the hot summer months.


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Categories: Educational

The Nitty Gritty of Exfoliation

posted by Idaon March/23/2016


It may surprise you, but I have never been obsessed with skin care products. My skin care regimen consisted of a shower with soap and water--and I was done! As I began doing research on and experimenting with ingredients for our face and body scrubs, my skin regimen changed. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would soon be massaging myself with sugars, salts and pulverized beans, I would have politely disagreed. But my skin now thanks me each and every day!


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Categories: Educational | Tips & Advice

Will A Palm Oil Boycott Really Help?

posted by Idaon January/15/2016



Palm oil has been used in soap making for thousands of years.

Palm oil creates a long lasting, great cleansing, moisturizing bar of soap with a fluffy lather. Despite its great attributes in soap and other products, palm oil has become a highly debated topic.

Worldwide concerns regarding the effect of the growing number of palm oil plantations on the rights of indigenous peoples and the destruction of wildlife and biodiversity must be addressed.


At Chagrin Valley Soap we treasure our planet and its inhabitants. We know that although we play a very small part, we must always make choices that are ecologically and socially responsible. Over the years we have done our research, which I share with you today.


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Categories: Educationals

Why Use A Natural Deodorant

posted by Idaon November/22/2015


A Brief History 

In many ancient societies, body odor was not considered offensive. Others, like the Romans, were constantly bathing and saturating themselves and their clothing with perfume. The Greek poet Homer said that good hosts should offer their guests baths and aromatic oils. Some would carry sachets filled with aromatic herbs to help combat odor.

"Mum," the first trademarked deodorant, was created in Philadelphia by an unknown inventor, in 1888. It was a waxy paste cream applied to the underarms made with zinc oxide.

Magazines ads, like the one on the right (, from the 1930's, cautioned women that if they did not use Mum deodorant, they would become social outcasts. The ad contains the following words,

“…men sidestep her. The other girls ignore her. For the best reason in the world! It is unpardonable, these days, for any girl to carry the odor of underarm perspiration on her person and her clothing…Don’t risk letting this fault shut you out of popularity.”


The first Antiperspirant, EverDry, was introduced in 1903. EverDry, an aluminum chloride solution applied with a cotton swab, was so acidic that it ate through clothing. In the 1950’s the manufacturers of MUM invented Ban, a deodorant with a roll-on applicator inspired by the ball-point pen.

In the early 1950's two physicians presented evidence for the role that bacteria played in underarm odor. At that time many manufacturers began using hexachlorophene, a powerful antimicrobial agent, in their deodorants and body soaps. In 1972, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of products containing more than 1% of hexachlorophene for the general public after reports of deaths in the United States and France from brain damage caused by hexachlorophene.

In the 1960's many deodorant companies began using Triclosan to kill odor-causing bacteria. We now believe that wide use of Triclosan may also be promoting drug resistant bacteria. Triclosan, extremely toxic to aquatic wildlife, has been detected in many U.S. waterways.

Also in the 1960's, the Gillette Company introduced Right Guard, the first aerosol antiperspirant. 


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Categories: Educationals

Evaluating Scientific Research

posted by Idaon November/8/2015


I received an email from one of our customers with a great question, “Thank you for reminding me to be more cautious about what I believe that I see on the internet. But how am I or anyone who doesn't have a science background supposed to know what to look for in all of those studies we read about?”

The science teacher in me just loves questions! So, I decided to deviate from my original blog plan about natural deodorant to try and help answer the question. 


Every day we are bombarded with information about science from newspapers, radio, television and the internet. As consumers we are often required to evaluate scientific claims in advertising and the media. Advertising is used to sell products and scientific claims are often used in advertising to convince us of the benefits of those products. Making sense of it all and sorting out credible claims and credible scientific studies can be very difficult for the non-scientist. So how do we, as consumers, learn what is good science and bad science?  

A true evaluation of a piece of scientific research requires a thorough understanding of research methods as well as the topic being researched. The purpose of this blog is to provide some basic information on how look with a more critical eye at scientific claims and research.  


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Categories: Educationals

Antiperspirants & Breast Cancer: Fact & Fiction Part 3

posted by Idaon November/2/2015


 Click here to read Part 1      Click here to read part 2


Problem #2: The fact that most breast cancers occur in the upper outer quadrant of the breast area, where the lymph nodes are located, is further proof of the link between antiperspirants and breast cancer.


The lymph nodes in the underarm, called axillary nodes, form a chain from the underarm to the collarbone. These lymph nodes are responsible for draining and filtering the lymph from the breasts and surrounding areas, including the neck, the upper arms, and the underarm area before it goes back into the bloodstream.

While it is true that more breast cancers develop in the upper outer quadrant of the breast, it is simply due to the anatomy of the breast. The four breast quadrants are actually not all the same size. There is more breast tissue in the upper outer quadrant because of a portion of the breast called the “tail of Spence,” which extends upward toward the underarm.

Since there is more breast tissue in this area than in other quadrants, it makes sense that we would also see more cancer in that area. Studies have shown that the number of breast cancers in the upper outer part of the breast is in proportion to the amount of breast tissue in that area.

There is no evidence to suggest that the location of cancers within the breast is related to using antiperspirants. It is also important to remember that breast cancer starts in the breast and spreads to the lymph nodes, not the other way around.

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Categories: Educationals

Antiperspirants & Breast Cancer: Fact & Fiction Part 2

posted by Idaon October/26/2015

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I also received a copy of the email I shared in my previous blog from well meaning friends and family members. Even though as a nurse I knew that the information was false, I must admit it was the impetus for my beginning experimentation with natural deodorant recipes (more about that later).


There are four specific problems with that misleading email that I would like to share over the next few blogs. This blog will focus on problem number one!

  1. Since antiperspirants keep a person from sweating, cancer-causing toxins build up in the armpit lymph nodes located in the armpits.
  2. The fact that most breast cancer tumors occur in the upper outer quadrant of the breast area, where the lymph nodes are located, is further proof of the link between antiperspirants and breast cancer.
  3. Men are less likely to develop breast cancer due to antiperspirants because the antiperspirant is caught in their hair and does not get applied to the skin.
  4. Women who apply antiperspirant right after shaving increase the risk further because shaving causes almost imperceptible nicks in the skin which give the chemicals entrance into the body from the armpit area.

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Categories: Educationals

Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer?

posted by Idaon October/19/2015


The title of this blog got your attention! Sadly, that was the point!  Breast cancer is scary—believe me I know. According to the American Cancer Society over 40,000 women will die from breast cancer this year alone and we still do not know the cause. So when someone says that they found a cause, of any kind, we “click” to find out more.

A customer recently sent me a link to another company selling natural deodorant. She now uses our organic deodorant but wanted to let me know that if I simply took the time to warn all of my customers about the links between antiperspirants and breast cancer, like this other website, I would get many more customers. Sadly, I know that she is right.

I started Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve because of a genuine concern about the amount of synthetic chemicals in commercial skin care products and the possible adverse effects these chemicals were having on us, our children and our planet.

I believe in using natural products with my whole being, but when I read the page my customer described—I was frightened--not by the warnings, but by the indiscriminate use of misleading scare tactics used by the company to sell their products. As a breast cancer survivor, I felt angry and betrayed. It is just not the right thing to do!


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Categories: Educationals