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Who Is Dr. Bonner?

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If you have been to a natural health food store, you probably have noticed the large, pastel labeled bottles of Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap. If you’ve gotten closer to the bottle, you will see thousands of small white words, where most products have their directions and lists of ingredients. In addition to the directions and ingredients (which are few), you get a sermon from the original soapmaker—insane asylum escapee and Holocaust survivor, Emanuel Theodore Bronner.  

Printed between the skimpy ingredients list is a very long explanation of regenerative organic certification that reads:

“Regenerative organic agriculture builds rich soil, sequesters carbon, retains and stores water, provides healthy food, creates biodiverse habitat for wildlife—mitigates catastrophic climate change on Spaceship Earth.”

Dr. Bronner regularly gave his soaps away as treats during his religious sermons. When people were walking away with the products without listening, he printed the message on the bottle. However long-winded the theology of Dr. Bronner may be, it does have merit. Using one natural product for a lot purposes can help us and the Earth.

Dr. Bronner’s and other “pure castile” products make you think twice about consumption and what you are putting on your body.

The “natural” sustainable market for beauty and household products is booming, not so much because of trends or celebrity endorsement but because it seems that consumers are putting their dollars in political and moral causes. Brands now are at the mercy of the internet and social media as consumers want to know what is in their products and where the brands stand on their issues.

Environmentally friendly products with natural ingredients are now at the forefront of millennial spending, especially millennials of color.

“These ingredients, as well as new forms of delivery and applications, are what’s keeping the category interesting,” said Conny Wittke, CEO of nügg Beauty to Drugstore News. “Multifunctional products and easy-to-use products that provide benefits faster and easier also keep rising in popularity, as do products that are multifunctional in the sense of helping consumers with topics, such as stress and antipollution.”

There are nine ingredients in Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap. A generic mainstream soap holds around 16-20 ingredients. When it comes to health and skincare, the number of ingredients isn’t really a measurement of whether a product is good for you or not—it’s what are those ingredients. Castile soaps like Dr. Bronner’s are made mostly of oils such as organic coconut, palm kernel, olive, hemp and jojoba oil. Mainstream soaps boast of ingredients such as sodium tallowate (tallow or beef fat), fragrances, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate (the fats of coconut oil), and titanium dioxide (a thickener and UV protection often found in sunscreen).

The importance of what is in castile soaps is evident in how useful they can be. Dr. Bronner advertises that the 18-in-1 bottle of liquid soap can be used to clean your body, hair, face, dog, can be used for mopping, washing produce, laundry and even as a toothpaste. (I’ve tested with great success). The last one, as successful as it was, took “washing your mouth out with soap” to an entirely new level.

Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure-Castile Soap is 100% biodegradable, organic and certified fair trade. Castile soap is the most powerful mainstream soap, particularly as it is made of highly concentrated plant oils. Because you don’t have to use that much, the affordable gallon-sized or quarter-gallon sized bottles lasts for ages. What could possibly be the problem?

Issues that arise with natural products are simple: they don’t give us the results we are used to having. Natural soaps don’t have chemicals that make dirt and grime disappear, so don’t be confused when your first uses leave a sticky film on surfaces or when you have to scrub a bit harder than usual or when the product smell is particularly potent and earthy.

Test out the products for your self. Not only will you have a natural clean, it will also be a conscious purchase towards sustainability, ecological health and ridding your life of unnecessary chemicals.  


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