Non Toxic Beauty Guide: Avoid This Toxic Ingredient

WHAT IS IT? Also known as caustic soda or lye, sodium hydroxide is a highly caustic, toxic and reactive inorganic base. It’s a powerful alkali used in industry for cleaning drains and pipe lines and is also used in oven cleaners. It is used a pH adjuster and denaturant commonly found in toothpastes, skin care such as moisturizers and facial cleansers, bath products, fragrances, foot powders, hair dyes and colors, makeup, nail products, personal cleanliness products, shampoos, shaving products, depilatories, skin care products and suntan products!

HEALTH RISK: In large doses, sodium hydroxide can cause chemical burns, permanent injury and scarring. It is classed as a poison to humans and animals. Cumulative or prolonged contact with skin can cause serious irritation, has a destructive effect upon tissue and skin cells and is known to aggravate pre-existing skin disorders. Make sure it’s not in any of your skincare!

WHAT TO DO: Watch labels for all three possibly-listed names: caustic soda, lye or sodium hydroxide. When possible stick to simple products with as few ingredients as possible!

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  1. it is my understanding that inorder to create soap, sodium hydroxide / lye / caustic soda was a necessary ingredient, but that it basically disappears once the soaping process is complete and so is not a concern specifically with soap. and sodium hydroxide has to be included in the ingredients list because it was used in the process. this is just what i have read / been told in the past…any insight would be much appreciated!

    danielle | 11.06.2012 | Reply
  2. Where are the alternatives listed?

    Danielle | 12.13.2012 | Reply
    • Hi Danielle, check out the link to ‘oven cleaners’ for a diy at-home idea for avoiding toxic oven cleaners! Thanks for your comment!

      The Chalkboard | 12.13.2012 | Reply
  3. Seriously? I wouldn’t want sand it my eyes, but that doesn’t mean it’s toxic. Anything not handled properly is toxic — even water.

    People eat food made with sodium hydroxide (e.g. pretzel, lukefish, century egg, etc.)

    Because it’s in the ingredients list doesn’t mean it’s in the product. This is where chemistry comes into play. How would you make soap without it? You couldn’t. Lye + Fat = Soap + Glycerin. No lye, no soap.

    Becky | 09.23.2013 | Reply
  4. It is not possible to make a natural bar of soap from start to finish without sodium hydroxide. You can if you wish make melt and pour but that is not a proper hand made bar of natural soap. So if you can give me a recipe for making a natural soap bar from start to finish without using sodium hydroxide please do.

    cynthia | 09.27.2013 | Reply
  5. I agree with Cynthia. You can’t make soap without lye. If you put lye on your skin of course it will burn. Once you mix it with various oils a chemical reaction takes place that creates soap. Kind of like mixing hydrogen and oxygen (umm, H2O, water). Separately they are different, together makes a product we cannot live without.

    Rose | 02.25.2014 | Reply


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