Sue says...Can all shower gels be used as bubble baths, or are some ingredients only meant for short-term skin contact?
The Right Brain Responds:
Excellent question, Sue, but there’s no simple answer. Products that are intended to remove oil and dirt from skin and hair (like bar soap, shower gels, body washes and shampoos) are a double edged sword. They use surfactants (aka detergents) to dissolve oils to get hair and skin clean, but dissolving too much oil can dry out skin and cause damage. And guess what – the surfactants that do a really good job of cleaning away “dirty” oils also remove more of the “good” oils.
For most people most of the time, these surfactants don’t pose a huge problem. Most shower gels and bubble baths are based on some combination of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate, and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. Short term exposure to these materials is usually fine. But the more sustained the exposure is, the great the chance is that these harsh detergents can dry out your skin.
This is particularly true in the case of bubble baths because a) you tend to soak in them longer, increasing the exposure time and b) the areas of the body that are soaking can be rather delicate (if you catch our drift.) For example, over exposure to drying bubble baths can have an impact on yeast infections .
Not all shower gels make good bubbles baths, especially if you soak in them a lot. To be on the safe side, either minimize your soak time or look for milder (and more expensive) products that do NOT have Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate, and Cocamidopropyl Betaine on the ingredient list.