Mainstream Bath bombs hide one seriously dirty little secret: toxic ingredients! We're exposing all the icky junk swirling around in the tub with you when you drop in a normal bath bomb.
Remember 2017? The obsession with Unicorn Frappuccinos, ASMR videos of disembodied hands kneading glitter slime, and those neon, rainbow bath bombs? For a while there, Instagram was flooded with videos of baths swirling with rich, vibrant dyes and sparkle. While visually mesmerizing, those bright, fizzy bath buddies hide a dirty little secret: toxins. Dive in with me as we uncover the dirt on mainstream bath bombs and their toxic ingredients.
A Brief History of Bath Bombs
Surprisingly, bath bombs have been around since the late '80s. (I was shocked too!) Originally named "Aqua-Fizzers," bath bombs were basically Alka-Seltzer for your weekly soak. They're made from pairing a bicarbonate base with a weak acid. In other words, (English, please) bath bombs were stable when dry but exploded into a riot of bubbles when dissolved in water. That joyful FIZZ!
Those tiny bubbles not only soothed tired, aching muscles, but they were just downright fun. Maybe that's why they quickly added other "fun" ingredients, like synthetic dyes, fragrances, and glitter.
Common Toxic Ingredients Hiding in Bath Bombs
Bath bombs hide a lot of dangerous and potentially carcinogenic (cancer-causing) ingredients. I'm not just referring to the bath bombs piled precariously under glitter unicorn signs at Target. Even popular "natural" brands load their bath bombs with dangerous junk.
Here are some common toxins found in your run-of-the-mill bath bomb:
1: Toxic Lathering Agents
We all like the playful fizz of bath bombs but we shouldn't have to get it with dangerous ingredients. Unfortunately, most bath bombs use ingredients like Sodium Laureth Sulfate to give us that sudsy bliss. Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) is one sketchy dude connected with a laundry list of health concerns.
Why so scary? Well, during manufacturing, this lathering agent can easily become contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, two very toxic chemicals. If that's not troubling enough, sulfates also have a sordid reputation for overly drying out skin and hair and irritating the tar out of skin. So, just stay away from Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, babe. Stay far away.
2: Harmful Synthetic Dyes
We all love color, right? It's eye-catching, enchanting, and just oh, so satisfying. But don't drink the cool-aide, babe. Traditional bath bombs' slurry of synthetic dyes is just no bueno. Ingredients like Red 28 and Blue 1 are linked with some scary side effects, like triggering nasty allergic reactions, eczema, and even genetic damage to chromosomes, not to mention just generally irritating your eyes and skin.
3: Dangerous Synthetic Fragrances
America rocks at so many things! We're the home of Football, craft beer, peanut butter, Hollywood, and Martha Stewart (criminal she may be but she's still the ultimate queen of crafts). One thing we're not so hot at? Fragrances.
In the United States, companies aren't required to list the ingredients that make up their product's fragrance because it's considered a trade secret. For us beauty product consumers, that seriously sucks.
It means companies can stuff just about anything under the umbrella "fragrance." And boy do they stuff. . .
Nasty stuff like acetone, camphor, ethanol, and ethyl acetate (just to name a few) can sneak into your bath bombs without you ever being the wiser. Worse still, these chemicals are known to cause asthma, headaches, nervous system damage, migraines, and a slew of other health problems.
Side note: You can learn more about the dangers of synthetic fragrances, dyes, and sulfates in our guides covering the worst ingredients commonly found in beauty products.
4: Eco-Harming Glitter
In general, I'm not a very "girly" girl, but I do love my glitter! There's nothing quite as delightful as a little sparkle to brighten up the doldrums of the daily grind. Unfortunately, most of those sparkles fall into one of two categories of serious #nope:
1: Bad for the Environment
The majority of glitter is made from micro-plastics, which are both poisonous to native habitats and wildlife and non-biodegradable. So when you drain that rainbow sparkle fizz bomb bathwater, you're pouring all that glitter into the sewer system, eventually pooling in the local water supply. It takes a lot of energy to clean that water and often glitter spills out into the natural environment, hurting its local resident animals.
2: Fuels Child Labor
Many companies opt for a more environmentally friendly option for the shimmer and shine made from a natural substance called Mica. While the mineral itself is a much better choice for the planet and consumers alike, it wages tragic implications on local children living near Mica mines.
As well as being denied an education, child miners often contract long-term health conditions—inhale too much silica dust, and may develop silicosis, a life-threatening lung disease. And that's without the dangers of potential mine collapses.
- Shirin Kale, "The Glitter in Your Makeup Could Come From Child Labor," Vice, 2/24/2017
Although many brands try to only use ethically sourced Mica, it's virtually impossible to control the line of production. While some have opted to synthesize Mica via labs rather than support these cruel practices, most turn a blind eye.
Truly Natural Alternatives to Toxic Bath Bombs
There's good news, babe! Bath Bombs don't have to be toxic! There are lots of natural, organic options out there that don't use any of this junk. Instead, they opt for natural fizzers paired with essential oils and dried flowers for fragrance and color. So have your bath and love that fizzy bliss, because you deserve safe, super relaxing home spa nights. Now please excuse me. The bath is calling!
Love and fizzes,