Olivella's 100% Virgin Olive Oil Face and Body Bar Soap ($2.98, 5.29 oz.) is a product that you could imagine good-old Epicurus himself using. It's a simple pleasure -- look: the ingredients listed include only sodium olivate (saponified olive oil), water, glycerin (from virgin olive oil), and fragrance -- that's all natural, completely hypoallergenic and colored by way of the chlorophyll naturally found in olive oil.

Ever since being introduced to Olivella, I've noticed that the rate and frequency of my hand-washing has gone through the roof. Not like it was suffering before, but I've found myself lathering up no more than three times before even leaving the house.

I've even been able to cut back on lotion application, since I've found this soap to be especially moisturizing to my winter-dry hands. The reason for this is manifold. Olive oil contains rich amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, minerals and antioxidants; in particular squalene, an excellent moisturizer and antioxidant that is able to completely and rapidly penetrate the skin (at a rate of 2 mm/second).

Once absorbed it is doing all manner of helpful things: prevent UV damage and the formation of age spots, promotes cell growth and is an antibacterial. Also in animal tests, at 100% concentrations, it was non-irritant to rabbit skin and eyes. Other studies show that certain carcinogenic chemicals are inactivated when exposed to squalane over a period of time. (See: What is it? Squalane)

Hopefully, this means that using a squalene-friendly soap, such as Olivella's, will counteract the potentially harmful effects brought forth from traditional bathroom and kitchen stand-by's. In particular, I'm talking about the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban, which usually appear in any number of family-(un)friendly anti-bacterial soaps.

Now, before I moved to NYC, I held the oh-so-glamorous position of Web Editor and Writer for the Water Environment Research Federation in Alexandria, Virginia. There, we were not fans of anti-bacterial soaps -- in fact, they were out-lawed in the work place. The reason for this was that strong research has shown that anti-bacterial soaps -- once flushed down the drain and into nearby rivers and aquafiers -- were having surprisingly disturbing results.  The most prominent of effects I can attest to having rowed on the Potomac river as a member of Yorktown High School's Varsity Crew team: Dead (Transgendered) Fish Syndrome.

These chemicals have the potential to affect sex hormones and interfere with the nervous system. What's more, they also have become suspects in the search for causes of autism and asthma.

Also interesting to consider is their possible contribution to allergies. As an epi-pen toting, card-carrying member of the Allergey Dorks of America (allergic to peanuts and shellfish), I have a bit of faith in this connection. Anti-bacterial soaps do kill nasty bacteria, but they also kill the types of good bacteria that keep us healthy and our immune system in check.  By making our environments too clean, we rob our bodies of the necessary mechanisms (antibodies) to process natural toxins and proteins in our environment. Hence the allergic reaction.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibacterial soaps are not necessary: studies show that antibacterial soap is no more effective than ordinary soap in cleaning your hands, and those who use them are just as likely as those who don't in preventing any any undesirable ailments.

Ingredients:

Sodium olivate (saponified olive oil), water, glycerin (from virgin olive oil), and fragrance.

Some further reading for those interested:

-- Safety of Antibacterial Soap Debated
-- Anti-bacterial soap bad for the environment
-- MIND Institute Research on Anti-Bacterial Soaps (Triclosan) and Autism
-- Antibacterial Soaps Under the Microscope: Anti-bacterial washes aren't more effective, experts say, MSNBC
-- Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern
-- Anti-Bacterial Personal Hygiene Products Triclosan And Triclocarban May Not Be Worth Potential Risks
-- Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern