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WATER: Shampoo

Just like us humans, washing your horse with shampoo too often strips hair and skin of it’s natural oils and defense mechanisms. Most equine shampoos contain chemical ingredients that can cause more harm than good. For example:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent that produces lather and is known to cause skin irritation in humans

  • Cocamidopropyl betaine, a coconut-derived foaming agent

  • Sodium chloride or table salt

  • Cocamide MEA, a coconut-derived product mixed with ethanolamides used to increase foaming

  • Glycol distearate, which acts as a chemical emollient to reduce moisture evaporation from skin

  • Propylene glycol for attracting water to give skin a supple look

  • Fragrance (parfum), which contains undisclosed ingredients considered “trade secrets” by the FDA

  • The preservatives methylchloroisothiazolinone and/or methylisothiazolinone that possess antibacterial and antifungal effects and might irritate the skin in high concentrations

  • Butylphenyl methylpropional, a synthetic fragrance that’s been linked to allergic reactions and skin irritation in humans

Using such products on occasion can certainly help your horse achieve that squeaky-clean look and feeling and remove debris, caked-on dirt, and even flakes of dry skin. However, overuse strips the skin of its normal, healthy microbial populations as well as natural oils, primarily sebum. Instead of leaving the skin and coat clean, soft, and smooth, some horses begin showing signs of flaking, dandruff, and pruritis (itchiness). For comparison, think about how tight, dry, and itchy your own skin can feel after a long, hot, soapy shower.


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