Handmade soap is created from quality ingredients with names you can pronounce, like coconut oil and shea butter.
Many of the commercial soaps and detergents are made with harmful ingredients, such as sodium laurel sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, or SLS, which was originally invented to clean garage floors, and has been linked with cataracts, and damage to the outer layer of the skin.
To first answer the question many people ask; what about the lye? There is no way around using lye in soap. (Sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide; though sodium hydroxide is more commonly used in the soap making process.) All soap, whether it is made by a large corporation or a home-based business, is made with lye. What needs to be made clear, though, is that when the saponifaction process is complete, all the lye has combined with the oil molecules and changed chemically to create soap and its by-product, glycerin. When made correctly, there is no lye left in the final product to harm the skin.
5 reasons to use all-natural, handmade soap:
Whole, natural and high-quality ingredients.
Handmade soap from artisans, both amateur and professional, is made with high-quality ingredients such as essential oils, clays, shea butter, cocoa butter and goat’s milk. Natural, handmade soap does not have synthetic preservatives or artificial ingredients added to it.
Commercial soaps are full of undesirable preservatives to stabilize and add a longer shelf life to the product. Irritating surfactants, detergents and dyes are also added among other things.
Supporting small, local businesses
Many of the handmade soaps are created by the artisan in their own home, made with care and thoughtfulness of what goes into each bar of soap. Go to your local farmer’s market and note the extra attention, care, and customer service you obtain from a small or local business owner that you do not receive in a large department store.
Small businesses make the world go round. They are everywhere and they keep the economy going. Why give your dollars to a multi-million dollar, multi-national corporation when you can support your neighbor who is working from home or your entrepreneurial friend with a passion for skin type oriented soaps, instead of a team of profit-driven advertisers, marketers and other nameless workers. You can’t beat this, or find a better shopping experience!
The natural glycerin remains
While there continues to be more and more commercial soap that include glycerin, they also do not hold back on the synthetics, cheap preservatives and dyes. The amount of glycerin in these so-called soaps is trivial compared to handmade soaps which have every bit of this super-moisturizing by-product left intact to soften your hands. Some large soap manufacturers remove glycerin and sell it separately as it is so valuable; often it is replaced with synthetic glycerin that just does not feel the same as natural glycerin.
Why is glycerin so important? It is a natural humectant, attracting and retaining moisture. Glycerin is a by-product of the saponification process in soap making. It is a big factor in why handmade soaps are so beneficial for your skin.
Custom scents and/or formulas available
Say you like a certain scent or oil. Do you think that a large soap company will add shea butter or vanilla essential oil to a specific brand of soap? Small chance of that happening. However, it is very likely you can request a custom made soap with the specific ingredients you want by a handmade soap artisan. If the artisan doesn’t have a particular ingredient available, they can most likely get it for you as long as there’s a mutual understanding regarding lead time and cost.
Curing is included in lead time. Cold process soap needs to slowly ‘cure’, or sit, over time. When the soap ‘batter’ is poured into the molds; it is only partially saponified. After 24-48 hours the majority of the saponification process is complete. The soap is then removed from the mold and cut into bars. During the first two weeks the saponification is completed. The soap is really good after 2 weeks and it will not hurt you; but it is fabulous at 6 to 8 weeks, when it is a milder, harder, longer lasting bar, with a very rich lather. You do not get this kind of extra attention when buying at a super store. You do not have to worry about the ingredients or if the scent you’re getting is what you prefer. Never settle for the product at the store that is not what you really want!
Targeting Skin conditions
With handmade soap, it is easier to find soap for your skin type. Many artisan soap makers create blends of essential oils, clays, herbs, butters and oils for specific skin types. Besides being great for you, it really works!
What is the difference?
the FDA interprets the term “soap” to apply only when:
– 1) The bulk of the nonvolatile matter in the product consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids and the product’s detergent properties are due to the alkali-fatty acid compounds, and
2) the product is labeled, sold, and represented solely as soap
Here is a comparison of a Beauty bar, Commercial Goat’s milk soap, and my Handmade Goats’ Milk soap:
Beauty Bar: Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Tallowate, Water, Sodium Isethionate, Coconut Acid, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide, Tetrasodium EDTA, Trisodium.
Commercial Goat’s Milk Soap: Sodium tallowate, Sodium cocoate and/or sodium Palm Kernelate, Water/Aqua, ‘Fresh goat’s milk/Caprae Lac, Fragrance/Parfum (Benzyl Benzoate, Eugenol, Citronellol, Geranoil, Limonene, Linalool) Glycerin, Titanium Dioxide, Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin.
My “Lavender” Milk Soap: Calendula Infused Olive Oil, Goats’ Milk, Coconut Oil, Pastured Lard, Castor Oil, Almond Oil, Essential Oil (lavender)
In the Beauty bar, tetrasodium EDTA is a preservative, known to cause irritation among some individuals. Sodium ocoyl isethionate and sodium isethionate are surfactants, as are sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate. As before, tetrasodium EDTA is used in the Commercial Goats’ milk bar; benzyl benzoate and linalool are suspected human immune system toxicants. DMDM hydantoin is a formaldehyde releaser.
My soap uses coconut oil and olive oil to moisturize and for lather, Rhassoul clay and Grapefruit essential oil for cleansing, and Lavender essential oil as an anti-bacterial.
Looking at this list of ingredients, which soap would you rather have on your skin every day?
What to look for:
The easiest thing to do is read the ingredients list. If you cannot pronounce the first ingredients, it is not natural or handmade. The higher an ingredient is on the list, the more there is in the product.
Several definitions of terms you may see:
Organic: “Prohibits the use of: Chemical pesticides; Excess processing of foods, artificial ingredients, preservatives or irradiation”; among other things. (Quote from OrganicBiologique.)
Biodynamic: Asks why, finds out why things are going in the direction they are.
Hypoallergenic: “This word originates from the Greek prefix “hypo”, meaning ‘less’ and “allergenic”, meaning ‘causing allergies’. It is not a medical or scientific term; it’s a loose marketing term. Purchase only from companies that have scientific evidence to back their marketing claims.”(Quote from AchooAllergy.com)
Cruelty free: “A cruelty-free company does not test their products or ingredients on animals. But as there is no legal definition for the phrase ‘cruelty free’, it is possible that companies use the term inappropriately.” (Quote from NAVS.)
Non-GMO: made with no Genetically Modified Organisms materials.
Fair Trade: workers are properly treated.
Natural: “has not been significantly altered from its original state” it means nothing, chemicals can be and are called ‘natural’.
What is a detergent ‘bar’?
Many people are not buying soap; they are buying a detergent bar. Detergent bars are made from petroleum products, consisting mostly of surfactants, foaming agents, and alcohols; not saponified oils. The synthetic chemicals also have disagreeable odors; so they are heavily scented with synthetic fragrances, unlike most natural oils.
Ingredients to Avoid: (This is just a minor list)
Anything with “eth” in ingredient names-Such as Sodium Isethionate.
FD&C colors, dyes, Synthetic colorants
Avoid any sulfate based ingredients
Parabens (methyl, ethyl, propyl, benzy)-have been shown to mimic estrogen, disrupting our bodies endocrine system.
Fragrance Oils, Perfume oils, Potpourri oils and Nature Identical oils-These are all names for synthetic fragrance oils. Many of them contain unknown or toxic ingredients, they pollute our environment, and they’re one of the biggest causes of skin irritation and skin sensitivities today
Essential Oil names: Many soaps supposedly containing vanilla, jasmine, rose, lemon verbena, and sandalwood are also made with synthetic scents because the real essential oils, absolutes, or concretes are very expensive or even endangered. (A concrete is what is left after the solvent is removed; An absolute is made by taking the concrete, melting it and adding alcohol. Essential oils, some waxes, fixed oils and fats are then dissolved in it. It is then distilled in a vacuum to remove the alcohol, and the remaining substance is an ‘absolute’.)
Many commercial detergent bars have a base of animal fat like tallow or lard. This in itself is not bad, but the commercial processing of the tallow and lard adds Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) for preservation.
Tallow and lard rendered at home from grass fed animals, will not contain BHT but are full of things like Conjugated linoleic acids, or CLA, which helps fight cancer among other benefits.
What should I look for in handmade soap?
The base ingredients For the liquid base, goats’ milk is an excellent ingredient to start with. It is high in fat and its pH level is close to that of the human skin. It is also loaded with proteins, enzymes and vitamin A plus its creamy smooth texture creates a pleasant richness in handmade soap.
Olive oil is also a wonderful base for a handmade soap. It is gentle, moisturizing and creates a smooth and silky texture. Olive oil actually absorbs moisture from the air around it, adding additional healing power to its benefits. In addition, it is a well-known anti-oxidant agent.
Oils and butters-secondary ingredients Shea butter and Cocoa butter are two exotic butters that are wonderful ingredients for handmade soap as well. Shea butter is rich, creamy and loaded with vitamins A and E; it also has many other beneficial properties. Cocoa butter is an excellent moisturizer and serves as a barrier to lock in moisture under the skin’s surface, promoting soft, smooth skin.
Some other oils to look for include jojoba oil, tea tree oil, hemp oil and avocado oil. All have benefits for healthier skin, and are excellent moisturizers. Coconut, palm kernel oil and castor oil are often added to create lather, and are much better for your skin than the detergents used in store-bought soaps. There are many more oils available to artisan soapmakers…
Fragrances and colorants True natural, handmade soap makers will not use synthetic fragrance oils and synthetic colorants. Fragrance oils mimic the plant’s volatile oils and are the synthetic version of it. Synthetic scents also last much longer as they are not volatile. Fragrance oils are considered a “trade secret” by the FDA, so ingredient lists are not available.
Essential oils are naturally occurring oils extracted from herbs, trees and various plant materials, but not from the flower. They are highly odoriferous liquids which evaporate quickly. Herbs can also be added for a natural scent, such as rose petals or lavender buds. Oatmeal, poppy seeds, salts, or other plant materials can also be added for exfoliating agents.
Synthetic colorants are derived from coal-tars and petroleum, both of which are harmful to the skin. Because synthetic colorants are not used in handmade soap, the natural colors that are used tend to be of lower tones. Do not let the color put your off! If your soap is neon yellow or hot pink, it is colored with synthetics. Color is achieved in handmade soaps though herbs, fruits and vegetables.
-Real, handmade soap starts with 3 basic ingredients; Lye, Water/Milk, and Oils.
-Research any ingredient you are not sure about.
-Keep your handmade soap dry, it will melt swimming.
-Soap with ‘food’ ingredients and have a shorter shelf life, about 1 year.
-Read labels carefully, ask questions, inform yourself. Even if you’ve been using these harsh commercial soaps for years, after you read this page and try natural soaps, you’ll know just how much better and safer your bathing experience can be!
-Remember, your skin is the largest organ in your body; whatever you put on it is in your bloodstream in minutes. What you put on your skin is just as important as what you put in your mouth.
‘The Green Beauty Guide’ by Julie Gabriel