Soaps come in many shapes and sizes, with or without colorants, scented or unscented. There are facial soaps, moisturizing soaps, deodorizing soaps, beauty bars, antimicrobial soaps and many more. We all use soap on a daily basis, being in the shower or to wash our hands throughout the day. But have you ever thought about what’s in your soap?
You’d be surprised to find out that not all soaps are created equal. There are 2 types of soap- those that are commercially made and those that are handmade natural soaps. Handmade soaps may have a higher entry price, but that’s because they provide a whole lot more benefits when it comes to your health and well-being. Let’s take a look at how natural soaps differ from commercial soaps.
Commercial Versus Handmade- The Process
More often than not, the soap you pick out from dozens at the supermarket or your local pharmacy will be commercially made and not natural. They are labeled as “soaps”, but upon closer inspection they are nothing more than a detergent dressed up in a pretty package. The artificial ingredients are petroleum-based and warp as they undergo chemical changes in factories. The correct term for commercial soaps is that they’re not made, but rather “manufactured” using high energy processes and various artificial cleaning agents.
A commercial soap may list “natural oils” in the label, but the truth is that these are not the pure oils that go in the making of handmade natural soaps. They are more or less soap stock, a by-product that comes from the purification of raw vegetable oil. The soap stock is separated from the edible oil because they are considered a contaminant and is therefore unsafe. And when it comes to glycerin, some of the biggest soapmaking companies separate it from the soap and sell it to other companies, or use it for a more lucrative purpose.
How do you know you have a commercial soap?
Besides, not being able to recognize most of the ingredients listed on their labels, you may begin to itch and your skin may feel dry soon after you step out of the shower!
Natural handmade soaps are well, natural. They are made using a variety of natural sources, including organic ingredients. A natural soap is usually formed by combining plant-based oils and butters that are rich in nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. These are the type of ingredients that your skin, hair and body need and will love. Natural soaps can also be enriched with so many other incredibly good ingredients that come straight from the earth, like salts, clays, botanical extracts, essential oils, which have naturally occurring minerals and unique benefits. People with skin sensitivities will especially see and feel the difference that using a natural soap can make. With some many different options and combinations, whether organic or not, there is a perfect natural soap for everyone.
The underlying culture that goes into making handmade natural soaps is different from commercial soap. It’s not the quantity, but the quality that matters when making natural soap. Small batches are made locally and with great care. There’s a reason why there aren’t any big-name natural soap companies out there. People who have a passion for making natural products consider it as a labor of love and not something they make just to profit. It’s an art that takes years to perfect.
Handmade natural soap is created following a saponification process which occurs when oils and fats are mixed with sodium hydroxide and water (known as lye).The end result is a safe and gentle product that’s perfect for the skin.
Handmade Natural Soap Benefits
1. Real Soap
Commercials are enticing, but they aren’t the truth. Marketing has come so far that they are almost believable. So when they say that their soap is 100% safe, you’ll be forced to accept that as reality. Hidden messages and catchy slogans are just some of their potent arsenal. The power of advertising can be hard to resist. Millions of consumers fall prey to marketing tactics.
Soap mass-produced in chemical vats are only called soap by name and in reality, they are just a mixture of chemicals and additives. These cleansers may be labeled as – body washes, body soaps, deodorant bars and beauty bars and are largely made up of detergent, hidden in a cocktail of surfactants.
Handmade natural soaps are nothing of the sort. What you see is what you get. There are no unnecessary ingredients and no chemicals that will be harmful to your skin.
The common misconception about glycerin is that it’s added to complete the soapmaking process. But in reality, glycerin is a by-product of the saponification process. Handmade soaps have a high content of glycerin, and this makes them naturally hydrating and good for the skin.
Glycerin is an essential humectant that naturally draws moisture from the environment deep into the skin when applied. It will keep your skin plump and hydrated for a longer time.
Almost all commercial soap bars tout that their soap can soften and moisturize the skin. If you’d take a look at these soap factories, you’ll see that glycerin is separated and put on higher-end body care products like lotions, creams and other hygiene care solutions. Because glycerin is a prized commodity, soap manufacturers would rather sell it or put it on more expensive beauty products than have it for the benefit of the soap user. A pound of glycerin is worth more than 10 pounds of soap!
In comparison, the glycerin produced during the natural handmade soapmaking process stays in the soap.
What’s a soap worth? The better the ingredients, the more effective the soap. If you want to get better, healthier skin, you should consider switching to natural handmade soap.
These are the ingredients natural soap makers use to make their natural soap:
Oils and Butters. It’s not unusual for a handmade natural soap to be filled with butter or any superfatted gourmet oil, and that’s a good thing. Then there’s the extra virgin oil infused with healthy proteins, minerals and vitamins that will nourish the skin. Some examples are: shea butter, mango butter, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, and sustainable palm oil. And these are just a few.
Fruit juices / Milk and other liquids. It’s not just water that gets added into the saponification process. Nutrient rich coffee,tea, fruit juices, beer, goat’s milk and aloe vera, are some ingredients used to provide different benefits for you and your skin.
Vegan Friendly. Vegans, take note. The majority of natural soaps are made using cruelty-free and plant-based ingredients. You can confirm this by checking the label on the back of each soap package. You will also notice botanical ingredients and essential oils which are mostly used for their skin nourishing properties, exfoliation or scenting purposes.
Locally Grown – Many of the ingredients used in handmade soaps may be locally grown. Some soapmakers may even grow the ingredients in their own backyard. A visit to the local farms will give you everything you need to make soap- ingredients such as honey, beeswax, rice, sugar, flowers, herbs, pecans and strawberries are picked fresh and produce the greatest nutrients.
Sodium Hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide, once mixed with water, becomes a solution known as lye. Lye is a vital component in the saponification process and real natural soap will not form if there’s no sodium hydroxide in the mix.
Scents and Fragrance. Many natural soaps are scented with essential oils, which not only provide a natural fragrance, but have many other benefits for the body and mind.There’s always a natural scent that will be sure to tickle your senses. It is important to also note that some natural soaps are also scented using synthetic fragrances. The reason for this, is that some people still prefer fragrances that cannot be obtained naturally, such as strawberry, mango or lily of the valley for example. If you prefer such fragrances, you should at least try to look for ones that are free of phthalates to minimize your exposure to toxic ingredients.
Natural Colorants- Natural soap makers love color, and they love how they could add natural ingredients to their handmade soap to make it look beautiful. There are herbs, organic pigments, natural clays and other sources that may be used.
Reading the ingredient labels is always important. Think about how often we use soap and remember that what you put on your skin, may be absorbed into your body.
4. The pH Factor
The best all natural soaps should measure somewhere between 9 to 10 on the pH scale. Contrary to what’s being advertised, the pH of the soap shouldn’t match your skin. The human skin is naturally acidic in order to destroy any bacteria and fungi that comes in contact with it. Our skin is at 5.5 on the pH scale- you can do this test with a strip of litmus paper. The act of cleansing dries the skin, and for this reason you’ll need a soap that has a higher pH level than your skin. Healthy skin will do its part and re-balance with the help of a high pH soap and without using harmful ingredients. Commercial soaps may show “Free Alkali” in the label, which serves to artificially lower pH levels in your skin. This is the exact reason why your skin dries up and becomes rough. The only reason why Free Alkali is in commercial soap is because it prolongs the product’s shelf life.
You will not be disappointed if you’re looking for a variety of natural handmade soaps to try. There are hundreds of different handmade natural soaps if you look hard enough. Chances are, there’s one that will be a perfect match for you! The beauty of handmade soap is that it can be created in a near-infinite variety, meaning there are hundreds of recipes with more being discovered each day. Part of the joy of buying natural soap is you get to choose depending on scent preference, your skin type and the incredible unique ingredients. Considering that your skin is the largest organ on your body, there’s joy in discovering the right kind of soap that treats it well.