Handmade On Our Farm - 100% All Natural
Handmade Soap Versus Commercial “Soap” aka
The power of the billion
dollar marketing industry is unbelievable. Millions and millions of people fall prey to
catchy slogans, hidden messages, vivid imagery, and well-thought out wording. I
mean, if we didn’t, the big conglomerates of today wouldn’t exist.
The world of skin care is
cut-throat. Everyone is out to make a buck and have you think that you are
getting the most “natural” product available. This simply isn’t so, especially
in the skin cleanser business.
know that the term “soap” is heavily regulated? Yep. It’s true. Companies are not allowed to use the word soap
unless it is truly a REAL handcrafted bar of soap. That is why you see some
many “beauty bars” and “dry skin cleaners” and “anti-aging moisturizing bars.” These soap imposters are cleverly labeled to
draw attention away from the fact that they are basically detergents. Yes, you
read that right. Detergents. Like
what you wash your laundry with.
exactly is the difference between “fake soap” (which we will refer to as
detergents from here on out) and the real deal (like the soaps I make at Poppy
Soap Co.) Let’s explore this issue
together. My goal is to educate you so that you understand and don’t get
sucked into the clever fake soap marketing schemes!
The Soap Making Process
Natural soap is made from a
chemical reaction between water, lye
(also known as sodium hydroxide), and fats and oils. These fats and oil are
turned into soap and glycerin by a chemical process called Saponification. This process, when completed properly, leaves
you with pure soap, glycerin, and some residue from the natural ingredients in
the individual recipe. Handmade soap is almost always made in small
batches. You won’t find huge “handmade soap” factories out there.
Detergents are manufactured
by combining chemicals (including petroleum) in a slurry mixer. The
mixture heats up on its own as a result of two chemical reactions. Once the
mixture heats to a certain temperature it is dried using a vacuum chamber and
an atomizer. The resulting powder is
then mixed with various other ingredients to form the final product. Did you
follow along with that? Kind of scary
when I break it down like that.
A natural handmade soap is well, completely natural. It may or may not be organic but it definitely
will not have a single synthetic ingredient in it! Essential oils, natural butters, and other
natural oils can be added in to change the benefits of the soap as well as the
natural scent. There is nothing else in
there. No preservatives, no synthetic
fragrances, no chemical compounds, nothing! Just pure, natural ingredients from Mother
The ingredient label on a
natural soap should look similar to the one from my Creamy Cocoa Butter (I just
picked one at random): Saponified oils of (coconut oil, sustainable palm, olive
oil), raw goat’s milk, organic fair trade cocoa butter.
I am quite sure that you
have heard of all of these ingredients, nothing scary. They all come from the earth, and they are all
incredibly nourishing for your skin. Most
importantly, they lock moisture in, help keep the skin’s protective barrier
intact, and offer healing benefits.
Now let’s look at
commercial detergents. Here is the
ingredient list from a popular “natural beauty bar”: Sodium tallowate, sodium
cocoyl isethionate, sodium cocoate, sodium laurel sulfate, water, sodium
isethionate, stearic acid, coconut fatty acid, fragrance, titanium dioxide,
sodium chloride, disodium phosphate, tetrasodium EDTA, trisodium etidronate,
BHT, FD&C blue no. 1, D&C red no. 33.
Say what? Other than
water, do you see any other ingredient that screams “natural?” Nope, didn’t think so.
These chemicals that make
up the “beauty bar” are doing more harm than good. They are incredibly drying to start and can
often slow down the body’s ability to fight off bacteria or heal from cuts and
scrapes. More alarmingly, some of
these ingredients are known to harm the nervous system, interfere with human
development, and disrupt hormones. There
are also some known carcinogens in there!
Keep in mind, that the
above example is one of the “better” commercial beauty bars. It has a rather short ingredient list compared
to most commercial detergents. There are
all kinds of other super scary ingredients thrown into skin cleaners including
anti-bacterial agents like Triclosan. It is classified as a pesticide by the
EPA and as a drug by the FDA. The EPA considers it a possible risk to human
health and to the environment. Triclosan can pass through skin and is suspected
of interfering with hormone function (endocrine disruption). The extensive use of triclosan in consumer
products may contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Let’s not forget about
petroleum which makes its way into almost every skin detergent. Petroleum’s are added in under the auspices of
being “moisturizing.” After all, it would appear to act as a barrier, locking
in moisture. In reality, petroleum is
incredibly drying as it acts like a de-greaser removing the skin’s natural
moisture and oils. Petroleum can be
contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Studies suggest that
exposure to PAHs is associated with cancer. PAHs can also cause skin irritation
I could go on and on and on
about the dangers of the synthetic ingredients in commercial skin detergents
but I think I made my point.
Glycerin and PH Confusion
It is a common
misconception that commercial cleansing bars contain glycerin, not true. The commercial detergent manufacturers usually
extract glycerin to use it for lotions and other such skin care products. Glycerin is expensive and commercial detergent
manufactures would rather include it in the more expensive products. A high quality handmade soap will always have
glycerin in it. This is a compound that
soothes and moisturizes the skin. Since glycerin can draw moisture out from the
air and into the skin, it helps the skin to remain soft and moist for a long
period of time, which generally doesn’t occur when using detergent based,
Natural soaps contain a pH
level around 9-10. It is a complete fallacy that soaps and cleansers must
have a pH level that matches with that of the human skin. Healthy skin,
cared for with products free of chemicals, will rebalance itself within an hour
or two of cleansing. Detergent bars usually have Free Alkali in them, a means
of lowering the pH level. This is also what makes them harsh and drying.
Basically, the manufacturers are allowing there to be some left over alkali in
the soap. This is good for shelf life and increases lather, but is too drying
for skin. Free alkali will find every last bit of natural oils in your skin and
saponify them (turn them into soap), leaving you dry and “squeaky clean”.
The Fragrance Game
The term “fragrance,”
“perfume,” or “nature identical oils” on an ingredients list usually represents
a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. Some 3,000 chemicals are used as
fragrances. Even products marketed as “fragrance-free” or “unscented” may in
fact contain fragrance along with a masking agent that prevents the brain from
perceiving odor. Of the thousands of chemicals used in fragrances, most have
not been tested for toxicity (alone or in combination). Many of these unlisted
ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma
symptoms. People with multiple chemical sensitivities or environmentally linked
illnesses are particularly vulnerable, with fragrances implicated both in
development of the condition and triggering symptoms. 95% of chemicals used in
fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum such as benzene
derivatives, aldehydes and many other known toxins capable of causing cancer, birth
defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions. Synthetic
musks used in fragrances are of particular concern from an ecological
perspective. Several of musk compounds are persistent in the environment and
build up (bioaccumulate) in the fatty tissue of aquatic organisms. Which leads
often overlooked difference between soap and detergents is what happens when
the “soap” enters the environment. Natural soaps are biodegradable, environmentally friendly and do not
originate from petroleum which does great harm to the environment! You can rest
easy knowing that what goes down the drain won’t pollute our sweet Mother Earth
time you reach for that uber expensive, fancy smanchy, miracle skin cleanser,
stop for a moment and really think about what you are putting on the largest
organ of your body and what that is actually doing internally as well as
externally. Is it worth it? No way!