Around Cobble Hill Farm

Commercial Soap vs. Handcrafted Soap December 03 2014

Are you asking yourself, isn't soap just soap?  No big surprise that it can't be quite that cut and dry.

Commercial bars are often labeled as "beauty bars", "moisturizing bars" or "body bars".  These bars are what we often refer to as "soap".  But they aren't actually soap, they are detergent.  Yup, it's true.  Using the word "soap" is actually heavily regulated.  This also helps explain why many find commercial bars drying.

The commercial detergent bars {as opposed to real soap} are made by combining cheap oils and chemicals together and heated to create their product.  This process often removes any natural glycerin because the glycerin reduces shelf-life.  The glycerin is then used for lotions and other products where the coveted moisturizing ingredient is needed. To replace the missing glycerin, chemicals are added back in to help the bars lather like soap.  The resulting bar is not only drying, but may actually aggravate skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Credit has to be given to the large manufacturers, however, because they do an amazing job at convincing all of us their product is good for our skin.  I certainly believed it prior to making my own soap.

Cold-process soap, as opposed to commercial detergent bars, is made using a combination of oils and/or fats and lye.  The type of oils and fats used are chosen by the soapmaker based on their moisturizing and lathering qualities as well as those that will help the bar harden allowing it to last longer.  The caustic qualities of the lye are removed during the saponification process, which is when the lye interacts with the oils/fats and creates soap and glycerin.  This creates a moisturizing, rather than drying, bar of soap.

Here are the ingredients listed on a very popular "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.  Scary, isn't it?

Here are the ingredients of one of our bars of "Spring" soap, for example:  Distilled Water, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Lye, Canola Oil, Olive Oil, Castor Oil, Shea Butter, Orange Essential Oil and Vanilla Essential Oil.  All things you recognize, right?

Real soap is a blend of oils and fats that nourish your skin.  So, soap is soap as long as it is, in fact, soap.


Is All Soap Made With Lye? December 03 2014

The quick answer to the above-posed question is "yes".  As I outline in the next post about the difference between commercial "soap" and handmade soap, without the saponification process, which requires lye, you have detergent.

First, what is soap?

Soap is an alkali combined with fat.  The alkali {lye}, when added to the fat {oils, lard, butters, etc.}, goes through a reaction called saponification.  The result of the reaction is soap and glycerin.


Why is the soap not harmful if it contains lye?

Lye, on it's own, can be very harmful and should always be handled with care according to package instructions.  That being said, when lye is mixed with the appropriate amount of fats, the lye turns from a caustic substance into a nice, gentle, bar of soap.  There is concern when people hear about lye in soap, and rightly so, however, the dangerous effects of lye are completely diminished during the soap making process.  The key is in using a lye calculator which will tell you exactly how much lye is needed depending on the types of fats used.  All fats require a specific amount of lye to turn it into soap.

The next consideration is to use more fat/oil than lye can convert into soap.  This is called "superfat".  Using a superfat amount of 1-10% prevents you from having any excess lye in the finished soap and, instead, gives you a percentage of fats that aren't converted into soap and remain as an extra moisturizing benefit.


What about "Melt and Pour" soap?  I don't have to use lye for that.


Correct.  You don't have to use any lye when using Melt and Pour soap, however, it does have lye in it.  The Melt and Pour base was originally made with lye.

One concern about Melt and Pour soaps worth noting - if you are considering making this type of soap, check out the ingredients list first.  They often contain questionable ingredients.


What about liquid soap?

Any skin-washing product or shampoo made without lye is a detergent, not a soap.  They achieve a sudsy liquid usually by utilizing sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate as the main binding ingredient.


I just read the ingredients list on my bar of soap and I don't see "lye" listed.

Lye can be listed in a number of ways on the label.  It can be listed as "lye", as "sodium hydroxide" or "potassium hydroxide", or the oils can be listed as "saponified" or "sodium", denoting it was saponified with lye.  You may see coconut oil, for instance, listed as either "saponified coconut oil" or "sodium cocoate".

Why Choose All-Natural Deodorant? December 03 2014

If you're concerned about sweating, you likely have an antiperspirant deodorant in your medicine cabinet.   The antiperspirant is what prevents you from sweating and the deodorant is what masks any lingering odor. But is it safe?

The typical antiperspirant contains both aluminum and parabens.  Aluminum provides the antiperspirant feature in deodorants and both have the potential of being quite concerning since both are compounds that have estrogen-like properties.  Because estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer tissue, there's concern aluminum and parabens may both have the same effect when absorbed through the skin.

Concern #1

Aluminum is used to temporarily plug your sweat ducts, therefore, preventing your armpit from sweating.  This is thought to prevent the escape of toxins the body needs to sweat out, which, when trapped, may find their way into the lymph nodes where they concentrate and may lead to the cellular changes that cause cancer.

Concern #2

Aluminum {aluminum cans, aluminum cookware, antacids and antiperspirant} has been linked by many studies as a possible factor in Alzheimer's Disease.  The concern with antiperspirants is that since it plugs the sweat ducts the aluminum may be making it's way in.  And of particular concern is the possibility of it entering your body through nicks you've received while shaving.  With the antiperspirant being used on your armpit, which is close to the breast, studies have pointed to the possibility of a relationship between the two.

Concern #3

Antiperspirants most often contain parabens.  Parabens are typically found in chemical preservatives and/or fragrance.  Again, like aluminum, since the sweat ducts are blocked, the concern is that the parabens are in the pores and your body is unable to sweat those, and any other toxins, out.

What to do?

With the ongoing debate of studies that show the potential problems and, conversely, studies that show no concerns, it's hard to know what to do.  If you want to stop using aluminum on your body, you have to use a deodorant without an antiperspirant.  Yup, you'll sweat.  But you won't stink.  :)

There are some "natural" deodorants out there that work very well - it takes time, but with so many different types you'll likely find the one that's right for you.  And if you want to also avoid parabens, it's not enough to buy an All-Natural Deodorant - you have to read the label.  Parabens can be used in an All-Natural product.

5 Things To Avoid In Bath & Beauty Products December 03 2014

Chemical preservatives are a hot topic because they typically contain the ingredients people are most concerned about, and rightly so.  Your skin absorbs what it comes into contact with although the amount varies depending on many factors.  Because of this, it's extremely important to know what make up the products you're using on it everyday.

1.  Parabens - this is a group of chemical preservatives that are estrogen mimickers.  Estrogen disruption has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues.

Most common parabens = butylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.

Found in:  synthetic fragrances, deodorants, cosmetics, lotions, shampoo/conditioner, scrubs, and most bath/beauty/body products that contain water.

2.  Formaldehyde - is used as a preservative in bath, beauty and body products.  Formaldehyde is considered a "probable human carcinogen" and can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive people.

Found in:  nail polish, shampoos, liquid hand soaps, toothpaste, lotion, etc.

3.  Synthetic Colors - used to add color to bath, beauty and body products.  They are a suspected human carcinogen, a skin irritant, and are linked to ADHD in children.

To Identify:  look for FD&C or D&C {f=food, d=drug, and c=cosmetics} preceding a color and number {i.e. D&C Red27}.

Found in:  scrubs, soaps, bath products, cosmetics, lip balm, lotion, cream, etc.

4.  Phthalates - are chemical plasticizers widely used to soften plastics.  In bath, beauty and body products they are used to help lotions penetrate the skin and help fragrances last longer.  Phthalates are found in just about every aspect of our life including bath/body/beauty products, medications, packaging, toys, kitchen items, etc.  They are possible endocrine disrupters, probable human carcinogens and there is a possible link between phthalates and some cases of asthma.

Most common phthalates = DBP, DNOP, DiNP, DEP, BGzP, DEHP, DiDP, DnHP, DMP, DnOP, Bisphenol A {BPA}.

Found in:  some synthetic fragrances, shampoos, lotion, deodorants, nail polish, powders, etc.

5.  1, 4-Dioxane - assists products in creating lather or suds.  It is a known breast carcinogen as well as may create organ-system toxicity and/or irritation.

Most common seen as:  sodium laureth sulfate, PEG compounds, and chemicals that include the clauses xynol, ceteareth, and oleth.

Found in:  shampoo, liquid soap, bubble bath, hair relaxers, etc.

**important to note:  according to, the FDA does not require 1,4-Dioxane to be listed as an ingredient on product labels because the chemical is a contaminant produced during manufacturing.**  Obviously, this makes it extremely difficult to avoid.


It's worth noting that our products are free of all of these ingredients.

Lavender Essential Oil: First Aid In A Bottle December 03 2014

The first thing that comes to mind when lavender is mentioned is usually relaxation.  Lavender Essential Oil is, in fact, calming and can help to alleviate tension and stress.  But did you know it also has natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties?

Lavender has been shown effective in relief of sunburns, insect bites, cuts, blemishes, headaches, muscular aches, skin conditions such as eczema, and stretch marks.

While most Essential Oils must be diluted by mixing with a carrier oil before applying to the skin, Lavender Essential Oil is quite gentle allowing it to be used directly if you prefer.  Just a drop is all that's needed.  It's the perfect addition to the home first aid kit.

There are multiple effective ways to use Lavender depending on the symptoms.  Here are a few:

Bee Stings & Insect Bites = apply 1 drop of Lavender Essential Oil to affected area {dilute with a carrier oil if you prefer or if you show any irritation}.

Acne/Blemishes = infuse dried lavender buds in water, strain, and use the infused water as a soothing face wash.

Burns = add a drop of Lavender Essential Oil to a teaspoon of honey and apply to the burn.

To Calm/Relieve Tension or Stress = inhale the scent of Lavender Essential Oil as needed or add to bath water.

Skin Conditions = add a few drops of Lavender Essential Oil to a carrier oil {sweet almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc.} and apply the oil to the affected area.  If you purchase Lavender lotion to use, read the ingredients to make sure it includes Lavender Essential Oil and not a Lavender fragrance.

Sunburn = mix Lavender Essential Oil with Aloe Vera Juice and spray on the affected area.

*As with any herb/essential oil, always patch test first to ensure you don't have a negative reaction.  Children and pregnant or nursing women should always consult their physician before using any essential oil.*

The Benefits of Bentonite Clay December 03 2014










What Is Bentonite Clay?

Bentonite Clay is a quarry mined sedimentary clay composed of weathered and aged volcanic ash.

Once Bentonite Clay is mixed with water, it produces an "electric charge".  The good thing, is that Bentonite Clay carries a negative charge.  Why is that beneficial?  Because many toxins carry a positive charge.  When the clay is introduced to the positive-charged toxin, they create a bond that keeps them together, in suspension, until the pair is eliminated {when you wash them off}.


Bentonite Clay As A First Aid Remedy

It is because of this that the clay itself is invaluable to have on hand.  One great way to use it is as a poultice used for soothing burns, or to relieve itching caused by bug bites, poison ivy or poison oak.

Bentonite Clay Poultice - add 2 Tablespoons of Bentonite Clay to a small bowl.  Slowly add drops of water until you achieve a nice, thick paste.  Apply to affected area and cover with clean gauze.   *your skin will feel tight as it dries*  Let it sit on your skin for a couple of hours before rinsing off with warm water.

It is also known to be very helpful with internal issues by ingesting it, although I've never used it in this way so I can't speak to this personally.



Bentonite Clay In Soap


Bentonite Clay is also beneficial in cold-processed soap for 3 reasons:

  1. added to a shaving soap it offers the slip needed for your razor to glide smoothly over your skin leaving you without irritation 
  2. it adds an incredibly soft lather to the soap and 
  3. it's good for all skin types and pulls oils and toxins from the skin, making it particularly good for oily skin.

Soap with Bentonite Clay added also makes a great shampoo bar for people with oily hair.

If you're looking for our soap with Bentonite Clay added, we offer shaving soap as well as our Saratoga Spa soap.  It is also one of the ingredients of our drawing salve.

In closing, I hope this clay is something you'll consider adding to your home first aid kit. It's a great natural option to use for everyday minor injuries.