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.