August 29, 2008

The Beauty of Natural Soap

I am biased, I admit it. I am totally in love with true soap. I love making it, using it and just looking at it. You can't buy true soap on your grocery store shelf for $0.59 a bar. Even the "natural" soap they promote can contain syndets (synthetic detergent) to increase foam and bubbles and extra additives to make it last longer. While most of the ingredients are benign in nature they can strip your natural oils. You know, the old "squeaky clean" feeling?

So what is "true" soap? Simply said soap is made with an alkali (sodium hydroxide) and an acid (oil). When these two things are mixed together in the right proportions you get soap through saponification. This process produces glycerol and fatty acid salts - better known as soap. Most of the large manufacturers of soap use an intensive heat process and siphon off the natural glycerin. This is one of the reasons soap off the drugstore shelf can be very drying to your skin.

If you're a label reader like me then you probably know what is in most manufactured soaps and other toiletries. If you're not you should really start checking out what you're putting on your body. A large number of commercial bars are made with tallow (beef fat) which renders a hard bar with lots of suds. Using tallow is not bad, unless you're a vegetarian or do not like using animal based products on your body. There is chatter that tallow or lard used in soaps will clog your pores or promote blackheads. I don't know if this has ever been proven scientifically. I do know that once the saponification process occurs there should be little fat and no lye present in the finished product - only soap.

The major difference between commercial soap products and true soap - specifically handmade soap - is that during the process of saponification natural glycerin is produced. In handmade soaps that glycerin is retained in the finished product versus the common commercial practice of removing the glycerin so they can resell it into the industry where it is more lucrative for them.

The soap we make is vegetable based and contains additional nurturing ingredients like goats milk, honey and all of the natural glycerin to help retain your skins natural oils. This makes a huge difference in how your skin will feel after bathing. With continued use of true soap I have found my skin doesn't itch or dry out like it used to when I was using commercial products.

You can conduct your own study. Buy a bar of true soap, making sure there are no ingredients in the product that you might be sensitive to, and use it exclusively for a month. If you're like most people you will be converted. The range of handmade soaps available today provides consumers with an astounding array of choices. Have dry skin? Try a milk soap with honey and oatmeal. Acne prone oily skin? Choose a soap with clay and tea tree oil. You can even exfoliate while you wash with the many scrubby bars available with everything from ground pumice to cranberry seeds. The cost of handmade soaps is admittedly higher than the store bought versions, but as the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for." Try it - You'll like it. Trust me.

Suggested Links:
Bidwell Botanicals
Ablutions Spa
Flower Peddler
Om Aroma & Co

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