Sunday, December 20, 2009

So what's the big deal about handmade soap anyway?

Many of you may wonder why you'd spend 4 - 7 bucks on a bar of handmade soap, when you can hit the local walmart or grocery store and get a stack of 6 for less money.  Fair thinking, and before I started researching, and making soap, I used to wonder that myself.

In general, commercial soap carried at most stores are full of chemical and synthetic additives that are harsh on your skin.  It can lead to irritations, rashes, dry, flakey skin - and can be absolute murder on conditions like psoriasis and eczema. 

Commercial soap companies also remove the natural glycerin found in the oils used in soapmaking.  What is glycerine, you ask?  It is a natural humectant. This means it draws water from the air, and thus allows your skin to draw in the moisture and become hydrated.  When you combine lye with fats or oils, it goes through a chemical process called saponification. This means that these two ingredients react, and make soap. One of the byproducts of this process is glycerine.   Since glycerin is a sellable commodity, they remove it for sale, or they leave just tiny trace amounts in their final product for label value, with no discernable benefit to your skin.  Commercial soapmakers add salt at a stage when cold process soapmakers pour into their molds.  The salt causes the soap to curdle and float to the top. After skimming off the soap, they are left with glycerin (and lots of "impurities" like partially dissolved soap, extra salt, etc.). They then separate the glycerin out by distilling it, and sell it to companies for profit.  The soap is then left with none of the natural humectant properties of glycerine maintained in handmade soap.  Oh sure, it'll clean you - but if you ever wonder why your skin feels itchy and dry after using some commercial products, you now have your answer.  Many commercial "soaps" are actually synthetic detergents made with some of the same chemicals used in garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers.  Do you really want to put that on your skin?

I make soap using the cold-process method. (or RTCP which stands for room temperature cold process).  It retains all of the natural goodies, and handmade soaps can be infused with natural herbs, milks, honeys, oats and many many other wonderful ingredients that serve to nurture the largest organ of the body.


  1. An excellent explanation of the process of soaping and the difference between handmade soap and commercial bars - thanks!