With the green movement really gaining widespread acceptance, more and more of us are turning towards more natural cleaning products. Soap is no exception. But can there really be such a big difference between natural soap and commercial soap?
After all, the soap doesn’t even stay on your body that long, so what difference could it really make?
Believe it or not, it can make a huge difference. In fact, the so-called soap that is mass-produced has very little in common with its natural counterpart. And the difference is so great that you shouldn’t really call the mass-produced stuff soap at all.
Natural soaps are a blend of nourishing fats and other skin-boosting ingredients. They actually help your skin instead of drying it out. Mass-produced soap, however, consists of a bunch of chemicals.
What’s the Difference in Ingredients?
If you want to start living a greener, more healthy life, it is time to put products that contain ingredients that you don’t understand back on the shelf. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, it shouldn’t make its way into your shopping basket.
Mass-produced soaps are a blend of a range of different chemicals. They add chemicals to make the soap foam more, chemicals to make it smell and look good and a bunch of preservatives as well.
Here are just some of the ingredients you might find in a bar of mass-produced soap:
- Petrochemicals: These are derived from Petroleum – the same stuff that fuels your car. Though these are regularly added to our soaps, we have got no idea of their safety for us over the long-term.
- Parabens: These are used as preservatives. Studies have proven that they can be carcinogenic. However, the studies worked with amounts that were far larger than what you would find in cosmetics. The risk, therefore is not as pronounced as the hysteria surrounding it would have suggested.
- Artificial Colorants: Colorants are added again to make the soaps look more attractive. Aside from that, they form no real purpose. All they are essentially doing is increasing the toxic loads on our bodies.
- Artificial Scents: The whole reason we use soap in the first place is so that we get clean and smell nice. The problem with these artificial scents, however, is that they offer no real therapeutic value and can be harmful to our health.
- Phthalates: These are added to change the texture of the soap and have been found to be carcinogenic.
The irony here is that many of the ingredients are added so that the product resembles what we have come to expect from soap. We expect soap to foam, we expect it to smell good and we expect it to nourish the skin.
But how far is what we see as soap, actually removed from real soap?
Soap is not all that hard to make. All you need is fat and an alkali such as lye. The problem is that people get put off by the use of lye. And, lye is a dangerous chemical, there is no denying it. It is extremely toxic if ingested and can burn the skin if applied neat.
However, it is also completely neutralized during the curing process. So, whilst it may start out quite dangerous, it actually becomes quite harmless after the reaction with the fat used is complete.
And, if you like, you can leave it there – you don’t need to add colorants or fragrances if you don’t want to. The hardness or texture and resultant foaming action of the bar will depend on the actual oil used as the base. For example, a bar made from olive oil will not foam as much as a bar made from tallow but it will last a lot longer.
Natural soap is simple and helps to restore the natural pH balance of the skin. It is mild enough to use on your face if you like.
The soap is usually scented using essential oils and this can mean that the shelf-life of the soap is shorter than your commercial soap as the scent dissipates over time. The bars also tend to be less strongly scented.
However, the use of essential oils has a huge advantage – you can tailor your soap to deal with specific skin conditions. For example, if you have oily skin, the addition of Grapefruit essential oil would be useful. If you have dry skin, Sandalwood oil would be a better choice.
Most natural soap makers either rely on the natural color of the soap or use natural colorants such as Turmeric, etc. The range of colors available for natural soap then tends to be very much reduced and colors tend to be more muted.
Other ingredients are also added to natural soap in order to increase the beneficial value. Honey, for example, is an excellent humectant and anti-bacterial ingredient. Oatmeal helps to make a really good scrub for the skin.
So, homemade soaps obviously have much more beneficial qualities than commercially produced ones. Why then don’t the commercial producers use the same natural ingredients? It boils down to one simple thing – production time.
Natural soap can take as long as 6-8 weeks to cure completely, depending on what ingredients are used initially. This time is needed so that the lye can be completely neutralized. A production schedule like this simply wouldn’t work for a commercial producer.
Is it better to use a natural soap or a commercial one? You decide – do you want to subject your body to a range of toxic chemicals that have little to no benefit for a soap that looks good? Or do you prefer something that will actually naturally protect your skin?
Here are some of our best selling natural soaps
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