Commercial soap manufacturers make it a practice to remove the glycerine that is produced during the saponification (soap-making) process. Glycerine is a highly profitable substance, often sold to other companies who use it to make lotions and moisturizers, which your skin, now dried out from the harsh detergent 'soap,' desperately needs.
Most commercially produced bars contain synthetic lathering agents, artificial colors, and a slew of chemicals we can't even pronounce. Antibacterial and antimicrobial soaps often contain triclosan that is assumed to be toxic. Moreover, manufacturers of a number of triclosan-containing products claim that the active ingredient keeps working for as long as 12 hours after use, resulting in a prolonged exposure of the consumers to triclosan for much longer than the 20 seconds it takes to wash their hands or face.
Keep in mind that our skin is porous and absorbent. It absorbs whatever it comes in contact with, much the same as sticking something in your mouth. Therefore, chronic daily use of chemical laden products can cause chemicals accumulation in the body fat below the epidermis.
Last but not least, the toxic ingredients of the commercial soaps are also finding their way into our eco-system. Every time that lather goes down the drain, those pollutants are going with it. A recent report by the UK's Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) revealed that synthetic chemicals from soap, body washes, shampoos and other healthcare products can sneak through the filters at water purification plants. The list of offenders includes phthalates, which are linked to reproductive disorders in both humans and animals, and parabens, a controversial preservative.
What's the alternative?
All natural handmade soap. There are several small businesses selling high quality, all natural soaps - yes real soap. Sure, these soap bars generally cost more than the detergent bars you'll find at the big super market chains. However, another issue raises; are all these natural soap bars actually good for your skin and also, good for the planet?
Choosing the right soap
Just because it's handmade doesn't mean it's good for you. You need to understand a few things about the soap making process to know what to look for.
There are basically three ways to make soap:
- Melt and pour method: There are even melt and pour kits you can buy to make cute soap shapes with your kids. These are generally glycerine-based transparent soaps. Usually, they're not as harmful as the commercial detergent bars, but they're not what we're looking for here.
- Hot process method: In this method heat is used after the saponification process has taken place to accelerate maturation, resulting in the degradation of all the beneficial elements contained into the oils. Furthermore, as previously discussed glycerine is also removed in commercially manufactured bars.
- Cold process method: In this method saponification and maturation take place at ambient temperature, which maintains unaltered the beneficial ingredients for our skin and at the same time keeps the naturally produced glycerine into the soap. The maturation step in cold process method takes long (1-3 months), but is undoubtedly the best method for producing the highest quality soaps.
Concerning the ingredients; cold process soap bars are made using balanced combinations of oils and lye. Lye sounds a little scary, but all the caustic qualities of the lye are removed during the saponification process. When the lye interacts with the oils, it creates glycerine. The type of oils used defines the hardness of the soap bar, how well it lathers, and also it gives the desired skincare & cosmetic properties to the soap.
With handmade soaps, just like with commercially manufactured bars, you always need to read the labels. You want to find soaps that use balanced combinations of pure and organic oils. Avoid any bars that use artificial colors or fragrances. These are synthetic chemicals and you don't want them onto your skin or going down your drain. If you want a colored or scented soap bar, look for the ones that use only essential oils, natural extracts and natural colorants.
In conclusion, the best soap for our skin and our planet is a handmade all natural cold process soap bar based on pure or organic certified oils. Once you've tried one of these lathery treasures, you'll never again be satisfied with commercial “detergent“ soap bars. So, do yourself and your eco-system a big gift and start using REAL soap.