All natural soap is a necessity for anyone looking to avoid the harsh, synthetic chemicals you will find in store bought soaps. Whether you are looking for natural body soap, beard soap, or shaving soap, it's important to know how to identify and differentiate all natural soap from synthetic soap. That being said, just how does one go about choosing the best natural soap?
First off, its important to understand the majority of cleansing products sold in stores under the name soap are not soaps at all. They are more accurately described as synthetic chemical detergents containing synthetic fragrance oils, dyes and harsh ingredients like triethanolamine which can be harmful to both your eyes and lungs.
These ingredients are all high in toxicity and are the main reason people suffer from skin related problems like dry skin, eczema and psoriasis. In addition, some supposedly natural soap and shampoo makers use dimethicone, a synthetically derived silicon-based polymer known to trap bacteria and sebum under your skin causing increased breakouts and preventing your skin from sloughing off dead skin cells.
All natural soaps on the other hand are made with only natural ingredients and essential oils that wont dry or damage your skin like store bought soaps. And unlike store bought soaps, all natural soaps do not have the moisturizing glycerine stripped from them. By taking out the glycerine, commercial soap makers are able to use it in synthetic lotions and moisturizers that you wouldn't need if the glycerine wouldn't have been removed from your soap in the first place!
Natural Soap Making
There are three ways to make natural soap:
- Melt & Pour
- Hot Process
- Cold Process
Melt & Pour
Melt & Pour soap bases are the bottom rung of natural soap making. Melt & Pour soaps are made using pre-made soap making kits which contain pre-made chunks of soap. The soap is then melted and additional ingredients are added.
While these soaps are better than some store bought soaps, they usually contain ingredients like Sorbitan oleate which is derived from alcohol sorbitol and has been linked to cancer. Melt & pour soaps are often sold at farm stands and farmers markets by well meaning people. The biggest problem with melt & pour bases is even if the person only adds all natural ingredients to their base, they have no control over what is in the actual melt & pour base to begin with. While certainly better than synthetic store bought soaps, we do not recommend buying a soap claiming to be natural that is made from a melt and pour base.
Cold process soap is a much better way to make all natural soap. It's made by adding a lye solution to to animal fats, like lard, or vegetable fats, like olive oil, coconut oil, castor bean oil, and commonly palm oil. After lye has been added to the fats, the process of saponification begins where the base (the lye) and fatty acids react to form soap. The mixture is poured into a mold to cure for 6-8 weeks, during which time the soap is continually saponifying. Cold process soap is very lathery and pleasant to use. The only drawback to using the cold process method is that the beneficial properties and scent of essential oils can be lost during the saponification process since it generates a large amount of heat. But all things considered, cold process natural soaps are far superior to melt & pour bases or store bought soaps.
Hot process soap is made in almost the same manner as cold process soap, but with an additional step. The soap mixture is cooked to expedite the saponification process.
This is important because the essential oils are added after the majority of the heat is generated, and are therefore able to retain their scent and beneficial properties. We find that the hot process method is the best method for making all natural soap, so that our soap can deliver all of the awesome properties that our ingredients provide.
In addition to making sure your soap was made using either the hot or cold process method, you need to make sure your soap is made of beneficial, all natural ingredients. The main ingredients to look for in your all natural soap are:
- Vegetable oils
- Lye (sodium hydroxide)
- Essential oils
These ingredients include:
- Birch tar - The restorative qualities of birch tar have been known for centuries. Birch tar is a safe and effective treatment for acne, eczema, seborrhea, psoriasis, dandruff, and itchy skin. Birch tar also helps enhance blood circulation and prevents toxins from collecting in muscles and skin. Birch tar even has disinfectant and antiseptic properties that can help speed up the healing time of small cuts and abrasions.
- Black pepper - Ground black pepper exfoliates to remove dead skin cells, while stimulating the lymphatic flow and blood circulation.
- Dead sea salt - Dead sea salt is an excellent natural exfoliator, and is widely recognized for not only its relaxing and therapeutic effects, but also for its detoxifying, healing, and restoring properties – particularly for treatment of psoriasis and dry skin.
- Activated charcoal - Activated charcoal is a natural colorant, and has been used for thousands of years to combat itchy skin and some claim it removes impurities and clarifies your skin.