With brand-name soap companies spending millions each year on misleading advertising, it’s understandable why a consumer may question. Typical store bought or “commercial” soaps that may be labeled as “natural” are actually detergents that include chemical hardeners, foaming agents and artificial fragrances.
Unlike the word “organic” that is regulated by the USDA, the word “natural” does not come with a set of quality standards or restrictive elements to it. As consumers, we are responsible for understanding what we put in and on our bodies and the best way to do this is by reading the labels and asking questions.
And it’s not only big-brand store-bought soaps that can be misleading. Artificial fragrances are being put in a large amount of handmade soaps as well so make no mistake, you must ask questions. A great way to know you are getting the real deal is to ask what method the soap maker uses to make their soap, what ingredients they use and what they use to scent their soaps.
Because the handmade soap in question here, thus the reason for this post, is truly natural thru & thru, we would like to share what the differences really are so you can make a more educated decision. So, “Handmade Soap versus Store-Bought Soap; what’s the difference?
Items labeled “organic” and trusting that because the USDA regulates and sets quality standards for the word, we are safe to purchase, or are we? Large-scale companies know this and play to the impulsiveness of shoppers by labeling things “natural” that are not.
Reason #1: Handmade Soap Contains Glycerin.
Glycerin is a natural skin emollient (skin softener) that attracts water from the surrounding air. Because of this, glycerin is highly prized in soaps, lotions and creams for maintaining moisture in the skin throughout the day. Animal fats and vegetable oils contain between 7-13% of glycerin as a part of their natural chemical makeup.
During the soap making process, the fats/oils and lye blend together to form soap while the natural glycerin maintains its integrity as glycerin and basically settles in between the soap molecules. Too much glycerin and the soap will become mushy and disintegrate quickly. Too little glycerin and the soap becomes very harsh and drying to the skin.
Typical store-bought soaps have had all of the glycerin removed and placed into additional products such as lotions and creams. The reason is instead of buying one product that will clean AND moisturize, (such as handmade soap) a consumer now has to buy two products to serve the same purpose, thus, an increase in profit for the company.
When profit is placed as a higher priority than quality of life, the consumer is the one who suffers. By removing the glycerin, store-bought soap takes on a skin-moisture-stripping quality that will dry the skin and leave it vulnerable to cracking and flaking. But that’s not all....
Reason #2: True Handmade Soap does not use “Fragrance”
The FDA does not require the ingredients used to develop a company’s trademark “fragrance” to be disclosed on the label. This means that your “fresh rain” or “cherry blossom” scented soap could contain hundreds of harmful chemicals without your knowledge. Some of these chemical concoctions have been found to be skin irritants and known carcinogens.
Traditionally made handmade soaps are scented with pure essential oils, never fragrance oils as that wold immediately defeat the purpose of being completely natural. When you use soaps scented with only essential oils, you not only benefit from the lack of harmful chemicals, but you actually benefit from the therapeutic properties each essential oil offers. Not to mention the smell is amazing!
This can also be an exciting feature for the consumer as you get to decide what you want your soap to do for you. Example: lavender soap lends it’s relaxation and skin repair qualities, and citrus soap lends it’s invigorating and antimicrobial qualities. Need a pick-me-up first thing in the morning, try a handmade soap that has lemongrass essential oil in it, not an artifical fragrance oil. So let’s see, harmful unknown chemicals or therapeutic essential oils.... we’ll stick with oils thank you!
Reason #3: Soap made the Old-Fashioned Way
Our ancestors knew what they were doing, and did it for thousands of years - why change it! Traditional handmade soaps are made one of two ways: hot process and cold process. Cold Process soap is made by mixing sodium hydroxide (lye) with water, then blending it with oils, then adding essential oils and natural colorants, and finally, pouring it into molds to make it nice and pretty (of course the very simplified tutorial). The soaps then sit inside the mold for 24 hours to saponify (become soap), are removed from the mold to dry for 24 hours, then cut into bars of soap and must then air dry or “cure” for 4-6 weeks. Yeah, it’s quite a process. Hot process is essentially the same, but instead of placing the soap in a mold to cure, the liquid is placed in a heat source (oven or crockpot) and heated until cured.
The method is simply personal preference, though some say that cold process is the true, original form of soap making.
These methods of hand-making soap is of course, the opposite of store bought soap which is made on a large scale in factories. Store bought soap is made using a continuous flow method with hundred of hands on the process...or probably now a days, a hundred robot arms. The soap base is continually being made in the same “batch” of soap, never to rest or relax. It is then blended with filler ingredients and chemicals such as Sodium Lauryl (Laureth) Sulfate (SLS) which is currently the primary foaming agent of Western civilization (a foam enhancer) and Dipropylene Glycol (a chemical solvent...why it’s needed...who knows) and then formed into molds.
Soap making is just like cooking, caring for a child or tending to the elderly - it all needs love, attention and time. We believe handmade soap provides the love and attention it needs and we know you can feel that energy once you use it.
Reason #4: Handmade Soap is Simply Amazing for your Skin!
Handmade soap preserves the integrity of the oils/fats/butters. Coconut oil goes in, saponified (made into soap) coconut oil comes out. Shea butter goes in, shea butter comes out. Because of this, the oils/fats/butters maintain their vitamins, minerals and skin-loving qualities in the final soap product.
A skilled soapmaker can modify their recipe to produce characteristics in the soap naturally instead of adding chemicals to achieve the same goal. To make a harder bar of soap, add more tallow or olive oil. To make a thick-lathering soap, add some honey. As discussed above, store-bought soap is likely to have the addition of synthetic chemicals to produce similar results and we feel, it simply is not needed.
But why take our word for it? The best way to find out is to put it to the test! Purchase a bar of handmade soap from Voss Botanicals and give it a try. We can assure you, the experience will be well worth it.