Today, much commercially made soap is not soap at all. They are actually harsh detergents. Detergents are less expensive and easier to manufacture than soaps. Would you buy a bar labeled as a detergent? I would not, but then many people don’t really read the label on their bars of soap. If you have read the label on your soap bar you may have seen sodium tallowate listed as one of the first ingredients. Many of you may know what sodium tallowate is. For those of you who don’t, I will tell you or you may check with your favorite search engine. Sodium tallowate is a natural result made by combining sodium hydroxide (lye) with beef tallow (beef fat). Tallow has been used in soap making for hundreds of years. Commercial soap makers use tallow due to it being inexpensive, plentiful, processes quickly and produces a hard bar. Some people say that tallow clogs pores, causes blackheads, acne, irritates eczema and is not for people with sensitive skin. The pioneers had no choice but to use tallow. Today we have many vegetable oils readily available for our use in soap making. While vegetable oils are more expensive than tallow, they produce a superior bar of soap.
Some other ingredients you may see listed on the wrapper that are not desirable in a bar of soap are:
Pentasodium penteteate is an inorganic salt used as a water softener, emulsifier and dispersing ingredient in cosmetic cleansing creams, lotions and soaps.
Tetrasodium EDTA is a synthetic preservative - can be irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes. Sodium isethionate is a synthetic detergent. It acts as a moisture absorber, surfactant and anti-static agent.
Sodium cocoyl isethionate is a synthetic detergent. It is an anionic surfactant, which means it reduces surface tension, making water ‘wetter’.
Trisodium etidronate is a preservative and possible skin irritant.
BHT - (butylhydroxytoluene) is a synthetic antioxidant to keep oils in the formula from going rancid. Sometimes used as a food preservative. BHT is sometimes used as a food preservative. When ingested, BHT has been implicated in tumor formation and liver enlargement in rodent tests.
Disodium phosphate is a buffering agent used to adjust pH in the soap.
PEG-6 methyl ether is a synthetic polymer made from oxirane (ethylene oxide) - used as a solvent.
Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid usually derived from tallow or lard and sometimes palm oil. Stearic acid contributes to a harder, more long-lasting bar of soap.
Much commercial soap has chemicals, fat, detergent and petroleum products. While these degreasers will cleanse your skin, they will also remove the natural oils leaving you with dry skin. Some people will say they do not want to use a soap made with lye. All soap has sodium hydroxide (lye) or it will not be soap. One difference in handcrafted soap and commercially made soaps is the fact that the handmade soap retains all of the natural glycerin. Glycerin is produced as a byproduct of the soapmaking process. The cosmetic industry uses glycerin in their products so it is removed from the soap and sold by the commercial soap manufacturers to the cosmetic industry. It is a profitable business venture for the commercial soap manufacturers but results in a less moisturizing soap and the use of harsher chemicals. Handmade soap retains all of the natural glycerin and results in a more moisturizing, superior bar of soap.
If you want to experience a “true” bar of soap with all of the natural, moisturizing ingredients– check with one of our many e-tailers that make their own soap. Soap makers have their own recipes and not all soaps are created equal (so to speak) but I have tried many of our e-tailers soaps and have not been disappointed with any of them. There are several different processes for soapmaking. We'll explore those later.
Give your skin a treat!
Here's a handy list of some of the e-tailers that create soaps:
A Woman With Scents, Candles and Woodcrafts, Country Keepsakes, Delightfully Wed, Ginger's Garden, Lathered Up, Laura's Lathers, Mrs. Sterlings, The Mom Lady, Tuxedo-Enterprises, and Uniquely Pampered.
Candles and Woocrafts has a sale posted on their website.