Why You Should Use Natural Bar Soap
Back in the day, the only option we had for bathing was bar soap. Today, there are many shower gels and body washes. Yet, so many people are going back to natural bar soap. Let's look at why bar soaps are becoming popular again and the difference between natural soap, commercial soap and shower gels.
Natural bar soap:
Bar soap is made by mixing oils and/or butters with lye and water. You may be shocked to know that lye is used to make soap but this method has been used since the medieval times. The process is really quite amazing: Soap is made by a chemical reaction of combining lye and fat. This chemical reaction is called saponification.
Some people are afraid to use natural soap because it is made with lye. However, if the soap is formulated properly, there is no lye in the final product. The lye molecule is changed during saponification: the fat and lye molecules break apart, forming new molecules of soap and glycerin. You may know someone who used soap made by their grandma and experienced burning or irritated skin from using it. Back then, it was difficult to calculate the proper ratio of lye:oils. Often the resulting soap had leftover lye which caused skin irritation. Today, we have lye calculators that tell us exactly how much lye is needed for a specific formula so we can avoid lye heavy soaps.
Glycerin, as noted above occurs as a part of saponification. It is also a natural component in our skin and acts as a humectant. Humectants are important for our skin because they attract water and keep our skin from drying out. The amount of lather in bar soap, is determined by the type of oils used. Handmade soaps can be made from many combinations of oils and butters such as tallow, coconut, almond, avocado, shea, cocoa, castor. The list is endless and they all result in different characteristics of the soap. Other natural additives you may find in soap, such as milk, clay, aloe vera, salt, sugar can add different benefits to soap.
Our bar soaps are scented only with pure essential oils, never any synthetic fragrances. We also do not use synthetic colorants. Our soap colors come from natural clays or plant infused oils.
Commercial soaps are the ones you buy at the drug store like Dove, Dial or Ivory. They are also called "syndets" which is short for synthetic detergents. Most syndets remove the natural glycerin because when left in, soap needs to cure for 4-6 weeks to harden and not be mushy. If the glycerin is removed, the soap can be sold and used sooner. The problem is that without the glycerin, the soap is more likely to be drying to the skin so other synthetic ingredients may be added to combat that. Syndets also have added surfactants. Surfactants give commercial soap their lathering qualities but can also be drying to the skin. Some surfactants may be made from vegetable oils but some are derived from petroleum. The argument favoring syndets is that they have a lower ph than natural bar soap and thus will not cause skin irritation. However research studies have shown that the increase in skin ph after using bar soap is infinitesimal and basically the same as bathing with water alone.
I and many others have discovered that a well-formulated natural bar soap does NOT leave skin feeling dry after use. In fact, this is what motivated me to start making my own soap. I have very dry skin and would always feel itchy after showering whether I used a syndet or a shower gel. I would need to quickly apply lotion to relieve the itching. I found that when using natural soap, I don't feel itchy and don't need to use much if any lotion at all.
Shower gels are basically detergents and made of mostly synthetic ingredients, such as surfactants, a foaming agent. They also require preservatives to prevent bacterial contamination due to the high water content in the gel. Most shower gels also contain synthetic fragrances which are known allergens. There are some natural shower gels but they still require surfactants which can be drying to skin. The natural shower gels often do not contain a preservative which is problematic as the risk of bacterial contamination is high if no preservative is used.
Here are some examples of ingredient labels for: Shower gel, syndet and natural bar soap:
This shower gel is labeled as "natural".
Water (Aqua), *Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, *Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, *Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, ***Fragrance (Parfum-Natural), *Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, *Coco-Glucoside, *Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, *Glyceryl Oleate, *Musa Sapientum (Banana) Extract, *Glycerin, *Phenethyl Alcohol, *Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, *Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, *Citric Acid, *Cetyl Betaine, *Sorbitan Oleate Decylglucoside Crosspolymer, *Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, *Caprylhydroxamic Acid,*Panthenol, *Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, *Xylityl Sesquicaprylate, *Saccharide Isomerate, *Sodium Phytate, **Argania Spinosa Kernel Argan Oil, *Caffeine, **Glycerin, **Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, *Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, **Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, *Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hydroxide. *Plant based **Organic ***Natural fragrances are essential oils and isolates, and not a result of synthetic chemistry.
This syndet is a well known brand:
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Oleate, Sodium Stearate, Water (Eau), Sodium Isethionate, Lauric Acid, Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Sodium Laurate, Fragrance (Parfum), Dipropylene Glycol, Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Kaolin or (ou) Titanium Dioxide, Red 33 (CI 17200), Blue 1 (CI 42090).
Rozetree Botanicals Lavender Soap:
Saponified oils/butters: *Olea europaea (Olive), *Cocos nucifera (Coconut), Garcinia indica Seed (Kokum), *Prunus amygdalus dulcis (Sweet Almond),* Butyrospermum parkii (Shea), *Ricinus communis seed (Castor); Purple Brazilian Clay, Kaolin Clay, Sodium Lactate, Coconut Milk Powder,* Lavendula angustifolia (Lavender) essential oil, *Litsea cubeda (May Chang) essential oil, Rosmarinus officinalis( Rosemary) CO2 Extract
I think you get the picture. Handmade bar soap is definitely the simpler, more natural of the 3.
More Reasons To Use Natural Bar Soap:
- Less waste. There is no bottle to throw away, just a recyclable paper label!
- Better for the planet. When washed down the drain, there are no harmful chemicals to contaminate our rivers and oceans. They can be used responsibly outdoors for camping and backpacking.
- Spa experience! Essential oils give soaps an aromatherapy quality you don't get with synthetic fragrances. I often lather my soap and hold my hands close to my face just to enjoy the aroma.
- Natural soaps make great gifts. Shower gels and syndets: not so much.