This is the primary question I am asked, and love to discuss, with individuals browsing our handmade soaps.
With brand-name soap companies spending millions each year on misleading advertising, it's understandable why a consumer may question. Store bought or "commercial" soaps (detergents) are regularly advertised as "All Natural" when in fact, the ingredients can be identified as synthetic compounds such as chemical hardeners, foaming agents and fragrances.
Even though a soap is marketed as natural, doesn't mean it's all natural or good for your skin. So, while the USDA regulates and sets quality standards for the word "Organic", there is no regulation for the word "Natural" that helps a consumer really know if the soap is real or safe or not.
The best way for a consumer to know that a product is natural, unadulterated and safe is to read the labels and ask questions. Even a local soap maker can be using harmful chemicals or fragrance oils in their soap, so ask and decide for yourself. But just for fun, let's review a handful of reasons why handmade soap is better than store bought soap in our opinion. Shall we....
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....
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.
Our soaps are scented with only 100% pure essential oils. This means that not only are you getting an awesome aroma every time you use the soap, but you also benefit from the therapeutic properties each essential oil offers. Lavender soap lends it's relaxation and skin repair qualities, and citrus soap lends it's invigorating and antimicrobial qualities. So let's see, harmful unknown chemicals or therapeutic essential oils.... we'll stick with oils thank you!
Our ancestors knew what they were doing, and did it for thousands of years - why change it! Our soaps are made using the Cold Process method - just like the old-folks used to do it. We mix lye with water, then blend it with oils, then add essential oils and natural colorants, and finally, pour it into molds to make it nice and pretty (of course the very simplified tutorial).
We make our soaps in small batches to allow us to carefully monitor and adjust the soap as needed. We consider the humidity in the air, the season we are in, the ambient temperature in the room and more to ensure that every batch is as perfect as it can be. We also sterilize our equipment in between batches so that oils from one batch do not contaminate oils from another batch.
All of these steps help us to ensure that every bar of soap has the right blend of ingredients and has been personally viewed for excellence. Because we have such an intimate, hands-on approach with our soaps, we can be confident that you as the consumer can both see the difference and feel the difference in quality.
This method 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. Once the soap base is produced, it is then mixed with a handful of fillers and chemicals such as Sodium Isethionate (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 feel our hands-on approach provides soap the love and attention it needs and know you can feel that energy once you use it.
Handmade soap preserves the integrity of the oils/fats/butters. Grass fed tallow goes in, saponified (made into soap) tallow 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 a local trades-person and give it a try. I can assure you, the experience will be well worth it.