Let’s talk about soap, baby!

Acquaint yourself with the difference between commercial soaps and natural handmade ones.

The power of marketing is not to be sneezed at. Ever. In fact, oftentimes, it can be quite positively dangerous. The lure of catchy slogans, hidden messages, vivid imagery, and well-thought out words is incredibly hard-to-resist. Few things exemplify this subversive side of life better than our relationship with beauty products.

Soap is a big part of our life. All the more reason one should try and get to the bottom of it. Or, at least, get to know a little more about what goes into it. If nothing else, at least acquaint yourself with the difference between commercial soaps and natural handmade ones. Doing so can help you in more ways than one.

Handmade v/s Factory-made

Natural soap is made from a chemical reaction between water, lye (also known as sodium hydroxide), and fats and oils. These fats and oil are turned into soap and glycerine by a chemical process called ‘Saponification’. This process, when completed properly, leaves you with pure soap, glycerine, and some residue from the natural ingredients in the individual recipe. Handmade soap is almost always made in small batches. You won’t find huge “handmade soap” factories out there.

Commercial soap is not ‘made’ but ‘manufactured.’ We use the term manufactured because of the way it’s made – by combining chemicals (including petroleum) in a slurry mixer. The mixture heats up on its own as a result of two chemical reactions. Once the mixture heats to a certain temperature, it is dried using a vacuum chamber and an atomiser. The resulting powder is then mixed with various other ingredients to form the final product. Sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it? And it is, when you think about it.

Soap: The inside story

A natural handmade soap is, well, completely natural. It may or may not be organic, but it definitely will not have a single synthetic ingredient in it. Essential oils, natural butters, and other natural oils can be added in to change the benefits of the soap as well as the natural scent. There is nothing else in there. No preservatives, no synthetic fragrances, no chemical compounds, nothing but pure, natural ingredients from Mother Earth.

Take a good look at some the ingredients labels we’ve posted here from the wide variety of natural soaps we have in store for you and you’ll see what we mean.

Compare these ingredients with the ones you are likely to see on the labels of any mass-produced soap that is available in the market and you will discover the horrifying difference between natural soap and the ones manufactured en mass. Fact of the matter is, other than water, hardly any other ingredient is natural. This is the ugly truth of popular “beauty bars”.

The goodness of Glycerine

Many people believe commercial cleansing bars contain the benefits of glycerine. This is mostly untrue. Truth of the matter is commercial soap manufacturers usually extract glycerine to use it for lotions and other such skin care products because it is expensive and they’d rather use it for more expensive products.

On the other hand, a high quality organic, handmade soap will always contain the goodness of glycerine. Glycerine, in case you’re wondering, is a compound that soothes and moisturizes the skin. Since glycerine can draw moisture out from the air and into the skin, it helps the skin to remain soft and moist for a long period of time. You need your soap to do this for your skin. And this is not something most commercially-manufactured soaps do.

The pH factor

Did you know all good natural soaps contain a pH level around 9-10? Well, now you do. It’s not true that that soaps and cleansers must have a pH level that matches with that of the human skin. FYI, your skin is fairly acidic, which helps it ward off the advances of harmful bacteria and fungi. The optimal pH of human skin is 5,5 and you can measure it with a piece of litmus paper. Cleansing dries your skin, which is why you need a soap with a higher pH level than that of skin. Healthy skin, cared for with products free of chemicals, will rebalance itself within an hour or two of cleansing. Commercial soap bars usually have Free Alkali in them. This is used to lower the pH level unnaturally. And this is what makes them harsh and dries your skin. Free Alkali, though, is good for shelf life and thus a good reason for manufacturers to be generous with it in soap.

A nose for chemicals

After so many years of ‘training’ you might think it’s natural for a soap to be fragrant. That’s where you are wrong. The term “fragrance,” “perfume,” or “nature identical oils” on an ingredients list usually represents a complex mixture of dozens of chemicals. Often thousands of chemicals are used to make a soap smell fragrant. Of the thousands of chemicals used in fragrances, most have not been tested for toxicity (alone or in combination). Many of these unlisted ingredients are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms. 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds. Does this smell like something you want to clean your body with day in and day out?

Finally, 5 reasons to go natural

And on that short note, here are 5 reasons to switch to one of the natural and organic soaps we have in store for you.

  • Support entrepreneurial artisans, small businesses, and individuals like you and me.
  • Natural soaps smell natural and ensure your body smells right in an allergy- free way.
  • Natural soaps clean. Soaps that contain chemicals trick you into doing the opposite without your knowledge.
  • Natural soaps are unique and special and make you feel unique and special.
  • Natural soaps costs way less when you consider the health cost of using commercial soap.

You can browse through our collection of 200+ handmade soaps here.

To read more articles about bath and beauty, check out our Soap-o-pedia section.

Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash has been an advertising writer, fiction writer, poetry writer, freelance writer and serial wronger. Other roles he has been in include those of an editor, brand builder, and teacher. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, cinema, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography. To hear him air his thoughts, follow him on Twitter @armchairexpert.

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