What is the Difference
Most commercially made soap is more like a detergent and is definately not kind to our planet, well being or skin. It's mass produced in large factories using machines often using cheap ingredients, artificial colouring, parabens and petrochemicals.
Parabens are artificial preservatives used to give the soap bar a longer shelf life and petrochemicals, derived from petroleum are used as a cheap form of detergent, a grease busting ingredient which is very harsh on the skin.
Many people complain that the bars of soap they buy leaves the skin feeling very tight and dry. The maufacturers answer to this is they advertise the fact they add moisturising and skin loving oils which will leave the skin feeling smoother and softer, thus hoping it will help with soap sales. Although they may contain oils like palm oil which is cheap to use they may also contain several other ingredients that are potentially harmful not only to us but our planet. Palm oil is a very controversial subject, people are either for using it or very against using it due to the gorilla population losing their habitat - having said that it is very cheap to use and has some great skin conditioning properties.
Commercial manufacturers have been known to actually blame the drying effect on the fact its just 'soap' that does this.
So, why is commercially made soap so bad then?
When natural soap is made by the traditional method of using skin loving oils/butters and lye and left to cure it naturally produces an ingredient called glycerol and it is this ingredient which moisturisers and protects your skin and stops the drying out effect. Most of us have heard of glycerine which is in fact the commercial name given to glycerol. Not only is it a humectant which draws moisture from the air and locks into your skin, it has great antimicrobial and antiviral properties - ideal during this pandemic in which the world finds itself in with Covid19.
When commercial soap is manufactured the glycerin is actually removed from the soap. Taking out a very important ingredient of the bar of soap especially when it costs the manufacturers nothing at all seems so ridiculous it makes you wonder why they do it. Well the simple answer is for money. The glycerin that is abstracted from the soap is then sold on to other companies to make fertilizer and explosives, so not only do they make a profit from the sale of bars of soap they also receive a profit from the glycerin sales as well. There isn't a problem with making a profit, every business has to do this to survive and grow but when they then add other ingredients to the soap which are often very cheap and potentially harmful to us and our planet it does become a problem in my eyes. The soap is also fragranced using aromas that are chemically made in a laboratory so have no therapeutic value whatsoever just a lovely smell.
Using traditionally made natural soap in these uncertain times to wash our hands many times throughout the day for at least 20 seconds at a time or singing 'Happy Birthday' twice as we have been told to do actually can be very beneficial as these antiviral and antimicrobial properties can get to work on the viruses that may be on your skin. These soaps will also help to moisturise your skin, unlike some of the hand santizer that can be very brutal leaving your hands cracked and dry. Adding essential oils like Tea Tree, Thyme, Lemon, Lavender etc. can also be very beneficial in dealing with all types of viruses and bacteria.
For anyone with skin problems like eczema, acne, rosea, dryness etc. a natural bar of soap can be tailored to be beneficial. Oils/butters can be chosen for properties which will help certain conditions, like coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, castor oil etc. Essential oils can be tailored not only for the aroma but for therapeutic properties also. Often local ingredients are sourced by the artisans. Extra natural beneficial ingredients will be used not only to colour the soap but to also add therapeutic properties i.e. activated charcoal, oatmeal, clays, seaweed or kelp. All beneficial to your skin.
There is no need to add a preservative to natural soap, if it is well cured for at least six weeks it will have a shelf life of 12-24 months.
So, natural soap versus commercial soap - I know which I prefer and making your own cold pressed soap is fairly easy, not expensive to do, can be tailored to your own skin, made in your own kitchen and is such fun to do. If you do not want to make it you can't go wrong if you buy a good traditionally made natural bar of soap containing just a few great ingredients.
If you have ever thought of making soap yourself but not quite sure of how to go about it Aroma Natural holds One to One Soap Making Courses, group courses and for anyone who can't get to North Norfolk we have a fantastic Online Soap Making Course with tutorials and videos to help you every step of the way.
Happy Soap Making x Diane