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So, you’re presented with the opportunity to purchase either a natural handmade soap or a commercial brand soap. You look at the natural soap, and wonder why it costs more than commercial brand soaps. You ask yourself – soap is soap, right? NOPE! They both clean the skin, but that’s as far as the similarity goes. In fact, there are significant differences in the ingredients and manufacturing process between natural handmade soaps and commercially produced bar soaps – differences that invariably impact the overall health, look and feel of your skin. Discerning and informed consumers often choose quality natural handmade bar soaps over commercially manufactured bar soaps, because the former tends to: (1) be made with better quality ingredients; (2) be less irritating to the skin; (3) have a higher proportion of vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients that is beneficial for the skin; and (4) be better for the environment.
“Soap” Defined – A “Soap” by ANY other name…
Before we go any further, let’s consider a basic question that we probably take for granted – “what’s a soap?” Specifically, what are the essential ingredients required to create pure natural bar soap? ALL bar soaps are made with three simple ingredients: water (or a liquid ingredient); fat (animal fat or vegetable oils) and lye (sodium hydroxide). That’s it! Scientifically-speaking, soap is a salt that results from mixing an alkali with a triglyceride or fat. Pretty simple. We mix NaOH (sodium hydroxide) with a liquid, pour that solution into fats/oils and end up with a beautiful bar of pure, natural soap, with cleansing capability and natural glycerin retained for moisturization.
It is important to note that if a “soap” does not include lye, while it has the ability to cleanse, it is in fact NOT soap. Lye is an essential ingredient in the soap-making process; it facilitates the saponification process (the conversion of oil or fat into soap by combining with lye), so without lye you cannot have soap. Most people think if a product cleanses one’s skin, then it’s soap and that simply is not true. Basically, we can take it as a given rule – No Lye…No Soap! This is the reason why manufacturers shy away from designating their product as “soap” and instead label it “cleansing bar” or “beauty bar,” because they know their product is in fact not true soap; other chemical ingredients were added to facilitate cleansing capability. We can then conclude that a “soap” by any other name is in fact not a soap. This then begs the question – if it is not soap, then what is it? Well, it is detergent that has been molded into a bar soap shape to give the appearance of real soap…a detergent masked as soap. Technically speaking, these non-soap cleansers, also known as synthetic detergents or syndets for short, are made either entirely or partially of synthetic chemical ingredients instead of all-natural ingredients.
Natural Soap vs. Detergent
Unlike natural handmade bar soaps, synthetic detergents include synthetic, man-made derivatives such as chemical hardeners, chemical additives to preserve and extend the shelf life of the product, chemical foaming agents and artificial fragrances. Moreover, while natural handmade bar soaps are made from a wealth of natural ingredients, such as plant oils (vegetable, coconut, palm) or acids derived from animal fat (such as tallow or lard), detergents contain a sulfate, sulfonate group or chemical compounds, such as propylene (which is derived from petroleum) – i.e., chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium isethionate, tetrasodium etidronate, sodium lauroyl isethionate or cocamidopropyl betaine. These chemical additives can disrupt the body’s hormonal balance, be irritating to the skin, seep into our bloodstream and cause untold physical changes in the body, and even cause cancer, and eventually wind up in our water supply, negatively impacting our environment. Natural soaps on the other hand are made with ingredients your body recognizes, are good for your body, and do not harm the environment. Some people might be concerned with the lye (sodium hydroxide) used to produce natural handmade bar soaps, however, unlike the chemicals used in detergents there is no lye left over after the saponification process, as it combines with fats to create a substance that is considered a salt of a fatty acid. For example, sodium hydroxide (lye) when combined with olive oil creates a new substance known as sodium olivate (saponified olive oil), that is neither harmful for your body or the environment.
So Why Use Natural Handmade Soap Bars?
When you consider the benefits of natural soaps for the environment, the benefits of the natural ingredients for the skin, and the level of care and attention that goes into producing the cold process natural soap, then you would agree that when it comes to soap it makes sense to choose natural handmade soaps over commercially produced soaps. But what of the higher cost vis-à-vis commercially manufactured soaps that was mentioned above? Generally speaking, the popular saying ‘you get what you pay for’ tends to be borne out when it comes to soaps: the cheaper the bar soap, the lower the quality. As one would expect, natural handmade bar soaps are generally more expensive than commercially manufactured “soaps”, and also prices among natural handmade soaps as a group vary because: the ingredients cost more as they are often of the highest quality and are natural; handmade soaps — especially cold process soaps — take longer to produce and tend to be sold by smaller firms or sole independent soap artisans as opposed to large multinational brands. Let’s also not forget that while natural handmade soaps may have a higher entry price, this price differential is more than accounted for by the invaluable benefits natural soaps impart to your health and well-being, and the well-being of the environment.
Spend some time checking the labels on your favorite bar soaps and even comparing labels of different bar soaps to learn what you are actually paying for and what you are putting on your skin. Make the switch to natural handmade bar soaps. It is one of the best ways you can protect your skin, your body’s largest organ, by naturally feeding it the nutrients that will keep it nourished, healthy and looking good. The better the ingredients, the more effective the soap will be in promoting a healthier skin. Whether you have sensitive, dry, acne-prone or combination skin, natural soap is packed with skin-kind goodness for smooth, vibrant, moisturized skin.
If you are looking to try out a natural soap, Neolaía® Handmade Beauty Soaps have many of the qualities and advantages discussed above, and are sure to be a valuable and effective addition to your skincare arsenal. Neolaía® brand natural handmade bar soaps are made with the highest quality natural and certified organic ingredients (plant oils, fruit powders, botanicals, oatmeal, Himalayan salt). They are handcrafted with no artificial ingredients or harsh additives, and contain 8 carefully-balanced, enriching and moisturizing oils, and a litany of botanical ingredients to impart deep nourishment and additional health benefits to the skin. Moreover, the fabulous scents of all Neolaía® natural handmade bar soaps are the result of natural fragrances and essential oils; artificial fragrance oils are NEVER used in Neolaía® soaps. The makers and formulators of Neolaía® soaps truly believe that a “Healthy and Beautiful Skin” is the beginning of a Healthy and Beautiful you, and it shows through and through in the design, ingredients, feel and results of all their beauty soaps.