Why Handcrafted Soap?
To understand why many say handcrafted soap is better for the skin, you should understand the difference between “real “ soap and the detergent, masquerading as soap, that we are accustomed to using. You also need to be familiar with the handmade soap making process.
How is Soap Made?
The chemical reaction between oil/fat and alkali that creates soap is called “saponification”. This is the soap making method that has been used since ancient times. The word saponification is derived from the Latin word, “sapo” and means “to make soap”.
The chemical reaction that occurs between oil/fat and alkali creates two products, one is soap and the other is glycerin. Soap cannot be made without an oil/fat or alkali. The most common modern day alkali used in soap making is sodium hydroxide, commonly known as “lye”. The saponification process neutralizes the lye, rendering it indistinguishable and harmless in the final product…soap.
What is the Difference Between Soap and Detergent?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines soap as being “made by combining fats or oils and an alkali, such as lye”. Further saying, "Today there are very few true soaps on the market. Most body cleansers, both liquid and solid, are actually synthetic detergent products”. That’s right, most of what is commercially available, and we use, are bars of synthetic detergent. Chemicals!
Synthetic detergents were first used during World War I, introduced by the Germans in response to a war time oil shortage. Because these detergents are cheap, produce terrific suds and do not react negatively with hard water, they have been the preferred cleanser since the 1930's.
Why is Natural Soap Better?
As with most things in life, “better” is a relative term. Handmade soaps, like all products, require a label reveiw. You will want to discover the types of oils used, in addition the other additives (i.e. preservatives, clays, fragrances, essential oils, botanicals, and colorants) that may be included in the product. This will help you to identify allergens and learn whether or not the soap is organic, vegan or all natural.
One of the great benefits of handcrafted soap is the presences of glycerin. Glycerin is a natural by-product of the saponification process and is a natural skin emollient (skin softener) that acts as a humectant attracting water to the skin.
Science Daily quotes Dr. Wendy Bollinger Bollag, cell physiologist saying, “Glycerin, or glycerol, is a natural alcohol and water attractor that's been used in skin care products for centuries”. In research published by The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, she and co-author Dr. Xiangjian Zheng, demonstrated that glycerol also makes skin look and function better by helping skin cells mature properly.
Ironically, commercial soap manufactures remove all of the glycerin produced during the soap making process, for resale and placement into lotions and creams. In reality they are forcing customers to purchase two products, one to clean and the other to moisturize, instead of buying one product that does both.
While there are many differing handmade soap recipes, it is clear that the presence of glycerin makes them far better for overall skin health than the commercial varieties.