Handmade natural soap and mass-produced soap may sometimes look the same but that is about where the similarity ends. Even some of the well-known soap and bath product brands passing themselves off as ‘natural’ or ‘full of nature’s bounty’ have long ingredient lists containing poor quality, cheap ingredients.Other ingredients such as Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) and the family of parabens (chemical preservatives) found in mass-produced bath & body products fall into a more dubious category of substances to say the least. These are discussed a little further down the page but first on to handmade soap….
Glycerin is a natural bi-product of the saponification process and a wonderful moisturiser. So why would most commercial soap makers remove it from the soap during manufacturing? Simply because glycerin is worth more to them sold as an additive for other products such a skin creams and ointments. With handmade soap all of the glycerin is left in the soap for superior moisturising capabilities.
Rather than use fragrance oils (synthetic fragrances manufactured in the laboratory) we prefer to use essential oils (the very essence of a tree, plant, herb or flower) that carry known therapeutic properties alongside their scent. By adding essential oils to our soaps we are able to offer products that can alleviate or reduce the symptoms of common skin complaints such as psoriasis, acne, and eczema; restore balance to skin complexions; have natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and soothe inflamed areas amongst a host of other benefits. See our soaps for more details on their properties.
We have no need to bulk out our soaps with fillers such as SLS (see below) or use parabens to ensure long shelf lives. We add generous amounts of vitamin E and use oils such as wheatgerm that are high in anti-oxidants to achieve this. All of our soaps contain a generous dollop of jojoba oil – well, really it’s a wax – an amazing, natural substance that closely mimics sebum, the natural oil the skin secretes, helping to balance complexions.
In all but one of the soaps we make, we have no need for artificial colourants (we use a trace amount of blue in our lavender, we have found no suitable alternative in nature alas), we prefer to rely on the natural colouring effect of the botanicals we use. It might seem that this is a lot of trouble to go to but if you use a product on your skin every day isn’t it better to use something that you know will do you good?
Next time you take a shower or have a bath, have a look at the ingredients lists on the back of the bottle, jar or box. The chances are that you will find Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate and one or more parabens on the list.
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
In the cosmetics industry, SLS is used as a cheap filler to bulk out many types of products such as shampoo, soap & toothpaste. It also has the added advantage of lathering up readily and degreasing surfaces which is why it is so favoured in the mass-production of bath and body products.
The Internet is full of stories linking SLS to some piece of cancer research. While this author has not personally come across any credible body of research linking SLS to cancer, SLS is a known skin & eye irritant and has been linked to causing cankers (ulcers) in the mouth for some people who have used toothpastes containing SLS. SLS is also known to dry out the skin and hair follicles. For sensitive / dry skin, products containing SLS are best avoided. Unscented SLS-free soap makes ideal soap for babies and sensitive skin types.
These chemicals are readily absorbed and stored by the body and have been found in cancerous tissues. One study into breast cancer, carried out by English researchers in 2004, found parabens present in 90% of affected samples they tested. Yet, studies are not conclusive enough to make a categorical link so the jury is out.
While this isn’t designed to scare monger (honestly), it is frustrating that it is quite permissable for large cosmetics companies to add these ingredients to their products with their negative connotations and when little is known about their long-term effects on the body. They are also able, quite legally, to market their products with strong associations to nature and natural ingredients that many other industries would not be allowed to get away with in a similar vein.
There are several other differences between handmade soap and the mass-produced variety but these are some of the main ones. We hope this goes some way to explaining why a bar of soap at the supermarket is considerably less than one of ours but if your skin could talk I have a hunch what choice it would make