There are several reasons using handmade, natural, artisan soap far outweighs using commercial soap. And these days, there are a lot of small batch creators who have ventured into making artisan liquid soap, if that’s your preference.
I started looking into handmade soap bars because I was having allergic reactions on my skin from commercial soap. As I’ve previously mentioned, I have allergies to lots of different things, and different allergens will invoke different responses. If I have wheat or gluten, I could have an asthma attack as my tongue swells and my throat tightens. If I’m around mown grass I get an asthma attack. If I’m around pollens or bird feathers, I get hives, itchiness and inflammation.
Being an allergic person isn’t fun, and it can be tiring when you always have to think about what ingredients go into what thing, and how it will impact you.
So I started making my own soap for use at home when I moved onto acreage property. I never sold it on to anyone, I didn’t make it for others, and I used it exclusively for us at home. As with many things we do on our homestead, it was just another thing we learnt to not have to buy from the store and was something we always had in abundance at the house.
Coming from a culture and a family that has it in their psyche that preparation is key, we have always made whatever we can ourselves at home. And this is why now, this whole Homestead ecosystem is being born because we realise there is an appetite for living in this way that far exceeds our Homestead.
But I digress.
When you first make the switch from a commercial soap to a handmade soap, there is a bit of a transition. Commercial soaps are detergents and made to be super bubbly and lightweight. This is because the marketing teams behind these commercial soaps understand the mentality that people hold about keeping clean. There seems to be a misrepresentation that to be squeaky clean, you must have lots of lather, but that is not true.
Soap makers can use a variety of oils and natural additives to make a natural, hard bar of soap that does the exact same thing. And not only is it better for you, it is better for your local ecosystem, and contributes to other environmental benefits, such as zero waste.
So the question should not start off as, why should I use a handmade bar of soap, but instead, it should be why am I using commercial detergents on my skin?
Commercial ‘soaps’ are not actually soaps though, they’re cleansers. The purpose of that wonderful dish soap we all have sitting on the kitchen counter is a detergent – its sole purpose is to make grease and fat soluble. This is why when you hand wash dishes, you may be able to whip that oil off your fry pan in a jiffy with a commercial detergent, but your hands will feel like chalk afterward. And so ensues the cycle – you must wear plastic gloves, to avoid your hands to be stripped of its natural oils from a detergent, or, you must then lather on commercial moisturisers to allegedly add moisture back into your hands from a commercial detergent.
The reason people misconstrue and misinterpret the benefit of handmade soap is because they presume that the use of sodium hydroxide (lye) in soap is dangerous. Yes, sodium hydroxide will be dangerous if you stick your hand into the tub, but this is where the danger really ends.
Curing a cold process soap is the same concept and analogy as adding sugar tea to your scoby when making kombucha. Eventually, the scoby will consume the sugar, leaving you a tart, vinegary brew full of good biotics. The scoby needs the sugar to feed. Well, in soaping, the lye is needed to cause the chemical reaction. This is why lye and water is mixed at a percentage of the volume of your loaf, so that you can get the correct amount. When your soap cures, it will consume all the lye mix (like sugar in a scoby). When your 4-6 weeks is up, and your soap is ready for use, there is no lye. The pH levels have adjusted and neutralised as water has evaporated from your bars of soap. The saponification has been completed. You have a proper bar of soap.
Additionally, cheaper, mass produced commercial soaps purposely have the glycerine removed as part of their commercial soap making process. Cold process soaps do not, as the glycerine forms naturally as part of the process.
So, other than the obvious, what is really holding you back from using a handmade bar of soap?
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