The Good and the Bad of Soap

Why use "fake soap" when natural soap feels so good? A great question posed by our friends at A Wild Soap Bar...

How To Tell "Fake Soap" from Real Soap

Fake soap is defined as mostly synthetic, so called "soaps" that are full of harsh detergents and petro-chemicals like the ones that fill the shelves of most stores. This includes the clear (or sometimes opaque) "glycerin" soaps, most commercial shower gels and liquid soaps, the highly touted "hypoallergenic" soaps recommended by main stream dermatologists (the word is meaningless), virtually all of those rock hard triple milled ooh-la-la overpriced French soaps (they're usually drying!), and even many of the supposedly "natural" soaps found at your local health food store!

Check out the ingredients (if they bother to give you any) and you'll see just how many cheap oils,  animal fats and synthetic petro-chemicals these so called "soaps" really contain.

Don't buy into it!

A few herbs and a natural sounding name don't make fake soap real. Read labels carefully, ask questions, be informed.

If you've been using these harsh commercial soaps for years,you'll know just how much better and safer your bathing experience can be when you try natural soaps!

Real handcrafted natural soap is easy to spot. It will say "soap" on the label. By law, fake soaps aren't supposed to use that term so they call it a "beauty bar" or a "moisturizing bar."

Look for soaps with cold pressed organic extra virgin olive oil, rich in antioxidants and revitalizing skin nutrients, as a main ingredient. Most commercial soaps contain very little or none because it's expensive, and those who do often use pomace olive, a cheaper inferior grade of oil extracted with harmful chemical solvents.

Is your skin worth the very best? We think so!

You can use the microwave test to distinguish real soap from glycerin soap (a.k.a. melt and pour or craft soap). A melt and pour soap will begin to liquefy after 10-15 seconds in the microwave. (They don't last very long in your tub or shower either.)

Cold process soap won't melt that easily. Most of the melt and pour soaps don't have as much skin care value as cold process soaps and many of them (especially the cheap ones) contain harsh and sometimes even harmful ingredients.

There are some exceptions, some decent melt and pour soap bases out there. Some of these beautiful soaps are miniature works of art, so it depends on what you're looking for. If you want superior skin care, choose cold process soap.

Avoid fragrance oils, perfume oils, potpourri oils, and nature identical oils which are all different words for synthetic fragrance oils.

Many of them contain unknown or toxic ingredients, they pollute our environment, and they're one of the biggest causes of skin irritation and skin sensitivities today. Just because a product has a botanical sounding name does NOT necessarily mean it came from a plant. Cranberry, watermelon, peach, pear, apple, strawberry, fig, pomegranate, and many others (the list is long) are synthetic scents made in a laboratory.

Likewise, many soaps supposedly containing vanilla, jasmine, rose, lemon verbena, and sandalwood are also made with synthetic scents because the real essential oils, absolutes, or concretes are expensive or even endangered.

The bottom line? If an oil doesn't have a latin botanical name, then it's not a true essential oil and it has no aromatherapeutic benefits.

Ask the soap maker what they use. Go to the health food store and smell the real essential oils. After a while, your nose will know the difference.

Look for soaps made with essential oils extracted from plants that are safe and therapeutic when used properly. They're more expensive, but well worth it in terms of your health and that of our planet. If the label just says "fragrance," "perfume," or "parfum" it's probably a synthetic scent. Steer clear.

Other synthetic additives to avoid are FD&C colors, dyes, antibacterial triclosan & triclocarban, EDTA, TEA, DEA, sodium laureth and sodium lauryl sulfates, to name a few. They're not kind to your skin, your health or our environment.

The real test is when you use a well-made natural soap. Notice I said well made, because all handmade soaps are  NOT created equal!

If it dries your skin out or makes it feel tight or itchy, it may not be real or it may not be properly made. On the other hand, there's nothing like high quality, glycerin rich, handcrafted natural olive oil soap to leave your skin feeling soft, smooth, and nourished.

So if you're looking for skin loving soap, take the time to seek out the ones that are natural and handmade. They may cost more, but you get what you pay for, and your skin will thank you.

What About Goat's Milk Soap?

We like a good goat's milk soap, but some companies want you to believe their soaps are made mostly of goat's milk or that goat's milk dramatically lowers the pH of their handmade soap to make it more gentle than others or that only goat's milk soaps are moisturizing and mild.

Nothing could be further from the truth! While goat's milk is a terrific ingredient to include in handmade soaps, you cannot make real soap without fats, oils or butters. (Case in point. If you look at the ingredient list, you'll notice that goat's milk is never listed as the first ingredient.) And ALL true soaps are alkaline by nature, but that's OK.

Your skin adjusts really quickly after using an alkaline soap product and in the end, no real harm is done. Plain goat's milk may have a pH level that's very near to skin, but once you combine it with fats/oils/butters and lye, the pH level changes. 

Now, goat's milk IS super moisturizing,  but no more so than a myriad of other natural ingredients used by handmade soap makers. Don't be fooled by the notion that goat's milk soap is somehow superior to all others. That simply isn't the case.

Why Antibacterial Soaps Are A Bad Idea

Triclosan is the antibacterial agent commonly found in antibacterial soaps, lotions, toothpastes, acne products, cosmetics and other personal care products.

It is classified as a pesticide by the EPA and as a drug by the FDA. The EPA considers it a possible risk to human health and to the environment.

Triclosan is a known endocrine disruptor and a suspected carcinogen. Its overuse has contributed to bacterial resistance in the same way that widespread overuse of antibiotics has.

Triclosan does not belong in the personal care products that we use everyday. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), there is no evidence that using antibacterial soap works any more effectively than plain soap and water. 

Care & Feeding of Natural Handmade Bar Soaps

Pure handmade bar soap in its natural state doesn't contain any synthetic preservatives or artificial hardeners. It doesn't need to. And with just a little care and feeding, you can prolong its life: 

  • Don't let your soap drown in water.
  • Feed your soap plenty of fresh air between uses.
  • Store your soap on a well drained soap dish.
  • Use a natural wash cloth or loofah to extend its life.
  • Use fresh new soap within 6 months of purchase.
  • Store unused soap in a dark cool place like a lingerie drawer or linen closet.