Why 100% Natural Soap?
I started using handmade natural soap back in 2016, partly because I was fed up with dry, itchy skin and partly because the list of ingredients on an average commercial soap/cleanser/shower gel bottle was really worrying me. I researched some of the ingredients and that worried me even more. I mean, once I knew that Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) contain hormone disruptors and oestrogen mimics and can damage the skin’s natural barrier functions, how could I bear to put anything containing it on my skin? And just for good measure, SLES is also carcinogenic (cancer-causing). It actually allows other chemicals to penetrate the skin more deeply and enter the bloodstream. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So that was it – I was determined to cut out as many of these unnecessary chemicals as I could. So I started using handmade soap and noticed the difference straight away - my skin never itches now and has never felt so soft. I love making things and being "crafty", so having made the leap from mass-produced, chemical-laden products to natural soap, the natural next step was to make my own, choosing recipes which cut out as many unnecessary chemicals as possible. The result is soap which is effective, gentle and moisturising, but above all doesn’t contain a single “nasty”!
What actually IS Soap?
Soap is the result of combining an acid with an alkali. The alkali used to make a bar of soap is sodium hydroxide (aka caustic soda, aka lye) and the acid is any oil (such as coconut oil, olive oil etc). Oil + Sodium Hydroxide = Glycerin + Soap. This chemical reaction is called saponification. All the sodium hydroxide is transformed into soap during the process, so none remains in the final bar. Once made, the bars cure and dry out for 4-6 weeks before they're ready to sell.
Soap works because a molecule of soap has a water-loving end and a dirt-loving end, so when you mix soap and water and massage it onto your skin, the soap grabs onto the water and the dirt. When you rinse the soap off, the dirt goes too. It’s so simple – why do we need masses of harmful chemicals to do the same job?
Glycerin: Glycerin is a naturally-occurring substance in real soap. It is a wonderful thing for skin; it is deeply moisturising, nourishing and is an excellent skin softener. But did you know that many commercial soap manufacturers actually take the glycerin out of their soap so they can make lots of money selling it on to the cosmetics industry? They then have to stuff their soap with other (cheaper) ingredients to try and make the soap saleable again - sometimes even putting glycerin back in, which just sounds crazy to me!
You can make soap with any oils (animal or vegetable – but my soaps are 100% vegetarian and vegan-friendly), but since they all have different properties and qualities, getting the right blend is where the skill comes in. For example, coconut oil is an amazing cleanser, creates great lather and a good hard bar of soap, but it’s far too drying to be used on its own. On the other hand, sunflower oil on its own would make a very soft bar of soap that probably wouldn’t last five minutes! Some oils produce bubbly lather, some will make the lather more creamy. (One thing I must mention here – properly-made natural soap lathers beautifully! Some people I’ve spoken to seem to assume that if you ditch the SLS you also have to say goodbye to a good lather. That simply isn’t so!) Some oils are packed with antioxidants and vitamins – others have fantastic moisturising qualities. Then there’s additional ingredients, which fall into three categories – fragrances, colourants and botanicals. If you have very sensitive skin, even a natural essential oil fragrance might irritate, so a soap free from any fragrances or colours is the one for you (try my Pure and Simple soap) .
All my soaps are made with the cold process method, allowing the heat which is naturally produced by the saponification process to take the soap to "gel phase", which intensifies the colour.
Fragrances: Many commercial soaps use artificial fragrances – a cocktail of potentially harmful chemicals could be hiding behind that single word “Parfum”. Also, “nature-identical” fragrances are not natural - they’ve been made in a laboratory and for that reason I do not include them in my soap. I only use pure essential oils.
Colourants: There are a lot of very colourful handmade soaps on the market. They can look amazing (if sometimes a little gaudy), but they’re made with synthetic pigments such as oxides and ultramarines. I don’t think they’re necessary – so I don’t use them. I use only 100% natural botanicals to produce the subtle colours in my soaps: annatto seeds for yellow and orange, alkanet root for lilac and purple and madder root for shades of pink. I get browns from ground coffee or cocoa powder and green from dried powdered nettle leaves. It’s so much more fun than buying a packet of ci74160 (phthalocyanine blue) or ci77019, ci77891, ci77491, ci77742 and ci77861(pink mica pigment)! I just don’t need to use these manufactured pigments to make a luxurious and beautiful bar of soap. So they’re out.
Botanicals: I’ve already mentioned the natural botanical colourants I use in my soaps. Another additive I use is natural kaolin clay – the kind they make face masks out of. Its colour varies from white to green, pink and reddish-brown and it helps draw out impurities from the skin. It also gives a lovely silky feel to a bar of soap. Similarly, activated charcoal absorbs dirt and oil, drawing it out of the pores; a combination of activated charcoal and kaolin clay is fantastic for oily skin. Botanicals can also help anchor the fragrance in a soap, making it last longer.
No Palm Oil
Palm oil is bad news. As Rainforest Rescue says, “Palm oil is literally everywhere – in our foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. It’s a source of huge profits for multinational corporations, while at the same time destroying the livelihoods of smallholders. Displacement of indigenous peoples, deforestation and loss of biodiversity are all consequences of our palm oil consumption. How could it come to this? And what can we do in everyday life to protect people and nature?”. Well, I can’t do very much, and I’m not naïve enough to think I can make any real difference, but (another quote coming up), as the highly-respected naturalist Chris Packham put it recently in his documentary “In Search of the Lost Girl” – “If I try to remove it from my weekly shop, is it really going to undo all of this damage? Well, palm oil has destroyed so much rainforest, that I just can’t forgive it”. Neither can I, so that’s why you won’t find any palm oil – so-called “sustainable” or otherwise - in my soap. Some things are more important than profit.
All my products are 100% Vegetarian and cruelty free. All except the Honey and Oatmeal are also Vegan.
I don't use any plastic in my packaging - my soaps are as naked as the day the were born! Online orders are simply wrapped in a little tissue paper to protect them in transit and posted in 100% recyclable Green Jiffy bags.