Handmade soap, what’s the difference?
We see so many soaps on the personal care market that are advertised as natural, made with pure herbal materials, etc. But are they all handmade with all the beneficial properties that natural soap has?
Let us first describe the process of producing handmade soap and the difference will be understood very quickly. As you may know, handmade natural soap is produced by the chemical reaction between oils and caustic soda called saponification. This reaction may occur under ambient temperature conditions (cold process method) or in higher temperatures (hot process method). During saponification natural glycerin is also produced which is particularly softening for the skin.
The first step then is to choose the combination of oils to use and which, depending on their properties will give us the soap we are looking for. The soap will have specific characteristics in terms of foaming, softness, cleansing harshness, etc. For example, a soap designed for the face should have properties and materials that are emollient, not to over-strip the skin from its natural oils, but at the same time to penetrate the pores and remove sebum, dust, and pollutants. If the soap is aimed at targeting acne, various clays (pink, green, etc., activated charcoal), are added to contribute to a more astringent effect.
Similarly, soap for the body may be less emollient, more cleansing, or may also have exfoliating ingredients (such as poppy seed, dry oats, sugar, ground almond, apricot kernels, etc).
To conclude, the first stage of designing the recipe is very important. The artisan must then have knowledge of the chemical properties of the oils to be used. This point is very important. If the proportions are not calculated correctly, we’ll have a soap that can have traces of caustic soda and be dangerous to the skin. The presence of non-saponified caustic soda makes soap coarse and very drying to the skin.
The next step is measuring the ingredients accurately and mixing them in a specific order. Oils and diluted in water caustic soda are mixed and stirred using an electric stick blender until a light trace is reached.
A properly prepared handmade soap must have no unsaponified caustic soda and needs approximately 35-40 days resting period to be fully cured and be safe to use.
At this point we must make an important point: in natural saponification, the glycerin produced remains in the soap and thus renders it very beneficial for the skin despite the high pH (~8-9) it has.
In industrial soap lines, glycerin is mechanically removed from the paste, resulting in drying, harsh soaps advertised as naturals but in fact far from being so. In addition, to reduce production costs poor quality oils and cheap aromatics are used to make the result more attractive.
Hence the very low prices you find in supermarket soaps should not fool those who have researched handmade soapmaking. To conclude, if you buy natural handmade soap from respectable artisans you will immediately see the difference in your skin!
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