Top 10 Ingredients You Won’t Find in a Bar of Handmade Natural Soap

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June 24, 2013 by thesoapalchemist

Unfortunately, many handcrafted soaps sold on the internet don’t list their ingredients.  Granted, if the soap is intended ONLY for cleansing, and makes no other claim but to clean, it does not require an ingredient list under current federal law. But, perhaps the reason for not disclosing the ingredients is that the maker just doesn’t want you to know that their soaps are made with commercially mass produced, pre-made soap bases, like those waiting to be exported in this picture.

premade soap vs natural soap

How handmade can soap be when it is made from commercially produced, premade base?

Here’s a listing of the Top 10 Ingredients You Won’t Find in a Bar of Handmade, “from scratch” natural soap.

10. Sorbitan Oleate- an emulsifier and hardener used to stabilize oils that’s not necessary in a made-from-scratch bar of natural soap. Properly made-from-scratch natural soaps are stable mixtures of oil and water. It isn’t necessary to add additional emulsifying agents to handmade natural soap.

9. Propylene Glycol- a humectant, emulsifier and moisturizer. With the plethora of moisturizing oils available to the made-from-scratch soap crafter, an ingredient like this isn’t necessary. Shea butter, which is rich in vitamins is wonderfully moisturizing. And olive oil, perhaps one of the most widely used oils in soap making, has wonderful conditioning properties. For more about emulsifiers, read # 8. As for humectants, keep on reading.

8. Sodium Laureth Sulfate, i.e. Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate, is a detergent and foaming agent that is absolutely unnecessary in a bar of made-from-scratch natural soap. Detergents are often referred to as “ANTI-SOAPS.”  Many are harsh and stripping, and they’re very cheap to produce. Instead of resorting to SLES as a foaming agent, why not try some good-ol’ natural castor oil, or even sugar? These two ingredients will cause some crazy bubbles in a bar of natural soap, with no risk of stripping or harshness.

7. Sodium Stearate- used particularly to harden soaps made with vegetable oil. Sodium stearate is the sodium salt of stearic acid (it’s created when the lye solution reacts with stearic acid). However, palm oil, lard, cocoa butter, and many other natural ingredients naturally contain stearic acid. They can create varying degrees of hardness in a bar of made-from-scratch natural soap. If a natural soap crafter wants to create harder bars, they can change their formula to include oils that will create that quality, or alter the percentages of those oils used in their formula. It’s not difficult for an artisan soap maker to increase hardness without using an isolated chemical.

6. Sodium Myristate- an emulsifier, hardener and surfactant; the sodium salt of myristic acid, created when lye reacts with myristic acid. Coconut oil and palm oil are two great sources of myristic acid. True artisans use these “complete” vegetable oils rather than the isolated compounds derived from them, to create their natural soaps. When seen on an ingredient label, Sodium Myristate is a good indication that a pre-made base was used. Natural, handcrafted, made-from-scratch soap would not need this to create the basic quality of hardness that is generally expected in a bar of soap.

5. Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate- a surfactant, makes water “wetter” so dirt can wash away. Guess what? I bet handcrafted, made-from-scratch natural soap does that, too. Soap’s main role in this universe is to act as a surfactant, and it does this quite effectively. Each end of a soap molecule has a specific function; the “head” bonds with water, the “tail” bonds with dirt. The two ends work together to lift and carry dirt away. Artisan soap crafters who start from scratch don’t use sodium coco-anything as an isolated ingredient in their bar soap batters (unless of course, they’ve used coconut oi, which becomes sodium cocoate in the soap! Some soap makers will list what the oil becomes, rather than how it started out, in their ingredient listings. This, however, would be the only “sodium coco-anything” in a bar of handmade from scratch soap).

4. Triethanolamine- an emulsifier, and a surfactant. A strong base with a pH of 10, triethanolamine is often used to balance the pH of cosmetic products.  As explained in #3, soap itself is a surfactant; it lifts grime, attaches to it, and allows it to be rinsed away with water. Natural, handcrafted, made from scratch soap does not need lab-isolated “emu’s” (emulsifiers) and “serfs” (surfactants) unless they are real, furry-but-dirty Emu’s, and sweaty, overworked Serfs!! Sorry– couldn’t resist.

3. Sorbitol- a sugar alcohol. Used as a humectant and thickener in pre-made soap bases. From-scratch all natural soap, on the other hand, contains loads of glycerin, which forms naturally during the soap making process. It is one of nature’s most wonderful humectants. Glycerin is capable of attracting water to itself, and hydrating skin. Rich, creamy, naturally bubbly bar soap made with natural ingredients, does not need additional thickeners or humectants.

2. Glycerin- a substance naturally produced in the soap making process. While there may be instances when a soap crafter would want to add additional glycerin into their bar of soap, it would be quite uncommon. More often than not, the word “Glycerin” on an ingredient list indicates the soap was created from a pre-made base. Natural, handcrafted, made from scratch soap does not need additional glycerin thrown in.

1.FD&C Dyes, Lakes, Oxides, Ultramarines and Mica; all of these are lab created, artificial agents used to impart color to soap, but totally unnecessary in a beautiful, naturally colored bar of soap. Nature’s pantry provides a rich assortment of herbs, flowers, roots, seeds  and bark that can produce a beautiful spectrum of all natural color. The so called “mineral pigments” allowed by the FDA in soaps and cosmetics, are not, unfortunately, the naturally occurring varieties. Read here for more on that!

If you’d like to buy some premade base from China, here’s the link to that distributor.

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