OUR GREEN HOME – Kind Soap: Going Back To The Bar

by Jean Scholtes

I often have to tell people, “Forget everything you think you know about bar soap.” When my customers want to know if I have a “shower gel instead” because their skin is dry and sensitive I make it my business to set them straight. The giants in the personal care business have done a great job at making “soap” (and especially “bar” soap) seem like a bad thing, and with all the advertising they do, I really can’t fault the general public for believing the hype. After all, when compared to the bars on store shelves like Zest and Irish Spring, it’s easy to believe. Most of what’s available in store shelves today, bars and body wash alike, harshly and indiscriminately strip away dirt and debris along with all of your skin’s natural oils, and then leave behind a chemical film to try to artificially replace the loss. Couple this process with synthetic fragrance, dyes and chemicals and you’ve got a recipe for dry, irritated skin.

Handmade soap differs from commercial soap in many ways, but all soaps start out the same way: with a base, or alkali (lye) and a fatty acid (oil). When combined, a chemical reaction called saponification takes place, which is what makes soap. The chemical reaction between the ingredients leaves no trace of the lye. When people hear “lye soap”, they think of a harsh and abrasive soap that could take the paint off the wall. We can only guess at what those primitive formulas were, but today we have it down to an exact science. In fact, handmade soap is “superfatted” with extra oil, which means that the soap is very mild and super moisturizing. Good oils like olive and shea butter are expensive, so this is generally never done in mass marketed soaps. Also in commercial soapmaking the by-product of saponification, glycerin, is much more valuable as a commodity than soap is, so it’s extracted and sold industrially – and a cheaper synthetic chemical is used to replace it. It’s the superfatting and glycerin retaining properties of natural handmade soap that make them so incredibly creamy and moisturizing.

Bottom line: It’s not the fact that the soap is a bar that dries your skin out, it’s what’s in that bar that makes a world of difference. And about those shower gels? Don’t believe the hype.

For more information please visit our store, Kind Soap Company, 43 South Old Orchard in Webster Groves. Please visit us online, too, www.kindsoap.com.

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