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Why is Handmade Soap Better? Part 2

Many soapmakers today choose the cold process method and prefer vegetable oils to animal fats.  Both types of soap will clean equally well, however, the cold process method allows for the retention of glycerin within the formula.  Vegetable glycerin is a natural emollient that draws moisture and keeps your skin hydrated.  Also, many people have ethical reasons for choosing vegetable soapmaking oils.  And finally, cold processed soap reacts slower in the pot meaning the soapmaker can add additional ingredients and still have time to pour the batch with pretty swirls of color etc. Cold-processed soaps can take 4-6 weeks to cure properly while hot processed soaps are ready for use within a week.

Cold Processed Soap
Cold Processed Soap

Back to Webster’s

As we discussed in the first part of this post, handmade soap is pretty basic.  Here we want to take a deeper look at the soaps you buy at the local big box store and we will return to Webster’s entry for “soapless soap” in which we were directed to “see DETERGENT”…this is a clue.  Recall that handmade soap consists of some form of fat or oil, sodium hydroxide (lye), and water.  Let’s take a look at some of the ingredients in a common mass produced unscented soap recommended for sensitive skin.

Some Commercial Soap Ingredients

Several ingredients are no different than what you would find in handmade soaps such as sodium tallowate , sodium palimate, sodium cocoate, and sodium palm kernelate are all saponified oils listed in order; tallow (animal fat), palm, coconut, and palm kernel oil.  These are the ingredients that actually clean your skin. 

Other ingredients are not typically found in your favorite handcrafted soap. Tetrasodium EDTA and tetrasodium etidronate are both preservatives.  Remember these soaps are mass produced and shipped across the country or around the world where they will find their way to a store shelf where they may remain for extended periods of time. 

This is Weird!!

One ingredient is a bit confounding.  Maltol is a flavoring.  We will let you draw your own conclusions regarding that one!! And finally we come to sodium lauroyl isethionate; a synthetic detergent but we see no reason to include a detergent that can cause skin irritation in susceptible people especially since this particular formula includes at least four other cleansing agents.

This is not a comprehensive list of ingredients by any means.  Other ingredients include hardeners, whiteners, lubricants, thickeners, fragrances, and dyes any of which can cause various skin sensitivities.  It is important to consider what is in your soap and the multiple ways we are exposed to those ingredients throughout the day…dish detergents, laundry detergents, cleansers, lotions, creams and moisturizers. 

Other Benefits of Buying Handmade Soap

There are multiple benefits to purchasing handmade soaps beyond the benefits for your skin.  In a sense, it becomes a social statement.  Many soap companies are solely owned and managed by the soapmaker meaning you can speak directly with the person who made your soap.  It is not a corporate conglomerate but an artistic endeavor often started by moms who are concerned about the products she exposes her family to.  It is likely that you have multiple soapmakers in your community due to its popularity.  These small businesses not only provide an income for the soapmaker but small business owners tend to support other small business owners.  There is a multiplier effect that helps create vibrant communities.

Shop Small

Why Should I Choose Kulturology Soap?

Hopefully at this point you can see the benefits of choosing handmade soap over its mass produced cousin but why should you choose Kulturology soap?  The simple answer is we want you to have happy skin and everything we do is geared toward that purpose and just because a soap is handmade does not necessarily guarantee that is good for your skin. 

For instance, we would love to play with the vibrant colors that characterize many handmade products…the hot pinks, deep blues, brilliant aqua, and saturated forest greens  but we can’t do that without using dyes and we think your skin is already exposed to too many dyes as it is.  And as much fun as it would be to play with fragrances like watermelon, blackberry, cherry, etc we prefer to choose real essential oils for the benefits they provide both physically and mentally.  And we could probably save a lot of money if we would just use cheaper base oils instead of sticking with our signature 70% olive oil formula but then our soaps would lose their superior qualities…a long lasting gentle soap that keeps your skin moisturized. 

Charcoal and French Clay Soap
Charcoal and French Clay Soaps

Our profit margins are a lot smaller than many of our competitors but we are in business to provide an alternative to overly scented and overly dyed products.  It takes months, sometimes years to research and develop each of our soap varieties because our goal is a synthesis of ingredients all working together to produce a particular result for your skin.  It simply wouldn’t make sense to put drying ingredients such as lemon essential oil in a soap meant for those with dry skin!!

Soapmaking is part science, part craft, and part artistry and each soapmaker has their own way of expressing those qualities.  There is literally a soap made just for you out there.  We hope you choose handmade first and foremost, but we also hope you choose us for high quality soaps that your skin will love.

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Why Is Handmade Soap Better?

commercial soap

 I stood in the “soap” aisle of my local big box store the other day contemplating the array of mass produced “personal cleansing products”, picturing the massive factories where they are manufactured  and thinking, “How big is there mixing pot”?  A young mother was trying desperately to choose a product before her young child went into complete meltdown mode.  She frantically grabbed plastic bottles off the shelf and gave them a quick sniff as if the only quality that mattered was the fragrance of a product she will use on her skin every day.  Does she know what is in that stuff, I thought to myself?  In fact, most of us never ask ourselves that question until we begin to experience various skin issues. Let’s answer a few questions about “soap”.  What is it anyway?  What is the difference between handmade soap and other soaps? And finally, why should I choose Kulturology Soap Company products?   

What is Soap?

According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, soap is “a cleansing agent, made usually by action of alkali on fat or fat acids (in the form of their glycerol esters), and consisting essentially of sodium and potassium salts of such acids”.  Not to be confused with the slang definition, “money used for bribery”.  If we continue down the list of entries in the 1961 edition of Webster’s, past “soapbark” and “soapberry” both of which are found in South America and contain natural saponins; past the entry for “soapbox” we come to “soapless soap” and are directed to “see DETERGENT”.  We will return to that in a moment.

handmade soap
Handmade soap

True soap is comprised of oil…vegetable or animal, water, and sodium hydroxide (lye).  Soap is created via two processes…hot process in which heat is introduced through an outside source (this is the traditional method) or cold process in which only the heat from the reaction of the lye water with the oils drives the saponification process. Traditionally, hot processed soapmakers used animal fats primarily due to its availability on a working farm.  Soapmakers would collect fat drippings from cooking and then render the fats (yet another risky process) into tallow ready for the soap pot.  Some soapmakers would add flowers and herbs but many bars were made simply for expediency.  These soaps would not only be used for bathing but also for laundry and cleaning.

A Note About “Lye”

Before you freak out and tell me that you don’t use any chemicals such as lye (sodium hydroxide) or that your soapmaker doesn’t use lye please read ahead.  Soap cannot be made without lye, period.  Sodium hydroxide is the strong alkali that unites the oil molecules and launches the saponification process…the magic simply won’t happen without it.  Keep in mind that the lye our grandmothers used to make their soap was produced by dripping water through wood ashes, preferably hickory ashes.  The soapmaker never really knew the strength of the lye so sometimes the soaps they produced were mushy and sometimes it would take your skin off along with the dirt!! Lye is very caustic and proper precautions and safety procedures must be followed carefully.  Thankfully soapmakers no longer have to produce their own lye but can purchase it in standardized form…we know its strength.  Properly crafted and cured soaps no longer contain lye. 

Lye making
Lye Making

Back to the Process

Many soapmakers today choose the cold process method and prefer vegetable oils to animal fats.  Both types of soap will clean equally well, however, the cold process method allows for the retention of glycerin within the formula.  Vegetable glycerin is a natural emollient that draws moisture and keeps your skin hydrated.  Also, many people have ethical reasons for choosing vegetable soapmaking oils.  And finally, cold processed soap reacts slower in the pot meaning the soapmaker can add additional ingredients and still have time to pour the batch with pretty swirls of color etc. Cold-processed soaps can take 4-6 weeks to cure properly while hot processed soaps are ready for use within a week.

In Part II we will take a look at commercial soap ingredients.