Soap making history goes back many thousands years. Babylonians were the first to discover that plant and wood ashes mixed with oil and lard creates a fat-dissolving lye. A formula for soap was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC. One believes that the word alkali has it's origin here: al-quali means as much as plant ashes.
This initial soap was used for cleaning wool and cotton used in textile manufacture and for medicinal purposes for at least 5000 years.
Back then soap wasn't made and used for personal hygiene. Only centuries later, the the Romans discovered the cleaning properties for sanitary measures. From then on it was used almost solely for this purpose.
The process remains relatively unchanged although nowadays one uses vegetable and seed-based oils and butters rather than animal fats.
And the ash has been replaced with a substance called ‘lye’.
Handmade soaps vs. commercially produced soaps
There are different methods of making soap. However, the one I believe creates the best quality bar of soap is called the cold process method. This method creates gentle and mild soaps which cure over several weeks.
Real handmade soap contains raw ingredients that include butters, fat or oil, and lye.
Most mass-produced bars we buy in the supermarkets have nothing in common with “real” soap as they contain synthetic ingredients such as harsh detergents,hardening agents, artificial fragrances and colours. These strip your skin of it's natural oils and can leave it dry and irritated.
Bad for you, good for the industry. Instead of purchasing one product which cleans and moisturises you will have to buy two or more products to serve the same purpose.
But here comes the good news:
Handmade soap contains glycerin which is a natural byproduct of the soap making process. Glycerin is a natural skin emollient (a preparation that softens the skin) that attracts water from the surrounding air and maintains moisture in the skin throughout the day.
Natural oils contain between 7-13% of glycerin as a part of their natural chemical combound.
For better understanding what we put in and on our bodies we should always read the labels on the back carefully.
Canola Oil, Coconut Oil, unref. Shea Butter, Grapeseed Oil, Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Beeswax, Honey.
Commercially Produced Soaps
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Palmitate, Lauric Acid, Aqua, Sodium Isethionate, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Parfum, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Chloride, Zinc Oxide, Glycerin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Alumina, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Salicylate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Coumarin, Eugenol, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool, CI 77891.
I only use high quality, cold pressed and raw, plant based oils and butters to produce my soaps. Not only does this create an incredibly gentle cleansing product, that positively supports the natural function of your skin. It also gives it a delicate and natural odor - without having to add any chemical additives.