About Soaps

What is that on the shelf?

Every time you went to your favourite store to pick up a soap for yourself or your family, did you wonder why those labels of bright and colourfully packaged boxes that called out to you, with their fresh and clean scents, were most often labelled beauty bars, moisturising bars, or body bars and not ‘soap’? Did you think that it was just an aesthetic way of making the product seem a little more distinguished? Or did you, like us, think it was actually better than soap?

Well, we did think so till we learnt the hard way that these bars aren't actually soap and can't legally claim to be because they are detergents.

The manufacturers have removed most of the 'good' stuff that occurs in the soap making process, and replaced it with synthetic lathering agents and harsh chemicals. These cheap, overwhelmingly fragrant detergent bars are not only bad for your skin, but they are bad for the planet, too.

What do you mean that it's bad for the skin and for the planet?

Remember that your skin is porous and absorbent. Chronic use of chemical laden products will cause the body to store the chemicals in the body fat or even in the brain. With enough accumulations of toxins in the body, illness can occur.

These nasty chemicals and toxins are now finding their way into our eco-system as well. Every time that lather goes down the drain, these pollutants are going with it. It is no secret that untreated sewage and detergents are the cause of the froth in lakes and seas.

What's polluting our skin and our planet?

The list of offenders included phthalates (used in all lab made perfumes to make the fragrance strong and last for ages), which are linked to reproductive disorders in both humans and animals; and parabens, a preservative, which links to cancer. Sulphates are also another cause of concern because they were found to break down proteins, which can lead to a degenerative effect on the cell membranes. Sulphates were also found to leave residue in the heart, lungs, and brain.

You want to refresh your skin, not pollute it with chemicals. So, then stop using these so-called soaps.

They are not soap? Who told you?

Soap making or saponification is a simple chemical reaction between oil and an alkali to produce the salt of that oil(soap) and glycerine. Most ‘soaps’ unfortunately are no more manufactured in this manner since the advent of industrialisation.

Commercial soap manufacturers make it a practice to remove the glycerine that is produced during the saponification process. The glycerine is a highly profitable substance, often sold to other companies who use it to make lotions and moisturisers, which your skin, now dried out from the harsh detergent 'soap,' desperately needs.

I have been using handmade soaps.

Just because the label says ‘handmade’, it doesn't mean it's good for you. However, you need to understand a few things about the soap making process to know what to look for.

There are basically three ways to make soap.

One common way is called "melt and pour" soap. There are even melt and pour kits you can buy to make cute soap shapes with your kids. These are generally glycerine based transparent soaps. The soap maker has no idea what has gone into making of the soap base. They have control only over the fragrance and colour. These bases are available in every street corner and craft store. Since they are so easily available, there's no guarantee that the base is from a trusted source.

The other two methods are "hot process" and "cold process." Both these processes are the traditional way of making soaps using oils or fats and lye. Lye may sound scary to some, but all the caustic qualities of the lye are removed during the saponification process. When the lye interacts with the oils or fats, it creates glycerine. Much like how hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water.

The hot process method utilises heat after the saponification process has taken place, while the cold process method does not. The cold process method takes the most time, but these two processes are considered the best way to produce the highest quality soaps.

What's so harmful about the soap I’ve been using?

Most commercially produced bars contain synthetic lathering agents or surfactants (sls, sles and their like), artificial colours and a slew of chemicals we can't even pronounce. Detergent surfactants were developed in response to a shortage of animal and vegetable fats and oils during World War I and World War II. In addition, a substance that was resistant to hard water was needed to make cleaning more effective. At that time, petroleum was found to be a plentiful source for the manufacture of these surfactants. Today, detergent surfactants are made from a variety of petrochemicals (derived from petroleum)

Antibacterial and antimicrobial soaps often contain triclosan. Triclosan is a toxic chemical that is known to be carcinogenic. Manufacturers of a number of triclosan-containing products claim that the active ingredient continues to work for as long as 12 hours after use. Consumers are, therefore, exposed to triclosan for much longer than the 20 seconds it takes to wash their hands or face.

What am I supposed to look out for when I buy a soap?


Almost all skin care products contain synthetic substances - petroleum (chemical) based. Studies have found that oral and topical application of petrochemicals in rodents resulted in anaemia, kidney degeneration, and nerve damage to the brain and spinal cord. Even more disturbing was that several animals died before the study ended! However, today we know that many of the household cleaning products, home furnishings and our food supply is loaded with petrochemicals, and this is linked to the rise in cancer, along with other diseases.


Artificial fragrances are made from petroleum or coal which degrade in the environment and cause skin irritations. Cosmetic fragrance is made with cheap synthetic chemicals which replicate the natural aroma of products which already exist in nature. Companies use them because it is cheaper than using the natural scent.

Artificial Colouring: commercial soaps are packed with artificial dyes that have been known to cause health problems and illnesses in humans.

What's the alternative?

Cold processed handmade soap. There are several small businesses selling extremely high quality, all natural cold process soaps - yes, real soap. Sure, these soap bars generally cost more than the detergent bars you'll find at your super market. But the difference is these soap bars are actually good for your skin, and are good for the planet.

With handmade soaps, just like with commercially manufactured bars, you need to read the labels. Despite saying handmade they may still contain surfactant because customer wants a lot of lather. Handmade soaps can contain “fragrance” which may look like a simple small word but contains more than thousand chemicals and a few petroleum products which are definitely not good for you. You want to find soaps that use only pure, organic oils or fats. Avoid any bars that use artificial colours or fragrances. These are synthetic chemicals and you don't want them on your skin or going into your brain or down your drain. If you want a coloured or scented soap bar, look for one that uses organic essential oils and natural, organic colorants or clays.

To sum it up, the best soap for your skin and our planet is a handmade, organic, all natural cold process soap bar. Once you've tried one of these lathery treasures, you'll never again be satisfied with 'store-bought' bars. So do yourself and your world a big favour and start using soap.

This time, real soap.