I remember a year or so ago at a local craft market a teenage girl walked past my stall and scoffed a little, announcing loudly to her embarrassed mother that she just didn’t ‘get ’ luxury handmade soap and thought it was a waste of money. I immediately felt a little offended but quickly laughed it off as I realised 5 years ago I probably would have said the same thing (although hopefully much quieter). In fact, before I started making soap myself I didn’t use bar soap at all, because I’ve always had dry skin resulting in eczema and psoriasis and the advice given to me was ‘don’t use soap, it will dry out your skin even more’.
So when I began making soap it was purely as a creative endeavour, and I didn’t for one moment think that I would actually be able to use the soap I made on myself. But of course after making my first batch I couldn’t resist trying it out and boy did I get a nice surprise. After using my handmade soap my skin felt soft, clean and conditioned, not dry and tight like it had been stripped of its natural oils as I had expected.
It turns out, handmade soap is nothing like the traditional store bought bars from brands like Palmolive, Cussons or Pears to name a few. The difference lies in the ingredients… if you check the ingredients list of most commercial soap bars you will find the usual stuff including saponified oils, sodium hydroxide (lye) or mineral colorants such as titanium dioxide, but you will also find a list of chemicals and preservatives that are added to make the bar harder, increase lather or extend the shelf life, as well as added detergents/surfacants which are a cheaper substitute for pure saponified, skin loving oils. Some of these chemicals and detergents are known to be both toxic and irritating and leave the skin feeling dry, tight and even inflamed. Some of these common ingredients include:
- Sodium Laurel Sulphate
- Tetrasodium EDTA
- Propylene Glycol
- Sodium Metabisulfate
In comparison, cold process artisan soap is made with a much more natural ingredients list. Our soap recipes at Maple & Mint include a selection of the following:
- Natural oils and butters selected for their individual qualities
- Distilled water
- Essential oils or skin safe phthalate free fragrance oils
- Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye (which is necessary for the saponification process to make soap, no lye = no soap!) After saponification has occurred there is no residual lye in its original form present in the soap
- Natural clays including kaolin, green, pink and yellow clay used for their skin conditioning properties, colours and to add a silky quality to the lather
- Other natural mineral colorants, botanical extracts or skin safe mica powders including activated charcoal, alkanet root powder, rosehip powder, paprika or green chromium
- Titanium Dioxide - a natural mineral whitener used to lighten the yellow tones of the oils and butters used
- Sodium lactate plus - the sodium salt of natural lactic acid, this helps to harden the batch of soap making it easier to unmould
I’d love to delve into the wonderful qualities of all the ingredients we use, but I’ll save that for another post!
Now I don’t blame that young girl for thinking my artisan soap was over priced or a waste of money, in fact I’m sure a lot of people might agree with her. Because the high quality, natural ingredients we use to make soap aren’t cheap it naturally pushes the price up in comparison to commercial bars made with synthetic ingredients. And if you’re the type of person who doesn’t have sensitive or dry skin and isn’t overly concerned about potentially harmful ingredients in your skincare products, then I can see why paying a few dollars extra for a single bar of artisan soap might seem like a waste of money when you can certainly find cheaper options at the supermarket.
But if you’re like me, with dry sensitive skin that can’t handle using harsh commercial bars, and you also appreciate the luxury of an artistically unique and colourful bar of soap, then handmade cold-process soap just might be the best thing since sliced bread!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, have you tried cold process Artisan soap and loved it?