Updated: Mar 10, 2019
What is the difference between handmade soap and commercial soap?
With soap companies spending millions each year on misleading advertising, it’s understandable why a consumer may question. Typical store-bought or commercial soaps that may be labelled as “natural” are actually detergents that include chemical hardeners, foaming agents and artificial fragrances.
And it’s not only big-brand store-bought soaps that can be misleading. Artificial fragrances are being put in many "handmade" soaps as well. So make no mistake, the only way to know if you are getting the real deal is to ask what method the soap maker uses to make their soap, what ingredients they use and what they use to scent their soaps.
Still, why handmade soap?
Reason #1: True handmade soap does not contain “fragrance”
Most authorities do not require the ingredients of a company’s trademark “fragrance” to be disclosed on the label. This means that your “fresh rain” or “cherry blossom” scented soap could contain hundreds of harmful chemicals without your knowledge. Some of these chemical concoctions have been found to be skin irritants and known carcinogens.
Traditional handmade soaps are scented with pure essential oils, never fragrance oils as that would immediately defeat the purpose of being completely natural. When you use soaps scented with only essential oils, you not only benefit from the lack of harmful chemicals, but you actually benefit from the therapeutic properties each essential oil offers. Not to mention the smell is amazing!
This can also be an exciting feature for the consumer as you decide what you want your soap to do for you. Example: lavender soap lends it’s relaxation and skin repair qualities, and citrus soap lends it’s invigorating and antimicrobial qualities. Need a pick-me-up first thing in the morning, try a handmade soap that has lemongrass essential oil in it, not “sunburst” fragrance oil. So, harmful unknown chemicals or therapeutic essential oils? We’ll stick with essential oils, period.
Reason #2: Handmade soap is simply amazing for your skin!
Handmade soap preserves the integrity of oils/fats/butters. Coconut oil goes in, saponified (made into soap) coconut oil comes out. Shea butter goes in, shea butter comes out. Because of this, the oils/fats/butters maintain their vitamins, minerals and skin-loving qualities in the final soap product.
Skilled soap makers modify their recipe to produce characteristics in the soap naturally instead of adding chemicals to achieve the same goal. For example, to make a thick-lathering soap, add some honey. Commercial soap, on the other hand, is likely to add some synthetic chemicals in order to produce similar results.
Reason #3: Soap made the old-fashioned way
Our ancestors knew what they were doing, and did it for thousands of years. Why change it! Traditional handmade soaps are made one of two ways: hot process and cold process.
Cold process soap is made by mixing sodium hydroxide (lye) with water, then blending it with oils, adding essential oils and natural colorants, and finally, pouring it into molds to make it nice and pretty (of course the very simplified tutorial). The soaps then sit inside the mold for 24 hours to saponify (become soap), before being removed from the mold to dry or “cure” for 6-8 weeks. Yeah, it’s quite a process.
Hot process is essentially the same, but instead of placing the soap in a mold to cure, the liquid is placed in a heat source (oven or crock pot) and heated until cured. Without the heating process, cold process is a more authentic and gentler way to preserve the essence of all natural ingredients in the soap.
These methods of hand-making soap is of course, the opposite of commercial soap which is made on a large scale in factories. Commercial soap is made using a continuous flow method with hundred of hands on the process... or probably nowadays, a hundred robot arms. The soap base is continually being made in the same “batch” of soap, never to rest or relax. It is then blended with filler ingredients and chemicals such as sodium isethionate (a foam enhancer) and dipropylene glycol (a chemical solvent... why it’s needed? Who knows...) and then formed into molds.
Soap making is just like cooking, caring for a child or tending to the elderly - it all needs love, attention and time. We believe the hands-on approach of handmade soap provides soap the love and attention it needs.
But why take our word for it? The best way to find out is to put it to a test! Purchase a bar of handmade soap from a local soap maker and give it a try. We can assure you, the experience will be well worth it.