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Handmade Soap Facts

Made from scratch, handmade soap contains the natural forming ingredient glycerin. In order to make the extremely hard French Milled soaps, the glycerin must be removed or the soap would be too soft. More glycerin may be added later, but never at the original level of the soap making process. Companies may extract the glycerin through a variety of methods and then add a percentage back to say it contains glycerin.

It is my belief that ALL handmade cold and hot process soap is "glycerin soap". Not simply the clear transparent soap with added glycerin. Transparency does not make a glycerin soap. On average - and it changes with the recipe, made from scratch, handcrafted soap contains around 10% naturally retained glycerin.

BAR SOAP IS MADE WITH LYE or something very similar!

If it is made correctly, there is NO LYE remaining in the final bar of soap. This includes every major, popular cosmetic soap and every made from scratch, handcrafted soap. Soap is made by adding water and oils together, along with something to form them into soap. That ingredient is Sodium Hydroxide which is lye. For liquid soaps, it is Potassium Hydroxide. Wood ashes, burnt palm leaves do not create a gentler soap either. Those ingredients naturally form chemical compounds similar to lye, which makes oils and water turn into soap.

What produces the naturally forming glycerin that is retained in handcrafted soap?

The chemical reaction called saponification.

Water (or milks, herbal teas) + Fat (oils) + Lye = Soap with glycerin retained.

The soap maker must calculate the correct amount of lye for the specific oils used in each recipe. This controls the amount of "super-fat" or remaining oil in a soap to make it moisturizing to the skin. If too much lye is used, the bar may be hard and crumbly. If too little, the bar becomes soft and will become rancid faster.

The soap maker should always mention the style of soap you are purchasing. The reason people think of "lye soap" as being harsh is because grandma didn't have a digital scale to measure ingredients perfectly and was many times making her own lye. It is a difficult, time consuming process and being able to acutely gauge lye strength can be difficult. Errors were made at times with this process.

There's no such thing as 100% Pure Glycerin Soap

Sorry, it's true - there is not one on the market today. Now, the maker added 100% glycerin to the soap and you have no idea how much always, but the soap is not made of 100% glycerin. Read the ingredients! If is was, it would be the MOST disgusting non-lathering, mushy soap one could imagine - I know because I make it every time I teach a class on natural care products to prove my point.

Clear soap is not superior to all others

It has nothing to do with purity. Guess what makes soap clear most of the time? Alcohol - from corn grain alcohol to petroleum rubbing alcohols.

Many times, clear soap - thought of by many consumers as "glycerin soap" - is made with a variety of foaming agents, wetting formulas (makes the water wet to lift dirt and oil) and alcohol along with the standard mix of oils, water and lye. The "feel" that many people like from this clear soap is from synthetic ingredients.

If you like the feel - great that's really all that matters - but at least know what you are using.