Is soap natural?
Posted on 21st June 2020 at 20:22
Is soap natural?
People often ask is soap natural. The answer is it depends what kind of soap you are using. There are a few different types of soap you can purchase or products that masquerade as soap. In this article we're going to cover a few topics including;
Is liquid soap natural?
Firstly let’s talk about “liquid soap”. Liquid soap is not actually possible, and if you check all of your “liquid soaps” at home they should not say soap on them. They will usually say something along the lines of hand wash, hand rinse, body wash or shower gel.
The set of regulations we adhere to in the UK are still the EU Cosmetic Regulations which came into effect in July 2013. In these regulations it states you may only call your product soap, if it has gone through the process of saponification.
Saponification is the process of making soap. It is a simple process of mixing oils with sodium hydroxide that has been diluted in water, also known as lye or lye water. The lye water then turns the fats into salts and that is a very simple explanation of what soap is and how to make it.
Sodium hydroxide is a chemical, but it comes from running water through the ashes of a fire and has been used for thousands of years to make soap. In more recent times, sodium hydroxide has been perfected and manufactured in modern, clean factories.
None of the sodium hydroxide will remain in the final product if it has been made correctly by an experienced soap maker. This is because the lye simply turns the oils into fatty salts and then evaporates out of the soap bar during the curing process.
Most liquid soaps, try to have the same effect as soap by using chemicals mixed with water to try to give the same results. In a way these washes do clean the body in the same manner as soap, but they can also have implications on your skin, due to their chemical nature.
Most liquid soaps have either sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) as their key ingredients for cleansing. These chemicals are derived from either palm oil or coconut oil and are harsh chemical surfactants. A surfactant is a harsh cleansing agent used to break down grease and oil. These ingredients are generally used in washing up liquids and laundry detergents.
The final reason SLS and SLES are added to liquid wash products is they are also foaming agents. This basically means they produce a large amount of bubbles, and foam is pleasing psychologically, but has no real use or value.
Soap that has a low amount of foam still cleans the body or hands just as effectively as that with a lot of foam. This is because the soap basically dislodges the dirt and bacteria from the skin and allows the water to wash it away. In fact when using a liquid wash the more bubbles, then probably the higher the content of chemicals, so they are more likely to be bad for you. SLS and SLES are used heavily in bubble bath products.
We’ve told you about what is put in liquid soaps and what they do, but now we’re going to tell you the effects it can have on your skin. SLS or SLES can break down the natural grease (called sebum) your skin produces very effectively. This allows the sebum to be washed away when you wash away the body wash. This is a problem because you skin needs this natural grease to tie together the skin cells and form a protective barrier on your skin.
When this protective grease is washed away, your skin can react in one of two ways. Firstly it can carry on producing the same amount of grease, which is a very low amount and in this case it can leave your skin feeling dry, cracked and possibly even lead to break-outs of eczema. This is because there is not enough sebum to tie your skin cells together, which leads to more water loss from your skin, hence the skin drying out.
The other option for your skin is to react and start producing large amounts of sebum. In this case your skin will produce way more sebum than it normally would because it has panicked and seen all of its sebum has been washed away. With excessively oily skin you’re are much more likely to develop spots, and even acne, as this excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and bacteria to form spots.
Either way your skin reacts, it’s not great and is usually exacerbated when you work in an environment where you would have to wash your hands a lot with these SLS infused liquid washes.
So to answer the question is liquid soap natural, the answer is no, and it has some serious side effects to your skin that can leave it either severely dry or oily.
Are solid soap bars natural?
Not all of them. Some of the solid “soap” bars you can purchase from your local supermarket or pharmacy contain surfactants and chemical agents to give you the impression that they can clean you as well as natural ingredients.
One of the main additives is sodium lauryl sulphate or derivatives of it. Which is used for the same purposes which we have mentioned above in the part about liquid soaps, but since we’ve already told you about what this does, we’ve decided to look at some ingredients that can lurk in your solid bar soaps.
We have picked out 3 ingredients you can find in soap bars in your supermarket and pharmacies, and there are many more we could identify and tell you all the adverse effects on your skin, but this post would go on forever.
This is a common preservative in your soap bars which allow them to have a very long shelf life. It is also made from formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. Tetrasodium EDTA stands for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid and is used to bind certain mineral ions to make them inactive. With these ions inactive, it will allow for slower deteriorating of the products and a longer shelf life. It will also allow the product to work better in hard water areas.
Tetrasodium EDTA can be made from ethylenediamine, formaldehyde and sodium cyanide. The problem with these ingredients is formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and sodium cyanide is made from the deadly gas hydrogen cyanide.
Tetrasodium EDTA is also a penetration enhancer, which means it breaks down your skins protective layer and allows the chemicals to get further into your skins layer and potentially be absorbed by the body.
This is not great, considering sodium lauryl sulphate also breaks down the skins protective barrier and allows easier penetration for chemicals and bacteria. Did you know that SLS is used in nicotine patches for the purpose to irritate the skin and allow the nicotine to pass quicker into the bloodstream.
I know from initially looking at the name of this ingredient, you immediately assume it comes from coconut oil, and you would be correct, this ingredient is naturally derived from the coconut.
Although it may seem natural, this ingredient commonly found in soaps is made by reacting 3-dimethylaminopropylamine with the fatty acids in coconut oil to form cocamidopropyl dimethylamine. This is then reacted with sodium monochloroacetate to form cocamidopropyl betaine. So as you can see from that explanation of how it’s made, clearly this is not a natural ingredient despite being derived from something natural.
Now the coconut oil has had this chemical transformation, it is now a surfactant, similar to sodium lauryl sulphate, although it does sound more natural when put on packaging and doesn’t have anywhere near as bad a reputation as SLS.
This surfactant will still do the same to your skin as SLS though: it will remove the natural grease as well as dirt and grime, which is why you can still get dry skin or eczema breakouts by using it on your skin.
Triclosan is commonly found in antibacterial soaps and body wash. Its main use in soaps and other antibacterial washes is because it kills bacteria and also preserves the products as it stops bacteria from degrading them.
Triclosan is a potential carcinogen and is an endocrine disruptor as well as evidence showing it has a similar effect as antibiotics to causing bacterial resistance. It’s also very toxic when exposed to sunlight, once we have washed it off our bodies and it finds its way into the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, it will react with sunlight and can turn into a dioxin.
Dioxins are highly toxic, can damage the immune system, disrupt hormones and cause cancer. Dioxin is also the key ingredient in agent orange, which was one of the forms of chemical warfare used in the Vietnam war. Agent orange had lasting effects as it has caused cancers in the people who came into contact with it during the Vietnam war from both sides and has also caused a large amount of birth defects in the children born from people that were contaminated by it.
Triclosan was banned in the EU on food preparation surfaces (which it was commonly used before, in chopping boards etc.) in 2010, but not in cosmetics and products you put directly on your skin. It is an example of another chemical used in your products that is bad for you and bad for the environment.
What's in natural soap?
Natural soap is made using natural oils which are mixed with lye and turn the fatty acids of the oils into alkali salts. That is how natural soap is defined: only natural oils, lye, natural colourings and essential oils for fragrance, nothing else.
Natural oils in soap have different properties, so it is key to have a mix of oils that complement each other and combine to make a good bar. For instance bars made from all cleansing oils such as coconut oil, palm oil or palm kernel oil, although very cheap, will be very drying on the skin.
An amazing bar of soap should have a variety of ingredients that will ensure: hardness, conditioning, cleansing, bubbly and creaminess. Also when looking for a natural bar of soap, one key ingredient that you should look out for is glycerin. This amazing substance, naturally produced in the soap making process will keep your skin moisturised for longer.
Natural soap is made with lye, but will not contain any in the final product. All the lye does is change the fatty acids into alkali salts. Once it has done this, the process of saponification is over and the lye will simply evaporate out of the bar during the curing process.
Natural colourings are preferred - why create a beautiful natural bar and then use potentially harmful and unnatural colourings, especially when you can colour soap with natural ingredients? I know they aren’t as bright as the unnatural ingredients, but I can almost guarantee you they will be better for your skin.
Essential oils are the only way to scent a natural soap. They come from the plant or fruit peel material and are either pressed or distilled to extract the oils. Plus they can have added health and cleanliness properties, for example, lime essential oil is anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Essential oils will be clearly listed on the ingredients on the back of your soap carton, so lime essential oil is listed as citrus aurantifolia peel oil expressed.
Fragranced oils are not natural and are made synthetically. These fragrance oils are listed as ‘parfum’ and do not disclose their ingredients. Legally they are protected by the European chemical agency and their reason for not disclosing their secrets is their competition could steal their recipe. These unnatural fragrances will often contain phthalates which have been linked to ADHD, obesity and even breast cancer.
So in conclusion, soap can be natural, but only if it contains 100% natural ingredients and nothing else. Many of the soaps you can buy at the supermarket or pharmacy are not natural and will contain chemicals that may harm you and cause damage to your skin.
Here at Seatree Cosmetics, we’re committed to only making 100% natural soaps, which are good for you and your skin.
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I hope you have enjoyed this article, and we have plenty more on our blog if you want to read more about why natural soap is so great.
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