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Natural Soap: What’s In It, and Is It Worth Trying?

Using soap is one of the most routine parts of life. It’s something that we use every day (hopefully) and rarely give a second thought to. It’s easy to pick up a bulk pack of Dial or Lever 2000 at the big-box store with a discount coupon. But how much do you know about natural soap…its claims, benefits, and ingredients?

In this post, we’re looking at what natural soap really is, whether or not it’s worth buying, and if it’s easy enough to make yourself at home.

Photo credit: CityTree via Flickr

What Is Natural Soap?

Unfortunately, “natural” is a word that’s tossed around very loosely these days. But when it comes to soap, “natural” typically means a product that has familiar ingredients that isn’t packed with man-made and synthetic chemicals.

A few of the many issues with putting chemicals onto your skin is that it can cause irritation, drying, and allergic reactions. Also, when you wash soap residue down the sink or shower, it has a good chance of polluting the environment right where you live.

Ingredients in Natural Soap

Every natural soap recipe is different, but these are some of the most common ingredients that you’ll find in it.

  • Shea butter
  • Olive oil 
  • Coconut oil
  • Oatmeal
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Mint
  • Essential oils

In contrast, synthetic soap often contain the following ingredients. Take a moment to flip around the box or bottle of the soap you’re currently using to see how many of these names appear.

  • Blue 1, Red 33, Yellow 5, titanium dioxide (all artificial colors)
  • Fragrance oil or parfum (artificial fragrances derived from petrochemicals)
  • Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate (chemical foaming agents)
  • Methylisothiazolinone (possible neurotoxin)
  • Tetrasodium EDTA (a formaldehyde-derived synthetic preservative)

The Benefits of Natural Soap

The bottom line is that natural soap is worth trying, at least once, to see how it works on your skin. The benefits of avoiding chemicals in synthetic soap are pretty impressive. However, each natural soap is different and may cause your skin to look and react differently.

But remember just because a soap is handmade and sold in a cute artisan shop doesn’t mean that it’s good for your skin or the environment. You’ll need to know what the ingredients are and understand how the soap is made to guarantee a good purchase.

But overall, many people have found that natural soap doesn’t dry out their skin or cause irritation as much as synthetic soaps do. Many natural soaps have a subtler scent that people find to be more refreshing than the heavily perfumed alternatives that give some people headaches.

Photo credit: Santhan Naidoo via Flickr

Easy Soap-Making Recipes

So, now that you’ve learned a bit about natural soap, are you ready to try making your own DIY version at home?

One initial consideration to keep in mind is lye. Most natural soap-makers use 100% sodium hydroxide or lye in crystal form. However, lye can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’re new to soap-making and don’t want to mess with lye, you can pick up some pre-made melt-and-pour soap that’s been pre-saponified.

Here is a recipe to get you started.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 7.5 oz. extra virgin olive oil
  • 6.5 oz. coconut oil
  • 6.5 oz. environmentally sustainable palm oil
  • 1.3 oz. castor oil
  • 8 oz. cold water
  • 3 1/4 oz. lye crystals
  • 1 oz. peppermint essential oil (or another scent of your choice)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Make this lye-water solution for cold process soap
  • Heat solid oils until melted
  • Add liquid oils to the solid oils
  • Bring lye and oils to 100 degrees and pour the lye solution into the oils
  • Stir with stick blender, changing speeds regularly
  • Mix soap until it reaches light trace
  • Add essential oil and mix into soap
  • Pour soap into mold and allow to set for 24 hours
  • Slice into bars and allow to cure for another 2 weeks before using

Natural Living Ideas and The Spruce have some more soap recipes if you’re interested in browsing through a few others.

Have you tried natural soap yet? Share your experience with us in the comment section below!

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