All About Organic Soap
Complete information on Organic Soap
What is Soap? Soap is made by mixing a caustic base (like caustic soda or potassium hydroxide) with some liquid fatty acid (like tallow, coconut oil, olive oil & other animal and vegetable fats).
Commercial soap is typically made with cheap chemical acids like stearic acid and other chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate, parabens and dioxin.
Soap is supposed to be a neutral salt (read pH 7.0) which makes water to foam and clean well. (The ideal soap should be at a pH of 8 to 9 for it to clean - we will see this later). But unfortunately, for commercial purposes, cosmetics businesses have made soap into a caustic product that cleans because of the chemical ingredients in it (like detergents and surfactants).
They also contain fragrance oils which are by-products of petroleum.
Is soap necessary for cleaning our body? To answer this question correctly and fully, we need to understand the nature of our skin. Human skin is by nature acidic with a pH of around 5 to 5.5. To maintain this pH level, our body produces an acidic oil called sebum. If we eat alkaline food and live in natural surroundings, we do not need soap - just plain water shower is enough to keep our skin clean.
However, the modern man is so far removed from both natural food and natural conditions, that he needs additional supplements to his bathing water. We should also remember that bath water is itself pretty impure these days. So for civilization to maintain itself, we seem to be requiring soap and water.
When we expose our skins to pollution and grime and our body sends out odour produced by sweat (which is much aggravated by our acidic food in-take) - we need a water that is alkaline to wash ourselves. This is to wash away the acidic sebum dirtied by our lifestyle and allow the body to produce fresh, clean sebum.
But if the soap is too much caustic (with a high pH of 11 or 12) it can dry the skin completely and prolonged use can damage the skin. A good mild soap should be in the pH range of 8 to 8.5.
Is Soap Organic? What is meant by organic soap? Soap cannot be made without the use of caustic soda (lye) which is not an organic product. In a cold process soap, lye forms about 11-12% of the total weight. So there is no organic soap from a purist's point of view.
However, what is commonly meant by organic soap is that the fatty acids added are natural and their sources are organic. (Example: a soap made with lye, cold pressed organic coconut oil, organic mowrah butter, organic neem oil and organic castor oil, with lemongrass essential oil for fragrance ) .
Organic soaps should only be enriched by essential oils (like lemongrass, bergamot, tee tree oil etc) and never with fragrance oils.
What is meant by vegan soap? Soap can also be made from animal fats like tallow. Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, primarily made up of triglycerides. Such a soap is not vegan and certainly cannot be called organic (unless the cows and calves have been grazed or grass-fed from organic farms).
A vegan soap contains only vegetable oils and plant based butters. Using fats like goat's milk can be called vegetarian but not vegan. Vegan soaps are generally cruelty-free and also eco-friendly.
What is the difference between cold process and hot-process soap? A cold process soap is one where the manufacturer prepares the lye solution and then weighs out the oil and then mix the two by hand (typically a power driven stick blender) and then pours out the soap mix onto molds.
This is a very skilled job and requires both precision and dexterity. Working directly with lye involves occupational risks.
A hot process soap is where you buy pre-made soap bars from some vendor and then cut and heat it in a double boiler and add whatever color or flavor that you require.. it is not really handmade soap making in the strict sense.
What is handmade soap? Handmade soap is generally a cold process soap where the manufacturer prepares the lye solution and then weighs out the oil and then mix the two by hand and then pours out the soap mix onto molds. This is a very skilled job and requires precision, care and dexterity.
What are the disadvantages/downsides of organic soap? For the producer, they have to work directly with lye (which is very corrosive and dangerous while mixing) - this is the major disadvantage. Secondly they have to find reliable vendors who can give them cold-pressed organic oils and essential oils. This again is another disadvantage. It is their credibility on the line - so a good soap maker will take a lot of care in vetting vendors.
For the buyer, the major disadvantage is the price. Because of the expensive ingredients and the skilled labor, the cost of handmade soap is generally high. However, we sell ours at a very reasonable rate of 70 Rs ($1 ) for 100g. There is another disadvantage for the buyer too.
A poorly configured organic soap (where the recipe is not scientifically prepared or the measurements are inaccurate or the blending is inefficient / insufficient) may misbehave in several ways:
- not lathering enough
- not cleaning enough
- not hard enough
- greasy and gooey
- highly dissolving in water
- burning your skin and eyes (in case of poor saponification or bad lye ratio)
- leaving your skin very dry after a bath (this is due to poor super-fatting)
all of which can be corrected by a good soap-maker! So it is best to buy a bar from a vendor and try a patch test.
Why does my homemade soap dry my skin? To understand this, we should understand the concept of super-fatting in soap making. When we prepare a soap recipe, we identify the lye required for so many grams of various oils . Different oils have different saponification (the chemical reaction of lye and fatty acids eating each other and coagulating into soap) values so one needs to use a very reliable lye calculator.
If we prepare the soap as per the exact lye required, we run the risk of making a soap that has no excess oil... super-fatting is the technique of adding anywhere between 5-10% of extra oil, so that, even after 100% saponification we will have some oil left in the soap and it wont be drying the skin. If your soap is drying it probably has less than desired oil in it.
What are the ingredients of organic soap? Organic soap should not consist of any chemicals like stearic acid, paraben , SLS or fragrance oils. Nor should there be any liquid paraffin in it. It should only contain plant based fatty acids like coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil and butters like shea butter, kokum butter, mowrah butter etc. These oils and butters should preferably organic and cold-pressed. It can contain Sodium Hydroxide (lye) and clean RO water.
It can contain essential oils like lemongrass, citronella, bergamot, tea tree, rosemary and so on. For the discerning customer an organic soap should be cold pressed!
Why do people buy handmade soaps? Soap, as we saw, is bad enough for the skin. To make it worse by factory made soaps that are full of chemicals and acids and sulfates may be manufacturer-friendly but not customer-friendly.
Handmade soaps are much gentler on the skin.. a good cold processed soap will have a pH of 8 to 8.5 (after the mandatory curing period of 6 weeks). People buy handmade soaps to ensure that their skin is not damaged by chemicals.
How is organic soap better? As we mentioned above, organic soap will contain organic cold-pressed oils. One of the major ingredients in our cold process handmade organic soaps is coconut oil. True organic coconut oil is cold pressed from sun-dried copras and not coconuts dried with the use of sulfur fumes.
So the oil is organic not only in coconut production but also in pre-mill processing. Sulfur fumed coconut oil can dry and itch the skin. However, such diligent adherence to natural values is very rare in commercial coconut oil production.