Solid soap bars v liquid gels and hand wash

The average person will wash their hands at least 2-3 times a day. That means a 40 year old will have used soap 43,800 times. With that in mind how concerned should we be about the ingredients?

The cosmetic industry has moved on more in the last 40 years than it ever did in the previous 400, but have those changes always been for the good?

With the new era of greater sustainability and our desire for transparency from corporations, can we be sure that all that glitters is truly soap?

I ask the question about using solid soap as opposed to liquid washes in the hope to turn your attention to what’s really going on.

First of all let’s compare like for like, i.e., traditionally-made soap in either liquid or solid form. To be sure your comparison is accurate we actually have to avoid the vast majority of liquid washing products. These products are made with modern chemicals that replicate cleansing and foaming qualities we all expect in any soap. Why? Well, it’s cheaper for one thing. There are, of course, traditional and properly made soaps out there but would you know what to look for?

A traditional soap is made from blending two main ingredients, oils and a lye solution which is made from Potassium hydroxide, for liquid soap and Sodium hydroxide, for solid. Although these are harsh caustic chemicals, soap making is alchemy and using them in a correctly blended recipe, means that none of the harshness survives. The resulting new substance that is formed is actually a salt, but we call it soap. Therefore, soaps made this way will mean your label will have the internationally recognised (INCI) names for the oils which have been used e.g. Sodium Cocoate (Soap from Coconut oil) Sodium Olivate (Soap from Olive oil) and, if you’re unlucky, they may have used Sodium Palmate (Soap from Palm oil)

However, a liquid that has none of these types of ingredients can’t be called soap. These will be a combination of various chemicals and liquids that form foam and bubbles and have detergent qualities that act like soap on the skin. They may contain things like, Sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Cocamidopropyl betaine and Laureth-3, all of these need to be made in the lab, and some are petroleum based. They all have toxic qualities and some come with quite severe health warnings. Why are we using this? Why are we putting this on our skin? Why are we flushing this down the drain to further contaminate the waterways?

Yes, companies are trying hard to remove these harsh chemicals as more and more of us become aware of their origins. And what are they turning to instead? Plants!

Then there is the term ‘Fragrance’. Companies are allowed to hide over 50 chemicals under this term as they have argued their right to brand protection and the courts agreed that they should be allowed to keep these components secret. But don’t worry, they are safe, aren’t they?

This is why soap manufacturers like myself are springing up all over the place and are trying to create a pure and clean product that is actually good for your skin. Using plant based materials means that these natural ingredients combine to make your skin clean and soft. I think the acid test here is, the fact that it is okay to eat these main ingredients, means they are far less likely to harm our skin if we clean with them. In fact, the Romans used just pure olive oil, massaged into the skin, which is then gently wiped away to leave the skin clean and conditioned, a practise still used by people today.

Liquid soap for the small manufacturer is a slow, labour intensive process that means the costs go up. It’s really hard, therefore, to compete with the giants who are making vast quantities from awful ingredients at really low prices. A tub of liquid wash can be as low as £1 in some discount outlets, but what is the real price? The awful ingredients and the massive manufacture process, the daily rinsing of toxins into the environment, let alone the unknown effects on our health long term. Then, there are the packaging issues and the resulting waste.

Soap has been made the way we make it for over 2000 years. Its safety, effectiveness and purity are tried and tested by the ancient Greeks, the Romans and throughout the Middle East. Some soaps that are still produced today are the oldest traded commodities on earth.

Natural, pure soap is an amazing product, it doesn’t need to change, use it for 4-6 weeks and you’ll see your skin condition improve, in that time you will save money, benefit from healthier looking skin and reduce your carbon footprint.

So, perhaps there can be no comparison. Real soap is just in a league of its own. Liquid washes that can’t even be called soap (because it isn’t anything like it) may be liquid and they may even help to clean your hands, but the quality is a world apart. If your are the kind of person that turns over the food packet to check the ingredients, but ignore the one on the back of the soap dispenser, isn’t it time you made the change?

Why not Google a few of the ingredients for yourself and find out what’s in your wash, and join us in the soap revolution!

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