The Benefits of Organic Soap
Here at Metaphor Organic, we’ve been using organic soap for so long it seems like a no-brainer. We rarely think about all the reasons we got into the soapmaking game or why we set out to make the best soap we could. That’s not to say that we never thought about it. We just made our decision long ago, and have been going with it ever since. However, if you haven’t thought a lot about what goes into your personal skin care products, the following article should give you a bit more information.
Introduction to the benefits of organic soap
What is the number one benefit of Organic soap? Organic soap is simply better for your skin. It contains natural ingredients such as plant-derived base oils, glycerin, and essential oils. By contrast, synthetic, mass-market soap is made of petroleum-based lathering agents, synthetic fragrances, harsh dyes, and dangerous preservatives. It’s not surprising, then, that a lot of our customers say that their skin feels better after using organic soap, and that it sometimes helps to improve skin conditions such as eczema and acne, rather than producing further irritation.
But not only is organic soap better for you, it’s also better for others. It’s better for the environment because producing its ingredients has less of an environmental impact, and because those ingredients break down easily and cause fewer problems after they go down the drain. It’s better for animals because its ingredients are already recognized as safe, so no animal testing is necessary. And finally, organic soap is better for the economy, because it is often made by small, local producers, so the dollars you spend on it stay in the community.
What do I mean by organic soap?
When I talk about organic soap, most of the time I’m talking about natural and organic soap. Natural soap is made out of fats or oils, water, lye, and often essential oils and natural dyes. Organic soap also has the added benefit of being made of ingredients that are produced with organic farming practices, that is, farming practices that don’t use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. So organic soap is natural soap, but it is also one step better.
Organic soap is made of ingredients that are better for your skin
Organic soap is made from natural ingredients, and in most cases, those ingredients are also organically farmed. The majority of the soap bar is made of what are called base oils. We use some of the same base oils for soapmaking that you can use for cooking. So if it’s safe to eat, it’s probably also safe to put on your skin. In the case of our latest recipe, those oils are coconut, olive, and castor bean oil. (We used to use palm oil but are phasing it out because of the massive amount of environmental destruction that it takes to produce.)
Another ingredient in our soap is essential oil. Essential oils are the volatile or fragrant compounds in certain plants. Most essential oils are distilled from things you would eat such as citrus fruit or herbs. Two examples of essential oils we use are lemon essential oil and rosemary essential oil. Experts say you shouldn’t put pure essential oil on your skin because it is very concentrated and can cause irritation. However, essential oil diluted with another oil is just fine.
Most organic soap also contains glycerin. Glycerin is a natural product of the soapmaking reaction. A lot of mass-market soapmakers and some small-batch soapmakers take out the glycerin because it makes the soap bar last longer or because they can sell the glycerin to use in other cosmetic products. However, when glycerin is left in the soap bar, it acts as a humectant, or a substance that attracts moisture from the air into the skin. Two other natural humectants are aloe and honey.
What about lye?
Lye is a purified natural substance that does not meet the definition of “organic.” Lye does have it’s origins in wood ashes, so it is plant-based. But it doesn’t seem like something you’d want to put on your skin. So what gives? Well, one soapmaker explained there is a difference between “contains lye” and “made with lye.” Soap is made in a chemical reaction between lye and oil. So, if done properly, there is no lye left in the soap once the soapmaking reaction is complete. There are only sodium ions, fatty acids, glycerin, and a bit of water. (And essential oils and whatever else you put in the bar.) If you have any more questions about how this works, google knows the answer.
Soapmaking and cooking
A few years ago a friend bought a house, and her father came to visit to help her with a couple of carpentry projects before she moved in. We were all having dinner one night, and he said something that stuck with me. If you start with the best ingredients, and manage to combine them with a little bit of skill, you’ll probably end up with a pretty good dish. If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Imagine buying a salmon right off the boat, which you could when I was growing up on the Oregon Coast. Imagine taking the salmon home and cooking it over an open fire in the back yard. Pristine ingredients. And sure, it takes a little bit of skill to cook fish over a fire. Now imagine fish sticks that you buy in the freezer section of the grocery store. Imagine all the technical steps and machinery it takes to make fish sticks. Now which tastes better? In my experience, soapmaking works the same way.
What organic soaps do not contain
Now that we’ve talked about some of the good stuff in organic soap, I’m going to mention a few of the bad things found in mass-market commercial soap. Three ingredients I’m going to examine are surfactants, parabens, and artificial frangrances.