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How to Choose a Handmade Soap that is Right for You

Betina Skin Care Natural Handmade Soap

So you want to purchase handmade soap, but aren’t sure what soap would be the best for you. First of all, let’s define handmade soap. Real handmade soap is the mixture of oil, butter and/or animal fat with lye (also known as sodium hydroxide).

Today, there are many choices available when purchasing handmade soap. The ready availability of many natural oils and precise measuring equipment has allowed soap makers to create some wonderful bars of soap.  This is a big change from our grandmothers’ soap making days.

When our grandmothers made soap, they more than likely used tallow, an animal fat or lard as their main ingredient. Because they did not have precise digital equipment to measure lye, the lye to fat ratio was less than accurate. The result is a somewhat harsh bar of soap, which was used mainly for laundry purposes.  

The ready availability of many natural vegetable oils and precise measuring equipment has revolutionized the handmade soap making process into a cottage industry. Today, there are hundreds of handmade soaps available. So, how do you choose?  What is right for you?

Understanding the Difference Between Natural and Organic

Since real handmade soap is composed mainly of natural ingredients, let’s begin by defining “natural”, “all-natural” and “organic.” These terms are sometimes used interchangeably and should not be. A “natural” soap, like all soap products we make at Betina Skin Care, usually contains at least 80% natural ingredients and some synthetic ingredients, such as fragrance.  

An all-natural soap is 100% natural, including the fragrance, which is most often created with essential oils. A soap that is claimed to be “organic” must contain a minimum of 95% organic contents by weight. Organic being defined as the production of plants without the use of pesticides or insecticides.

If you wish to purchase a soap, which is “organic” expect to pay a little more for the soap. The cost of organic ingredients is somewhat higher than ingredients labeled natural, and will not make any difference at all in how the soap performs.

Learn About the Key Ingredients in Handmade Soap

Now let’s look at the ingredients found in a handmade soap and see how each ingredient contributes to the final quality of the soap. First of all, you may or may not see lye or sodium hydroxide listed on the list of ingredients. If the soap is made correctly, there should be no lye remaining in the soap. It is “saponified” with the oils, butters and/or animal fat used to create the bar of soap.   

The simplest of handmade soaps will probably contain the three most commonly used oils- olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil. Olive oil is a wonderful oil which moisturizes, but does not clog the skin pores. Coconut oil contributes lather to the bar and palm oil keeps the bar hard so that is does not melt away easily.

Olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil will create a nice bar of handmade soap, but when other high quality oils and butter is added the quality of the soap significantly improves. 

Oils and butter can be added to soap recipes for extra moisturizing, healing benefits or a nice full lather. Some very nice moisturizing oils and butters, which can be added to the handmade soap are avocado oil, almond oil, castor oil (which also helps to boost the lather), rice bran oil, wheat germ oil, cocoa butter, mango butter and shea butter.

Some wonderful healing extracts and oils, such as calendula, comfrey, chamomile, aloe vera and neem oil may be added to the soap to help with specific skin issues, like rashes, burns, poison ivy or Eczema.

Clays are added to help draw out excess oils and toxins, but they also deposit needed minerals for the skin. Bentonite and kaolin clay are good for all skin types, while French green clay is excellent for oily skin.

The addition of goat’s milk to a soap will help produce a creamy lather and also provide the skin with some important vitamins. The list could go on, but you now have an understanding of the characteristics of the most commonly used oils in soap making today.

With this knowledge, you can look at the ingredients of a particular soap and have a fairly good idea about how it will perform. Then you can decide if you are purchasing a soap which will work well for you.

Happy soap hunting!