When mentioned in the list of ingredients, lye, or sodium hydroxide which is the technical name, sometimes makes people cringe. You may have experienced skin irritation, redness or have sensitive skin at one point or another. You may cringe so much that you begin searching for soaps without sodium hydroxide.
Unfortunately, there is often confusion regarding the use of lye in soap. I thought a little explanation here might clear up the misunderstanding and help you find a soap that's good for your skin.
A label cannot contain the word soap unless “saponification” has occurred. Saponification. That’s an impressive word isn’t it? What it simply means is an alkali (lye) has been used to create changes in animal fats or vegetable oils.
When soap is made properly there is no remaining lye in the bar of soap and the oils have been transformed to a solid block which produces a moisturizing and cleansing lather.
There are several ways soap makers will list lye in their ingredients. The simplest way is to list “sodium hydroxide” in the descending order of ingredients. This method is how our ingredients are listed.
Other soap makers will use the phrase “saponified oils of”. This phrase denotes that lye has been used in the soap making process. There are some soap makers who do not mention sodium hydroxide or lye in their list of ingredients, but if they are calling their product soap, lye has been used.
Sometimes people think that lye soap is very drying and harsh on the skin. If made properly and using moisturizing oils and butters such as olive oil, avocado oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and almond oil, a handmade soap is an absolute treat and lasting sensation for the skin!