Natural soap making: Why is a handmade soap so good for your skin?
Handmade soap users can appreciate at least five major benefits–from having smooth and soft skin to having healthy and healed skin.
A fantastic artist of many media, my sister handmade soap last year for selling and for giving as gifts. She made fluffy (and somehow naturally sparkly) white goddesses, sleek green circular disks, beautiful fat pink stars. She scented them, giving them magical smells that lasted as long as the soap did, and wrapped each delight in see-through recycled cellophane, tying each with a single, hair-thin ribbon of twine and jute.
Sister put these in the toe of a giant Christmas stocking she sent to me across country. When I got to them–after oohing and ahhing over the other fun goodies on the way down the length of the stocking–I was impressed by their beauty, their aromas, their original and appealing colors, shine, and shapes.
But what was (and is) best about these handmade soaps is what we all can appreciate and benefit from: how good they are for the skin. That’s primarily what handmade soap humbly boasts–at least five major benefits to the largest of human organs, the skin.
Cleansing Without Stripping
Handmade soap cleanses by destroying bad and harmful bacteria. But without any synthetic preservatives and animal fats (which strip away all bacteria–bad and good), it also retains the good bacteria, called flora, which is needed to maintain the natural balance of moisture and oil levels in the flora that fight off bad bacteria. In handmade soaps, in place of the synthetics like Isopropyl Alcohol, TEA, Propylene Glycol and Triclosan (which I’ve heard said if you can’t pronounce you shouldn’t use) in commercial soaps, we can usually find natural vegetable oils and proteins (coconut, soy bean, or olive, for example), natural cocoa butter, and vitamins, all of which contribute to maintaining healthy bacteria balance without stripping any essentials.
Besides not unnecessarily stripping away necessary elements, handmade soap does not clog pores. Natural vegetable oil-based soap doesn’t do this, as non-natural soaps (using animal fat–also known as tallow) do, and therefore doesn’t suffocate the skin’s pores–which the skin needs open and free in order to breathe.
While the same soaps with the tallow often have synthetic fragrances, colorants (FD&C, Lake Colors, synthesized from coal tar dyes) and preservatives, while these animal fat-based products also irritate skin, causing it to feel itchy, and while these soaps can exacerbate skin ailments such as eczema, seborrhea, and psoriasis, handmade vegetable oil-based soaps do not aggravate or accelerate any existing skin conditions.
The unnatural elements in manufactured soap colorants have been reported to contain residual cancer-causing substances (such as phenols and benzene) that have been known to cause skin irritation and other health concerns. Since natural handmade soap colorless or is only tinted by natural essential oils, plant material or mineral oxide colorants, it doesn’t put the user at such risks.
The artificial preservatives in manufactured soap can irritate skin or cause skin annoyances. Since only natural (if any) preservatives are used in handmade soap (such as Rosemary, for example), normal skin remains itch- and rash-free.
And Free Alkalai (along with, again, Isopropyl Alcohol, TEA, Propylene Glycol, and Triclosan)–found in most commercial soap–is absent in handmade soap, making the synthetic-free choice the one to make, especially for those of us with especially sensitive skin.
Moisturizing and Softening
Glycerin is a humectant, a substance that reportedly draws in moisture from the air and that in handmade soap moisturizes our skin hour to hour all day long. Handmade soap has this natural glycerin because it retains it (unlike manufactured soap, which has its glycerin removed for some reason), so handmade soap maintains and/or restores a balance of skin moisture.
Also keeping skin moistare the natural vegetable oils, which are known to contain natural stearic acid and natural palmitic wax, two elements used in hand and body lotions, two elements that with the glycerin, free oils, and water give us license to toss the lotions in favor of the soap that gives our skin a soft, smooth feel.
Afflicted Skin Healing
Individuals with eczema and psoriasis and those with allergies and sensitive skin have evidently found relief after switching to natural handmade soap. Remarkable testimony to the healthy properties of synthetic- and chemical-free suds.
Bonus Benefits: Mentally Soothing and Physically Healing
Just as pure essential oil fragrances have the side benefits of being anti-irritants, they have two additional pluses, physical and mental: they often have (according to a Vermont natural soap maker) anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties; and they often are mentally aroma-therapeutic.
So as I wash my face these days–still using the soap Sister sent, as its natural ingredients give it a long-lasting character–I delight at the energizing peppermint one day, the soothing cedar the next, and I delight at feeling my skin, which is fresh and clean and soft to the touch. It is itch-free. It is shining a healthy shine. And it smells sweet, too.