I broke up this rambling thought process into multiple entries because the first was more about shaving, and this one is more about soap. Why? Because I used to do a bit of trade in hand-crafted artisan cold process soap (see my long-dead Etsy store for proof. Sorry for the highfalutin product descriptions, but they really seemed to click with buyers). In other words, I have a passion for soap, skin care, and all that good crap.
Question: Why should you give a damn about soap?
Answer: Because what you put on your skin affects how your skin looks and feels.
Let’s start with the basics. What is soap? Most people use the word “soap” the way they use “kleenex.” Rather than referring to a very specific product, they’re referring to a product category. To get technical, soap is the result of a combination of an alkali and a fatty acid. More specifically, it’s usually the combination of sodium or potassium hydroxide and some kind of oil. Let’s use one of my simpler recipes as an example. Don’t worry, I’m out of business so I make no money by promoting my stuff:
Ingredients: Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Coconut Oil, Lavender Tea, Sodium Hydroxide, Wildflower Honey, Grapeseed Oil, Salt, Lavender Buds, Lavender Essential Oil
Let me break that down. You have a blend of fatty acids (Olive oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil) and sodium hydroxide. Congrats, It’s soap! In addition you have lavender tea (the water base in which the lye is dissolved), wildflower honey (sugar promotes lather), salt (salt improves hardness), lavender buds (exfoliator) and lavender essential oil (smells good).
The bottom line: When you look at the ingredients of a true soap you should see two ingredients: Sodium or Potassium Hydroxide and at least one oil. Everything else is bonus. Take away the fragrances and exfoliants and other additives and you’ve still got soap. Take away the sodium hydroxide and oil and you’ve got a yucky mess that won’t clean a damn thing. Here’s a slogan for you: Soap: It’s Two Things. Snappy.