So you have decided to give handmade soap a try. You've tried different products in the past and know your skin well and what it likes. And now you think you have to do it all over again to find a handmade soap recipe that is kind to your skin.
It doesn't have to be that difficult!
Lets ask a few different questions first.
DO I NEED SOAP?
What you clean your skin with should depend on only one thing, and that is, what made your skin dirty. (This also means that the skin problems that arent caused by dirt on the skin can not be solved by using the right soap)
When my father comes back after having done a walk-around a tyre making industrial plant with huge machines guzzling molten rubber and carbon, possibly having inspected samples of rubber with his bare hands, he needs to wash his hands with a powerful cleanser. Twice. Before he can even have a glass water.When he has spent the day working on his computer instead, breaking in between to practise his flute, he can manage with a quick hand-wash before he starts meddling in my mother's kitchen.
Our skin protects itself by covering itself in 2 types of shields. Oil, and dead skin.
Sebum is the oil that our skin secretes to form a protective layer over it.Dirt and bacteria stick to sebum and that can lead to a lot of nuisance for the skin. When we attack sebum with prejudice in our heart, our skin responds by producing more of it. As we continue to go after the increased secretion of these skin oils, we have already created a monster out of it. You may have heard someone complain "i i have oily skin, i have to wash it often".
Unfortunately, we blame a number of our skin problems onto our two very essential (quite literally) body guards and want to get rid of them without fully understanding and appreciating their function.You want to replace this contaminated surface oil with a cleaner medium, and thats all the cleaning you really need. Soap affects sebum more than dead skin.
Fancy name for the layer of dead skin cells we are all too familiar with. Soap alone cannot regulate the other body guard though. You need something more to nudge the dead skin cells into leaving the surface of the skin without signaling the skin to produce twice as many. This is where you need a soft washcloth to administer the soap with.
Handmade soap and the softest wash cloth is what you need. It does sound very nineteenth century but who said skin care needed to be very complicated?
REMEMBER YOU HAVE TO REPLACE, NOT REMOVE.
Commercial soaps and body washes that are laden with a number of chemicals, some of them carcinogens or endocrine disruptors, remove the skin's protective layer exposing it to these harmful chemicals.
Handmade soap on the other hand, does not have any of these chemicals, is abundant in natural glycerine that is formed as a result of the Saponification process, and does not strip your skin of natural oils because of its composition.
SO ARE ALL HANDMADE SOAPS EQUAL AND SUITED TO ALL SKIN TYPES?
Thats a no. There are a few base recipes that have qualities distinct from each other, to which we add different additives to further fine tune the properties of the handmade soap.
THE CLASSIC THREE OIL RECIPE
Oils constitute 80% of the weight of handmade soap. Naturally, the qualities of the soap depend most on the type of oils used.
The properties of a soap depends on the type of oils that have been used to make it. The most basic recipe is one that adequately cleans and thus creates ample lather, is hard enough to not melt away too quickly, and also conditions the skin. One of our most popular recipes, the classic 3 oil achieves a fine balance between these properties.THE SINGLE OIL RECIPE
By contrast, a single oil only concentrates on the properties of one oil. A single oil soap made from Olive oil (also known as the Castile soap) is the most gentle of soaps. It produces a slimy lather that has little to no bubbles. A coconut oil soap on the other hand produces a rich frothy lather, while providing your skin with nourishment from pure coconut oil.THE LUXURY OIL RECIPE
We can increase the nourishing or conditioning ability of a soap simply by adding luxury oils to the recipe. We like to add Almond oil, Mango butter, Shea butter, Cocoa butter, Sesame oil, and Jojoba oil.
A great additive that affects the properties of handmade soap is clay. For long people have directly bathed and washed hair with clay and we find that clay makes the lather extra smooth. A clay rich natural soap is ideal for shaving as it lets the blade glide over the skin. Clays can be powerful in drawing out impurities and adding them in a soap turns every shower into a mini SPA treatment.
Using clay in our recipes is gratifying also because it's a great way to bring colour and texture to handmade soap. Our staples are - Kaolin clay, Bentonite clay, Activated Charcoal, Red clay, French green clay, and Calamine.
There's a whole list of ingredients we like to add to cold process handmade soap, more for how they make the bar look, than what they make it do to your skin. We use these to decorate our soaps with or give them a unique colour or texture. Honey, fruit pulp, wine are a few examples of what we use. The process of Saponification however, changes the composition of these ingredients, making them useless for skincare.
If you want the benefits of honey, fruit or wine though, you should put it directly on your skin, not in your soap.
WHICH HANDMADE SOAP IS FOR ME THEN?
The good thing about organic skincare is that it's really difficult to go too wrong with it.
- Glycerine - No matter which soap you pick, remember that your handmade soap is abundant in natural glycerine which is a 'byproduct' of the soap making (Saponification) process. The glycerine in commercial soaps (which aren't even 'soaps' technically) have been extracted through industrial distillation. You handmade soap gives you benefits of glycerine.
- Harmful Chemicals - Handmade soap does not have any known carcinogens or endocrine disruptors so they aren't causing any additional problems to your skin.
- Skin types - When choosing soap depending on your skin type, follow a basic rule. Soaps with clay MAY be a little more cleansing and could be more suited to an 'oily-er' situation. The ones with lots of oils will be nourishing to skin that feels dry.