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WHAT IS NATURAL SOAP?

Natural soap is not necessarily the best soap. Reading the ingredient label is the only way to know for sure.

When the term “natural soap” comes to mind, you might think the soap in question is an optimal choice. Sadly, that is not always the case. Many things are natural, but are not necessarily the best for our skin or environment. Reading the ingredient label is the only way to know for sure if you natural choice is truly natural.

Pure, natural soap is made from water, lye, and fat. Herbs and fragrance are added to give the soap a little something extra. Some used milk in place of water. Back in the day, women huddled around a pot and cooked soap with reserved animal fat and went from there. Since those days, we’ve learned to whip up small batches of soap at home and to mass produce it in factories. A main difference in the process is the supposedly natural ingredients in the final product.

A small batch soapmaker may use a hot or cold process method. In hot process soap, the ingredients are heated to speed the chemical reaction that results in soap. Sometimes the cooking process cooks out some nutrients in the ingredients, especially when milk is used. Cold process soaps are not cooked at all. The ingredients are blended, poured in to molds, and left alone until the soap is ready to use. If the soap ingredients are kept to the basics, the soap may be natural. If a glycerin soap base is used, “natural” may not be an accurate description.

Glycerin naturally occurs during the soap making process and helps skin hold moisture. In natural soap, the naturally created glycerin remains in the final product. A glycerin soap base is made from a byproduct of the commercial soap making process. If manufacturers want to produce a transparent soap, additional ingredients are used to separate the glycerin from the final product. The removed glycerin is either set aside or sold for further production. Glycerin soap base, lotions, other beauty products, nitroglycerin, and more are all made from glycerin. Does a product made from a commercial byproduct seem natural to you?

Aside from a premade soap base, shoppers seeking natural soap must read labels and determine if the added fragrance and color are natural or man-made. A man-made color blend is one thing; one made from lab created chemical compounds is another. Look for clays instead of dyes as colorant. Clays are straight from nature with minimal processing. Some believe in a link between some synthetic colorants and cancer. Synthetic fragrances sometimes lead to dizziness, headaches, and skin irritation. Stay clear of both just to be safe.

So next time you look for natural soap, make sure it has minimal ingredients and no added byproducts, synthetic fragrances, or lab created colors. Small batch manufacturers are usually a safe bet, but there are some large manufacturers offering quality and real natural products. If you’re not sure how to find what you seek, Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep is a dedicated database on thousands of products with safe, toxic, and questionable ingredients. Check the database, read labels, and keep up with product news with The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The organization fights for your rights for safe products and shares news on which companies are on point or more focused on profits than consumer safety.

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