If you think about what we need to survive, the obvious things that come to mind are air, food and water. Yes, those are the bare basics, but let us think a little beyond that. You’ll find that no matter where you live, one thing you absolutely need is soap!
Can you count how many bars of soap you’ve used in your life till today? Yes, it’s a huge number, which means the soap you use is an important part of your life and your health. For something that you use for an entire lifetime, do you know what is inside your soap?
Most of us use chemical soaps, right from babies to older people. These soaps are also called manufactured soaps, and are made in a factory under popular brand names. Let’s take a look at what these soaps are all about.
How are Commercial Soaps made?
The basic process of manufacturing soaps includes saponification of fats by the addition of an alkaline solution. The fats may be derived from animals or plants. The raw materials themselves are subject to pre-processing as required.
Adding the alkali triggers the saponification process, which results in the release of glycerin. This is often separated and used in other products. Vacuum is used to dry the soap into hard blocks.
The final finishing involves a mixer where in all those extra chemicals are added. Fragrance, coloring agents, preservatives and several others. Finally, the blocks are turned into the bars we get in stores.
I know there’s a bit of chemistry jargon in this description, but that only goes on to show how much processing goes on behind the scenes. There is also no limit to the number of chemicals that can be added, and by the end of the assembly line, most of the goodness in the initial ingredients is lost.
What is hiding in your Soap?
Take a look at the ingredient lists of some of the popular soaps in the market today. You’ll find many chemical-sounding names, and the number of ingredients is pretty long as well. Here is a look at what some of these ingredients can do to your health.
Can you believe that this ingredient is actually a pesticide? Yes, it’s antibacterial and antifungal properties make it an attractive option for soap companies, but not for your health. Triclosan can irritate the skin, eyes and lungs, and can also mess with your hormones.
This is a name that has been in the news for a while, and for good reason. Parabens can mimic hormones in the human body, which can disrupt normal functioning. It has also been linked with breast cancer in women.
This is probably the sneakiest ingredient ever! There is no official regulation on what constitutes ‘fragrance’ or ‘perfume’/’parfum’ which means manufacturers can put in just about anything they want under this label. Strong fragrances also cause migraines or asthma in some people.
4. Sodium Laureth Sulfate
This chemical also goes by the name of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS. This is a compound of nitrosamines, which can affect the respiratory system and kidneys. It is also known to irritate the eyes, skin and lungs.damaged and irritated.
This is a possibly carcinogenic compound, found in several personal care products. There have also been reports linking it to breast cancer in women.
Besides these, antibacterial soaps may seem like a good way to stay clean, but they end up causing more harm than good in the long term. The result is increased resistance to antibiotics and the emergence of super bugs, against whom current medicines have no effect.
Commercial soaps aren’t just harmful on a personal level – they affect the entire planet. Such are manufactured in large factories, which often emanate large amounts of waste that end up polluting our water, soil and natural resources.
Why Choosing the Right Soap is Crucial
Reading about the harmful ingredients in soap is scary enough, but it gets worse. Your soap is something you apply on your skin, which is the largest organ of your body. Which means whatever you apply on your skin gets through it and into your bloodstream, after which it reaches everywhere. Our body lacks the enzymes to break down these chemical substances, which means they accumulate in our body over time, causing serious illnesses like cancer.
Babies and young children are more vulnerable since they have thinner, more permeable skin. This means the chemicals in the products you apply are more readily absorbed into their bodies. Given their lower body weight, even a small quantity of chemicals can cause more harm to a child than to an adult.
And the problem isn’t just with your soap. Think about all the different products you apply in the shower. Your soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, deodorant – and maybe more! Many of the ingredients in these individual products may not cause much harm on their own, but when they combine with other ingredients from other products, they can turn carcinogenic.
Then there are the soaps with labels like ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’. While on the surface these sound like they’re better than commercial branded soaps, they still require a thorough analysis of the ingredient list. Several such labels are just misnomers, and they contain as many harmful chemicals as other soaps. That is why it is important to find soaps with only a few, natural ingredients, like handmade soaps.
Benefits of Handmade Soap: Why Handmade Soaps are Better
Handmade soaps aren’t just soaps that aren’t made in a factory, the processing is completely different. More fat is used in handmade soap, and the resulting soap usually contains more glycerin than regular soaps. There are several ways this makes handmade soaps much better than commercial soaps.
1. Retain natural oils
The excessive processing of commercial soaps hardly leaves any of the original oils’ goodness behind. But with handmade soaps, the benefits are maintained in the end product, with minimal loss of the good stuff.
2. Offer better moisturization
The handmade soap process causes the least loss of natural glycerin, which means there’s lots left in the soap for you! This improves the soap’s moisturizing properties, and helps restore the skin’s natural pH levels.
3. Are made with natural ingredients
Unlike the unpronouncable chemicals added to commercial soap manufacturing, handmade soaps are made with care, using fresh, local and natural ingredients. This means that the soap has a short ingredient list, so the user can be fully aware of exactly what goes into his soap.
4. Have a natural fragrance
The use of natural products and their minimal processing helps in retaining their natural aromas. Due to this, there is no need of any chemical fragrance or perfume, which are nothing but a cocktail of harmful chemicals.
5. Are of higher quality
Handmade soaps aren’t mass produced, which means a lot of care and attention goes into the making of each soap. The use of fresh ingredients ensures that the soaps have a quality far superior to that of commercial soaps.
6. Have a smaller carbon footprint
Using local ingredients, local labor and making small quantities helps reduce the carbon footprint of these soaps. There isn’t as much requirement of fuel, transport or use of other resources which can hurt the environment.
7. Serve multiple purposes
You’ve probably heard of how a single ingredient like coconut oil or aloe vera has multiple benefits for your skin, hair and health. This is why handmade soaps can serve multiple purposes like moisturizing, oil control, body odor and much more. So you need fewer products which means a much smaller chemical assault on your body.
If you’ve ever had the chance to touch, feel and smell a handmade soap, or even entered a store selling handmade soaps, you’ll be amazed at the aroma. They smell delicious and good enough to eat! That’s because they are made with ingredients that are good for your health.
Another option that’s better and safer than commercial soap is herbal bath powder. This is a traditional mix of several natural skin-friendly ingredients that solve a variety of skin problems. It is also referred to as Nalangu Maavu or Ayurvedic herbal bath powder.
After reading about why handmade soaps are better, I’m sure you won’t look at another bar of soap the same way again! It is important for us to take this seriously since we realize that it can have a lasting impact on our health. Take the time to get informed about what goes into your soap and not get swayed by glittering ads featuring celebrities. Let’s focus on the facts and do what’s best for our family’s health!
Before you go, check out Little Moppet Naturals’ range of 100% natural handmade soaps and herbal bath powder!