At the farmer’s market we love our customers’ soap questions. We could go on for hours—in ad nauseum, some would say—about handmade soap. Below are questions and comments from our customers, and answers from Michele the Soap Mistress of Gray Duck Soap.
“Do you make your soaps?”
Absolutely. Every one of our over 50 soaps is handmade by me in Minnetonka in the traditional cold process method.
“Is your soap natural?”
The better questions are: Is your soap real? Is your soap safe? No soap is natural, in my humble opinion. There are no soap trees, no fields of soap. Soap is made via a chemical process called saponification wherein lye reacts with water and oils or fats. Since there is no certification for the word “natural” (like there is for the word “organic”), anyone can define “natural” any way they want. I usually ask people, what specific ingredient they are avoiding, or are looking for in a soap. Know your ingredients and which ones your skin reacts to. Typically, the scent, be it from essential oil or from fragrance oil, is the most likely offender if your skin is irritated or if you get headaches from soap. Go with unscented, such as the soaps in our Duck Naked line.
Soap is a competitive business and some companies promote their soap as natural because people assume natural is better and safer. These assumptions aren’t true. See an excellent article Let's Talk About Natural about the word “natural” used in soap by Marie Rayma at Humblebee and Me.
“You could just buy bar soap at Target, relabel it, and make a mint.”
No, I couldn't. I make and sell handmade soap, the stuff you buy in the chain stores is either commercially processed soap or not soap at all, but detergent (e.g. “beauty bars” “cleansing bars” etc.) So, no I can’t take a commercial soap and try to pass it off as a handmade soap because-- being honest I wouldn’t do that--commercial soap is a different product.
“What’s the difference between commercial soap and handmade soap?”
Handmade soap is the most moisturizing soap you can buy. To make soap lye (aka potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide) is added to water. This lye water solution is then added to oils and fats. A chemical reaction called saponification occurs that produces soap and glycerin (not to be confused with glycerin soap, a misnomer). Soap cleanses, glycerin moisturizes. Glycerin is valuable, so commercial manufacturers remove most of the glycerin and sell it as lotion. Handmade soap retains all of the glycerin, making it much more moisturizing than commercial soap.
Send us your soap questions and we may answer them in an upcoming blog.