We all like taking a nice warm bath or shower to wash away the dirt, grime, and stress of day-to-day life… but what if we’re inviting icky processed ingredients into our washing rituals? The best way to ensure that you’re lathering up the way that nature intended is to use soap made with all-natural ingredients (you know, the ones that come from actual plants, not processing plants). This includes bars that contain no artificial dyes, perfumes, or chemicals. Let only the best in your shower!
Benefits of Natural Soaps
When made with vegetable oils, like ours, natural soaps provide skin with nutrients and vitamins and don’t strip skin of their natural oils, which are crucial for soft skin. Vegetable oils are also gentle, making them beneficial for use for those with dry or sensitive skin, and can help calm eczema.
One of the easiest ways to make sure that you’re using the best products possible is to make them yourself. There are many different ways you can make soap, but one of the most important steps is to understand your skin type and sensitivities that you may have.
How Natural Soaps are Made
Two of the most common methods to make soap are through cold and hot process. Cold process soaps take a long time to cure, about 6 weeks for full effect; that being said, the process of physically making the soap is shorter than hot process. Cold process involves layering lye, oil, and liquid before transferring them to a mold for curing. Curing is the process where lye converts the vegetable oils into soap. Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is a very powerful substance, so it’s recommended that you use gloves and wear an apron when handling. You may even want to wear protective eyewear. Once curing is complete, no lye remains in the soap, making the soap safe for use. That’s why a little patience goes a long way in this soap making process.
Hot process takes longer when making the bars, but requires little to no cure time, so they can be used almost immediately. This process does the work by heating and cooking the ingredients at a higher rate and longer time than the cold process method. One method that’s regularly used to create hot process soap at home is a slow cooker.
Cold process bars have a smoother and more polished appearance, while hot process ones tend to be rougher looking. Another difference is that hot processed bars tend to keep their aroma longer because you don’t have to cut them into bars for curing. Cutting the bars allows the aroma to escape rather than seeping into the bar while it sits in storage waiting to be used.
Picking a Vegetable Oil
Now that you’ve decided what process you’re going to use to make your soap, it’s important to determine what type of vegetable oil is best for you. This goes back to seeing what type of skin and sensitivities you have. If your skin is dry or sensitive, or there are small children in your household, Olive Oil is a great one to use in soap making. For those with extremely dry skin, Sunflower Oil is helpful when used in addition to other oils, as it’s high in vitamin E, but will make soap too soft if it’s not combined with oils that saponify quicker.
Almond Oil is one of the best all-around oils you can add to homemade soap. Not only does it produce a nice and luxurious lather, but it’s packed with vitamins and minerals to nourish dry skin. It’s gentle enough to use on sensitive or irritated skin or when making bars for facial cleansing.
A note on equipment: Since lye and the other ingredients being used in the making of soap are highly concentrated, it’s recommended that you use equipment that won’t be used for cooking. It’s a good idea to set aside measuring cups and other equipment that are highly heat resistant; stainless steel and glass are likely your best bet for bowls, while silicone is good for spoons and soap molds. I recommend visiting your local thrift shop for good, affordable finds.