Editor’s Note: I’ve created this outline of some of the most common ingredients I use in my soaps, so it can help you choose the product that helps cleanse your skin in the way you will enjoy most. This post will be added to, as I incorporate other natural ingredients along the way. These ingredients also apply to the lotions I make.
Before I even get started though, understand I’m not an authority on skin care, beauty or aging treatments, or skin correction and acne treatment – or anything in between. I’m not dispensing cosmetic or dermatological advice or telling you my goods are the way to improved skin condition or that using my stuff can alleviate your skin problems. There are a lot of laws surrounding making such claims, and because I’m not a factory/commercial soap producer, so I’m required to steer clear of such remarks. That said, if you look through comments and reviews, my customers will share some of their feedback and results. – Deb
The Simple and Dirty Job of Soap
Soap has a very simple task to do: cleanse the skin of dirt, soil, bacteria, sweat, and germs from the skin and body. Our hands come in contact with a lot of things in the course of our day, so sometimes we’re trying to remove things like paint, food particles, grease, ink, and the list continues. The point is soap is meant to help clean the skin. Soap is meant to help lift these things and then, with the help of water, wash them away. What should remain is cleansed skin, but never overly-cleansed skin. Overly cleansed skin can become dried out, creating cracking, rashes, hives, and so much more. When the skin is compromised in this way, things like infections, disease and other skin conditions can take hold.
This is when ingredients matter the most.
To date, the benefits of using antibacterial hand soap haven’t been proven. In addition, the wide use of these products over a long time has raised the question of potential negative effects on your health. – USFDA
A great deal of commercial and factory soaps are made with detergents, petroleum products, and preservatives, so while they may cleanse the skin, they can also have the ability to dry the skin because natural, necessary oils (oils meant to protect the skin for external penetrants) are stripped, leaving the skin almost raw, but definitely vulnerable. Ever take a shower and come out feeling itchy? That’s overly dried out skin, and maybe resulted from a poor soap choice for your skin.
Using detergents, solvents and petroleum ingredients will certainly keep the price of off-the-shelf soap low, but the cost is high when you consider the potential damage and added skin conditions that might be created.
I couldn’t help wonder if sometimes these commercial soaps are made expressly with the intent to strip the skin, creating the need for some other product the manufacturer makes to correct the issue their soap created in the first place…hmmm. Naw, they wouldn’t do that, would they?
I’ll state this simply: things you put on your skin can have an impact on the way your skin feels and its overall health. I know plenty of folks who use regular soap from the store, and their skin seems just fine. I also know others who suffer with all kinds of skin issues, and a commercial soap, with its detergents and chemical surfactants are too much for their skin to take. I’ve seen this result in many things: the slathering on of all types of lotions and creams; the use of anti-itch medications and topical solutions; exfoliating to the point of breaking the skin out even more; the use of oils and other emollients in order to restore some kind of relief.
What if this discomfort originated in the very soap they used to wash their skin?
My Own Soaping Journey
When I started making soap 5 years ago, it was out of necessity. I needed to do something with the milk that we were accumulating as a result of all our rescued goats! So, from the beginning of my soap making adventure, I was creating goat milk soaps. They weren’t always the prettiest, but once we began using them, it was the only soap we would use in our home. And the psoriasis my husband had on his elbows and face started going away. And our skin just felt better overall, even in the dead of winter when your skin can normally get scratchy. Nope. No more of that. I (like many other goat milk soap makers I respect) formulate my goat milk soaps from scratch. I never (and will never) use “melt and pour” soap (a pre-made soap product, where you add other things to “make soap”) because I want total control over the ingredients in my soaps, and I have developed a specific standard and base recipe I don’t stray from. I take into account several things I expect from every batch I make:
- The soap should cleanse gently, but thoroughly
- It should contain as few ingredients as possible
- It should have a visually aesthetic appeal when possible
- It should be scented thoughtfully, but not over-powering-ly so (is that a word?!)
All of my soaps are made with goat milk from our farm (in place of water, which from the house tap could include chlorine and other water treatment facility remnants), and olive oil, coconut oil, lard, castor oil, sodium hydroxide, tussah silk, and salt. From there, I either scent it with cosmetic-grade, phthalate and palm-free fragrance oils, and or essential oil(s) and dress it up with some natural mica, zinc, clay, or herbal colorants, and herbal powders. No sulfates. No waxes. No dyes. No preservatives.
Some soaps I make are very simple in nature, only varying by scent. Others include additional ingredients that provide some extra slip or exfoliation. Below, you’ll find a list of the extras I add, and some common things said about said ingredients. I’ll let you be the judge on how they work in your cleansing regimen. 🙂
The Ingredients I Choose
Activated Charcoal: Said to be a skin detoxifier, it’s also reported to have anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. I add it for these potential benefits, as well as its natural exfoliating characteristics. In addition, I use this as a colorant.
Alfalfa Powder: Rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, this ingredients can help with dry skin and gently aids to detoxify and exfoliate the skin.
Aloe Vera: Revered for centuries for its healing properties and used as a wound treatment the world over. It’s said to have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic qualities, along with being an anti-inflammatory. Its pH nearly matches that of our own skin (much like goat milk), and it’s extremely gentle and calming to the skin. If you’ve ever been sunburned, you know how cooling, moisturizing magic of this herb.
Avocado Oil: With anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, plus a dense house of fatty acids, this ingredient has the potential to help skin against free-radicals. It’s known to sooth the skin and potentially help with healing and elasticity, due in part to its high-concentration of Vitamin B and biotin.
Beeswax: A natural humectant, this ingredient helps skin maintain its crucial moisture by creating a breathable barrier against the elements. Rich in antioxidants, beeswax is known to help heal skin and even wounds, and is a reputed anti-inflammatory, as well as having anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. This is the key ingredient in Bee Armor.
Bentonite Clay: A good choice for overly oily skin. Research has shown this clay used as a gentle detoxifier and exfoliant for the skin, helping with troubled or sensitive skin. It’s also known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also great for adding “slip” in the soap, which makes it nice for shaving. Used also as natural colorant. A 1995 study showed it effectively helped treat poison ivy!
Calendula Powder: Known for being an anti-inflammatory and providing antibacterial benefits to skin, it can be helpful with troubled skin and can potentially help with healing rashes, wounds, itchy or scratchy skin, and even insect bites.
Carrot Powder: Rich in carotenoids (reputed for wound and skin healing), amino acids and antioxidants, this ingredient is a soothing and extra-gentle exfoliant. It’s used also as a natural colorant.
Castor Oil: A humectant, this oils is known for its moisturizing abilities. It’s said to increase production of collagen and sooth irritation in the skin.
Coconut Oil: Rich in caprylic, capric, linoleic, and myristic fatty acids, this oil is considered a emollient and known for creating a great lather, and being a gentle cleanser, and being packed with antioxidants.
French Clay: Known to help soothing acne-prone skin, and help with skin inflammation and painful breakouts. Provides a nice “slip”, so good as a shaving soap. Gentle exfoliating and detoxifier, I also use it as a natural colorant.
Goat Milk: Loaded with so many great things, including alpha-hydroxy acids, amino acids, enzymes, vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, C, D, E, along with minerals, such as copper, iron selenium, and zinc – and seriously, the list goes on and on. Terms like “anti-microbial” and “anti-inflammatory” properties are likely a common reason why good quality goat milk soap is sought after by people who suffer with skin conditions of all kinds. Because it contains large amounts of butter fats, fatty acids and amino acid, it’s also said to keep moisture in the skin, both during washing and after. Comprised of 15% caprylic acid (an important tissue-developing fatty acid), goat milk helps create a protective barrier on the skin. Even raw goat milk on the skin feels soothing, no joke! I’ve had customers say: “It’s so slick, even though I’m rinsed off!” That’s that barrier, doing it’s job and protecting the skin against drying completely out!
Hibiscus Powder: Rich in alpha-hydroxy acids, this ingredient is a gentle and natural exfoliant and has been said to help with uneven skin tones, while working to protect the skin’s elastin. Also used as a colorant.
Kaolin Clay: Used to offer gentle exfoliating and detoxifying qualities, this clay comes in a few different colors and can be used as a colorant.
Marshmallow Powder: Purported to help promote new cell growth in skin, this ingredient is added to provide a soothing and moisturizing benefits during cleansing. In shampoo products, it’s said to be a detangler.
Nettle Powder: Said to be an astringent, nettle is known for having anti-inflammatory properties that can be potentially helpful with rashes, insect bites, and other common skin maladies. I use it also as a colorant.
Oats (Colloidal): A skin-calming and soothing ingredient, oats and oatmeal can offer relief from irritation and itching. A gentle exfoliating item, it can help reduce excess oil on this skin, and some have said it reduces wrinkles and dark circles around the eyes. I use it in soap for the gentle calming and exfoliating it provides for skin, along with the light tan color and specks, which add some visual interest in some soaps.
Olive Oil: Used to make all of my soaps, it’s one of those expensive ingredients in my soap because it takes up a lion’s share of the oils in my recipe. Olive oil has a low pH and is hugely rich in antioxidants and known for being an anti-inflammatory. Revered in ancient Greece and Rome, and now modern times, it’s an extra gentle ingredient for cleansing, being both moisturizing, and soothing to the skin.
Pecan Shells: Probably an ingredient you don’t see in soap every day, this finely-ground item offers a bit of exfoliation. These shells were gathered and ground right here on the farm.
Pumice: Porous and lightweight, pumice is the product of volcanic lava. Added to provide extra exfoliating strength for cleansing extremely dirty hands, or cleaning the feet.
Shea Butter: Highly concentrated with fatty acids, this ingredients is considered an emollient, so is said to help trap essential moisture for the skin. It is also said to have healing and anti-inflammatory properties.
Titanium Dioxide: This naturally occurring ingredient works mainly as a colorant (white) in my soap. You’ve seen it’s cousin zinc oxide (also non-comedogenic) used in creams or lotions and offering sunscreen properties.
Tussah Silk: Adds a bit of silkiness and added lathering properties to the soap, and can add some shine to an otherwise dull soap.