Soap. It keeps us clean. It comes in some rather pretty scents, too! But have you noticed that many of the commercially produced soaps cause your skin to chap (especially in the winter)? I never really had any problems with my skin chapping until a couple years ago. It might be because I had a kid and was, and currently, constantly having to wash my hands or it could be because I'm simply getting older and my body can't bounce back as readily as it used to. Whatever the cause, all I know is that my hands would end up chapping so bad they'd get to the point of nearly bleeding- let's all say it together now, "eeeewwwwwwwww!" Lotions helped out a lot let me tell you! But I have recently learned that not all soaps can be treated equally as I set out to find a new and gentler soap to use.
What did I discover, you ask? Well, I found out that I can make my own soaps with wonderful moisturizing properties in my own home! I must say I shall never go back to store bought if I can help it!
What is soap really?
This is what I came to understand through my own research, so please correct me if I'm completely off-base on some of this (it's broken down into as lay-man of terms as I can get)!
Soap can be broken down into three main components: fats and oils (animal or plant), water, and lye (aka sodium hydroxide). Lye is a very caustic ingredient that must be handled properly and used in the proper amounts in conjunction with the water and fats and oils. The lye instigates a chemical reaction within the fats and oils called saponification which causes the fats and oils to break down into fatty acids and glycerol. Don't worry, the fatty acids are not harmful in any way! In fact, it is the fatty acids that hold all the cleansing power of soap! The fatty acids that comprise soap can pick up and surround grease and dirt particles on your skin and make it easier for water to rinse the particles away. In many commercial soaps the glycerols are often processed out of the soap to form a more "pure" soap. This is particularly saddening because the glycerols are often skin-loving moisturizers and wonderful for those people with sensitive skin! Glycerol is also known as glycerin and is easily noted for its clear, transparent/translucent appearance in soaps. (Glycerol has many many other uses as you can read here)
Once the saponification process is started the fragrance and colorant is added to the soap before it is poured into its mold. I will have discussions on the different kinds of fragrances and colorants used in soap in the coming weeks. However, next week I will discuss the different kinds of base oils and fats that are used in creating soap and what benefits they have for the skin!
Handmade soaps have been making a comeback, especially with the advent of melt and pour glycerin soaps (I'm one of the melt and pour users at the moment), and therefore has become more than just a craft but an art form to keep up with today's marketplace. Many soapers are pushing the boundaries of what they can produce with their soaps and many of them succeed in creating eye-catching beauties! Check some of these beautiful handmade soaps!
Cold Process Solar Angels Shea Butter Soap by Eleja
(I am in love with the look of swirled soaps right now and Eleja shows her talent very well with this piece!)
Cold Process Limited Edition Sea Glass by ShiehDesignStudio
(Getting the uneven layers like this is so mind-boggling that they just had to be shared!)
Melt and Pour Painted Soap Starry Night by PJ Soaps
(many of PJ's handpainted soaps can take several days to create!)
Melt and Pour Crystal Gem Soaps by ADKaromatherapy
(yes, that is soap! Don't they look like beautiful gems?!)
Melt and Pour Black Raspberry Vanilla Cupcake Soap by Burnt Mill Candles & Soap
(don't be fooled by these yummy looking treats because these, too, are soapy wonders!)
Melt and Pour Fruity Melon Soap by Rose City Soap Supply
And though these aren't the best of pictures, I will share with you the first two bars of soap I have ever made :D
I call this one BreakTime. It's an exfoliating bar in two parts. The bottom has a base of oatmeal soap scented with Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey and some drizzles of light gold mica to imitate honey and the top part is a simple white soap base with Chocolate Espresso fragrance and coffee grounds for an exfoliate.
This soap is based off of a kit I bought from BrambleBerry. It's a swirl technique and came with a most stunning fragrance call Yuzu which is apparently a Japanese citrus fruit and I am completely and totally in love with how it smells!