Soap! What’s in mine, what’s in yours?

charcoal and clay facial soap from The Maldon Soap Company

In this blog I wanted to tell you about what I put in my soaps and the difference between them and other soaps you can buy.

The ingredients I use in my soaps, and in all my skincare products, are crucially important to ensure the quality and effectiveness of what I make. If I can’t use the best ingredients, the most natural substances that are the best for your skin, local if possible, organic and ethically sourced too, then there’s no point making any products at all.
It’s hard work making all the products I do so to make something just for the sake of it would just be a waste of my time and your money. Nature works and I want to work with nature to bring you lovely products that benefit you and your families skin.

How do I make my soap?

At Maldon Soap the majority of my soaps are made the old fashioned, traditional way.

Early soap makers simply boiled a solution of wood ash and animal fat. A foamy substance formed at the top of the pot. When cooled, it hardened into soap. Fortunately things have moved on a bit since then! Although at some point I do want to have a go at making soap from wood ashIt’ll bring out my inner caveman! But but I won’t be using animal fat!

This cold process method of creating luxury soap is the traditional practice of soap making. I use organic butters like cocoa and shea. I also use coconut, sunflower, extra virgin olive, sweet almond, organic rosehip and locally grown rapeseed oils.  I warm these gently to their natural melting points.  These oils are then mixed with an alkaline solution. As the mixture is blended it thickens.  When it’s cooled a bit I add the extra bits.  Depending on which type of soap I’m making I add pure essential oils, clays, oats, herbs, botanicals and many other beneficial ingredients.  The final product can be poured into moulds before it cools and hardens.

What happens once it’s made?

The process of turning these butters, oils and alkaline solution into soap is called ‘saponification’. It can take between 1 and 5 days for the soap to set. Once it’s hardened I unmould it, cut it, stamp it and put it in the drying racks to cure.  This can take between 3-8 weeks depending on the oils I’ve used and the weather conditions.  I turn every soap each day to make sure it keeps its shape.  Once the alkali has evaporated and the oils have saponifiedI’m left with a glycerine rich soap which is gentle and moisturising.

The curing process does not make the soaps shrink, it’s just a chemical reaction taking place.  All of my soaps contain extra amounts of skin softening oils and organic butters.  This means that not only will every soap lather well but they will also leave your skin feeling soft, smooth and moisturised.

Once they’ve cured I wrap the soap in himalayan lokta paper.  This is a sustainable, tree free paper and makes the soap look unique and very eye catching. I feel it’s important to wrap the soap rather than leave it open as otherwise it can get damaged and pitted and doesn’t look as special as it deserves to be.

Here’s a video of me unmoulding, cutting, stamping, curing and wrapping my pure lavender soap. 

What do ‘milled and triple milled soaps’ contain?

From bars of soap you can buy cheaply in packs of 4 to expensive ‘triple milled’ luxury soaps, they have one thing in common. They contain ingredients such as tallow (sodium tallowate – rendered animal fat) or palm oil (sodium palmiate or sodium palm kernelate). The production of palm oil is directly linked to the widespread deforestation of Indonesia, Sumatra and Malaysia, resulting in many species of wildlife being pushed to near extinction, especially orangutans. It has even forced indigenous people off their land and deprived them of their heritage and livelihoods. This is why I don’t use palm oil at all. Even the sustainably sourced ‘rspo’ palm oil has dubious certifications and it’s origins cannot be guaranteed 100%.

These triple milled bars last longer because of the milling process and because tallow and palm are solid oils.  They produce a really hard bar of soap that lasts a long time. This is great except for the fact that they’re made from tallow and palm oil!

I don’t know about you but I’d rather use as soap that didn’t last quite as long if it didn’t contain tallow or palm oil.  And if it left my skin feeling fabulous, contained organic oils, butters, local ingredients and pure essential oils even better! The rain forests would stay where they should be and my consciencwould be clear.

What do other commercially produced soaps contain?

Other commercially manufactured ‘handmade’ soaps that you buy from high street handmade soap and cosmetics shops use extruded palm free soap noodles in their soaps.  These noodles have had all the naturally occurring, skin softening glycerine and goodness stripped from them in order to dry them out.  This also gives them an indefinite lifespan.  To turn them into soap these mass produced noodles have to be reconstituted.  They are heated with large amounts of water and a chemical, either propylene glycol or sorbitol (a less expensive alternative to glycerine) to melt the noodles.  These noodles cannot be turned back into soap without chemical intervention.

Unfortunately the nature of this heating process damages the effectiveness of any flower or plant infusions as they are sensitive to heat.  This means that the active beneficial bits of these natural ingredients are lessened.  Sadly this wastes their wonderful properties and negates the reason for using them in the first place aside from as a marketing ploy.

The liquid soap solution now only contains around a third of actual soap.  So it has limited foaming and cleansing abilities.  Sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate (an artificial foaming agent and well known irritant) is added to make it lather. Artificial dyes, colourants and fragrances are then added to the soaps to make it bright, eye catching and distinctively fragrant. All these additives can make this type of soap drying to the skin. They also shrink by up to a third due to the high water content in the finished product. They look great when first made and un-moulded but begin to shrink and curl soon after.

Will it still work?

These soaps will still clean your skin, they still smell pleasant, but your skin – and eventually bloodstream – will absorb the synthetic foamers, chemicals, fragrances and colours. They will also strip your skin of its natural ability to look after itself by destroying the natural moisture barrier of your skin

Caution – additive overload!

Just think about all the artificial ingredients and synthetic products our bodies are subjected to over the course of a day.  It makes sense to try to limit them where you can.

In a typical day you might wake up in the morning and jump in the shower. You’d use your favourite shampoo which contains synthetic fragrance, silicones, colours, parabens and foaming agents. Your conditioner is also full of synthetic fragrance, parabens, slip agents, silicones and foaming boosters. Shower gel contains similar synthetics as shampoo.

After showering your skin may feel dry from the artificial foaming agents in your shower gel.  So you grab your body lotion which contains more synthetic fragrance, colour, alcohol (so it feels like its sunk in but it’s just evaporated on your skin) and parabens. Your face moisturiser may contain yet more synthetics. Even perfume contains mostly synthetically produced fragrances diluted in alcohol.

Once you’ve subjected your body to so many skin irritants on a daily basis, is it any wonder so many people suffer from skin allergies?

In conclusion

Here at Maldon Soap I am proud of my traditional, old fashioned, glycerine rich soaps & shampoos.  They are not be the prettiest, brightest coloured, glitteriest, most crazily scented on the market.  However, they will clean your skin without stripping all the natural oils that your skin actually needs.  They will also protect the natural flora and bacteria that your skin contains naturally to protect itself.

All the ingredients I use are sourced locally wherever possible and are organic, cold pressed, ethically sourced and pure.  I select and blend essential oils to benefit your skin, uplift your senses and smell fabulous.  Adding organic butters will leave your skin soft,  smooth and nourished.

The soap base I use for my other artisan soaps is palm and sls/sles free.  I add extra oils and organic butters to the base to make them even more moisturising and kind to your skin.

I have never and will never use palm oil, mineral oil, sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate, parabens or any other harsh additives.

There is a natural way to do things and that’s what I do.  Nature works so we shouldn’t get in it’s way.

Lots of Love
Sue xx



1 Comment

  1. Lynne Buller

    Love this blog. So informative and something everyone needs to know especially nowadays. X


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