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.
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 ash (just for a laugh) but I won’t be using animal fat!
This cold process method of creating luxury soap is the traditional practice of soap making. I take organic butters like cocoa and shea and oils such as coconut, sunflower, extra virgin olive, sweet almond, organic rosehip and locally grown rapeseed oil and warm them gently to their natural melting points. These oils are then mixed with an alkaline solution. As the mixture is blended it thickens and when it’s cooled a bit I add pure essential oils, clays, honey, herbs, botanical and many other beneficial ingredients (depending on which type of soap I’m making) to produce a final product that 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’. Once the soap has hardened, which can take anything from 1-5 days, I take it out of the moulds and then cut it, stamp it and put it in the drying racks to cure for between 4- 6 weeks, turning it every day to make sure it keeps its shape and until all the alkali has evaporated and the oils have saponified into a glycerine rich soap which is gentle and moisturising.
This doesn’t 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 which means that every soap will lather well but will also leave your skin feeling soft, smooth and moisturised.
I then wrap the soap in himalayan lokta paper which 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.
What do ‘milled and triple milled soaps’ contain?
From the bars of soap you can buy cheaply in packs of 4 in chemists and supermarkets to the expensive ‘triple milled’ luxury soaps you can buy, they have one thing in common. They mainly contain ingredients such as tallow (sodium tallowate – which is 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 ‘eco’ palm oil has dubious certifications and it’s origins cannot be guaranteed 100%.
These 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 which 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 left my skin feeling fabulous, contained organic oils, butters, local ingredients and pure essential oils, and left the rain forests where they should be and my conscience 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 and give them in indefinite lifespan. To turn them into ‘soap’ these mass produced noodles have to be reconstituted by heating them with large amounts of water and a chemical, either propylene glycol or sorbitol (a less expensive alternative to glycerine) in order to melt the noodles. They 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 so the active beneficial bits of these natural ingredients are lessened, which wastes their wonderful properties and negates the reason for using them in the first place.
As the liquid ‘soap’ solution now only contains around a third of actual soap it has limited foaming and cleansing abilities so 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 un-moulded but begin to shrink and curl soon after.
These ‘soaps’ will still clean your skin, they will 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!
If you 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 (containing synthetic fragrance, silicones, colours, parabens and foaming agents). Your conditioner (again full of synthetic fragrance, parabens, slip agents, silicones and foaming boosters). Shower gel (same synthetics as shampoo probably plus fillers).
After showering your skin may feel dry (from the foaming agents in your shower gel drying your skin out) 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.
After subjecting your body to so many skin irritants on a daily basis it’s no wonder many people suffer from skin allergies.
Here at Maldon Soap I am proud to say that my traditional, old fashioned, glycerine rich soaps, shampoos and shower products, while they may not be the prettiest, brightest coloured, glitteriest, most crazily scented on the market, will clean your skin without stripping all the natural oils that your skin actually needs and without destroying the natural flora and bacteria that your skin contains naturally to protect itself.
I’m so pleased that the ingredients I use are sourced locally wherever possible and are organic, cold pressed, ethically sourced and pure. The essential oils I use will benefit your skin, uplift your senses and smell fabulous. The added organic butters that I put in the soap and other products will leave your skin softly clean and smooth and they will do the best they can to care for your skin.
The soap base I use for my other artisan soaps is palm and sls/sles free and I add extra oils and organic butters to the base to make them even more moisturising and kind to your skin.
I never use palm oil, mineral oil, sodium laureth/lauryl sulfate, parabens or other harsh additives as fillers, foamers, stabilisers or preservatives.
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.
Lets allow nature to do it’s best for us as….well…. as nature intended!
Lots of Love