You may have asked yourself this question for a number of reasons. Perhaps you’re a new parent and you’re curious about ingredients. Or perhaps you have sensitive skin and you’d like to know if one soap is better than the other. No matter what the reason, the answer is “No.” Not all bar soaps are the same. Here are a few key points to remember about bar soaps that you may not be aware of:
Not all bar soaps are true “soaps”. If you have fats combined with lye, or sodium hydroxide, then you have a soap. Otherwise, it must be called something else (like Dove’s “Beauty Bar” or other “Syndet” bars”. Syndet is short for Synthetic Detergent.)
Bar soaps vary widely in their ingredients. Some use rendered fat from slaughtered animals as their primary ingredients. Most use palm oil, a plant-based saturated fat found in everything from foods to cosmetics. Still others use synthetic emulsifiers or fragrances which do not have to be revealed to the consumer.
Bar soaps are manufactured using a variety of techniques. Triple-milled soaps are manufactured using a process perfected in France, which involves the use of machinery to mix, compress and shape the bar soap. Other soaps are made by hand using either a cold process or hot process method. Still others are made using “melt and pour” bases which contain alcohols and other ingredients.
While there are many soaps out there claiming to be “age-defying”, etc., chances are that the ingredients do not touch your skin long enough to have any real benefit. The real purpose of bar soap is to clean.
Confusing? It can be. For example, it was once common to see many antibacterial bar soaps on store shelves. What made them antibacterial? It was usually the use of the ingredient Triclosan, which has been much maligned recently for its possible implication in bacterial resistance, pollution of our waterways, and other issues. Essentially, the best way to eliminate pathogens is by washing hands properly with plain soap and water.
Where Can You Start?
You can begin by listing the qualities of bar soap that you are looking for. Do you want a product that is made in the U.S.A.? Do you want it to be free of synthetic perfumes, dyes and preservatives? Do you want it to be free of animal ingredients? Do you want it to be biodegradable/safe for the environment? By knowing which properties you want in a bar soap, you can quickly narrow down the list of products that fit the bill. If you would like to explore our line of botanical bar soaps, please go to the bar soaps page in our webstore.
You may, in fact, end up using different products to cleanse different parts of the body – like an oil or cream cleanser for the face and bar soap for everything else. The choice is yours. Once you understand how bar soaps differ in terms of ingredients and their degree of cleansing, you can make a more educated choice that is in sync with your needs and values as well as your wallet.
If so, you have lots of company. The main question here is how to preserve them. This is even more important if you are thinking about making skincare products using natural ingredients and botanicals. Even DIYers should have a basic knowledge of how to preserve their products if they want them to remain safe and effective over time.
Why Is Preservation Important?
The ingredients themselves may have been contaminated by the supplier during extraction or transport.
You might inadvertently contaminate the product depending on where and how you create it (airborne particles, non-sterile utensils or containers, etc.)
The product may be improperly stored (high heat, improper container, exposure to sunlight, etc.)
The product may contain ingredients that require preservation like botanicals, clays and hydrosols, and there is none (more on this below
The product may have the right pH level for optimal growth (e.g. between 3 and 8)
Which Contaminants Do Preservatives Work On?
There are three main contaminants – bacteria, yeast, and mold. The most common contaminants are:
Staph aureus – bacterium
E. coli – bacterium
Pseudomonas Euruginosa – bacterium
Candida albicans (yeast)
Aspergillus niger (mold)
These organisms have the potential to cause serious problems – even more so if you are making DIY cosmetics which go near the eyes. Regardless of where they go, who wants to spread these little guys on the skin?!
While there are some chemical compounds that protect against all three – like bleach – these are not candidates for skincare products. What usually happens is that manufacturers use a combination of preservatives that, when combined, effectively prevent bacteria, yeast and mold from growing in a formulation. Basically, wherever you have water, you have the potential to have one or more of these contaminants in your finished product. These organisms love water. Therefore, oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsions MUST be preserved. Even if your product is refrigerated, the shelf life will be relatively short. You could get around this by using small containers (1 oz or smaller). However, if your product was already contaminated due to the situations mentioned above, these organisms can multiply in a relatively short period of time. Keep in mind that our skin hosts bacteria, so every time you dip your finger into the product, you are introducing contaminants. Why not be on the safe side?
Which Preservatives Are Effective Against Bacteria, Yeast, and Mold?
This requires that you do a little homework. There are many alternatives available to DIY crafters, and it’s important to review the details of each and to know the amounts that must be used. You may be asking if essential oils can be used as preservatives. The short answer is “No”. Essential oils are very potent plant extracts, and as such are difficult to standardize. They can also cause irritation in higher quantities, which you would probably need in order for them to work as preservatives. Thus, an essential oil combination that is effective against all three contaminants may be too overwhelming to be used in a skincare formulation. You will find a list of common preservatives in a link in the References.
How To Prevent Contamination With DIY Skincare Products
Make your product oil-based or anhydrous – without water. Organisms cannot grow in an oil-based medium. The balms are all-purpose, super-moisturizing formulas containing antioxidants like Vitamin E and Rosemary oil, but no synthetic preservatives. Check out our body balms
Don’t introduce water into your product – whether it is oil-based or not. With oil-based products, once you introduce water, if they are not preserved, then organisms will grow. This is especially true for products like sugar scrubs. Although many are oil-based, if you use them in the shower and get water into them, they have become
Use tubes or airless containers for your products. This is becoming more popular among major skincare retailers for their water-based products, and for good reason. Products in tubes and airless containers are not exposed to dirty fingers or outside contamination. This allows them to last longer with less rancidity.
Adjust the pH of your product. One of the reasons why bar and liquid soap do not need preservatives is that their pH is generally 10 or above – not a friendly growth environment. The same goes for a pH below 4. It’s important to know what pH your final product is so that you can choose the right broad-spectrum preservative.
Use high-sugar, high-salt or glycerin in your products. Most bacteria and yeast need water to grow, and sugar and salt draw water out of product it’s in. Glycerin works similarly, but must be in too high a concentration (70%) to provide a pleasant feel. However, its moisturizing properties make it a popular ingredient in skincare products.
Making your own skincare products can be instructional and fun. If done properly and with the right preservatives, you can craft something that you can be proud of, while ensuring safety. So whatever the reason for DIY skincare – whether it’s to avoid problematic chemicals like parabens, formaldehyde releasing preservatives, or fragrance, make sure that you do your homework and use techniques that will keep your product contaminant-free.
Skin is the body’s largest organ. As such, its integrity is essential to good health. When our skin’s health is impacted by environmental toxins, chemicals, malnutrition and other factors, it shows. Maintaining healthy, beautiful skin takes takes a little work, but it can reap real dividends.
So how can we eat and drink our way to healthy skin? Below is a list of foods that can go a long way towards maintaining supple, healthy skin.
Rich in polyphenols, green tea's antioxidants can help minimize environmental damage. Drink with just a little lemon for maximum effect.
Clean, clear water - it's essential. Not only does it help the kidneys flush out toxins, but by staying hydrated, your skin will feel smoother and dewier than without it.
Organic cold-pressed olive oil is a powerhouse, containing Vitamins A & E, and squalene, which makes it good for nourishing skin and hair. Not to mention the cholesterol-lowering benefits imparted by its polyunsaturated fat content.
Avocados are rich in many Vitamins and minerals including Vitamins A & E. It is also high in monounsaturated fat, a water-soluble fat that makes it great in homemade hair and skin masks.
Tomatoes and Peppers - Rich in Lycopene and Vitamin C, these foods help protect against environmental stress.
Aside from their health benefits, berries are high in antioxidants like Anthocyanins and Vitamin C. They're also shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Nuts and seeds are rich in Vitamins E, protein and essential minerals like selenium, magnesium and zinc. Essential fatty acids like omega-3s help keep skin supple. And they sure taste good!
Citrus fruits offer soluble fiber, Vitamin C - a natural skin brightener with antioxidants to prevent cell damage.
Of course, it goes without saying that buying organic whenever possible will help minimize the accumulation of pesticides in the body. It’s great to know that you really can eat (and drink) your way to better skin.
Niacinamide – also known as Vitamin B3 or Nicotinic Acid – has been touted of late as something of a skincare panacea. There is good reason for this hype, however. We all know the benefits to be derived from getting enough B vitamins in one’s diet. They help to convert the ingredients in food into fuel for our bodies, among other things. So why include Niacinamide in your skincare routine? The ability of many vitamins like Vitamin C to protect our skin from harmful oxidation is not to be minimized. Niacinamide functions in similar fashion. But its greatest benefit lies in its ability to minimize hyperpigmentation. This condition can be brought on by too much sun, acne scars and hormone changes, and it can afflict anyone whether they are light or dark-skinned. Improvement tends to be gradual and without disruption of the skin’s natural acid mantle, making it a good alternative to irritating chemical peels. It is also a more affordable alternative to laser treatments. Niacinamide can also help to balance oil production in persons who are acne-prone by reducing excess sebum production. This can make your pores appear smaller (although actual pore size is genetically determined). Clinical studies have also shown it to minimize the appearance of fine lines. It’s especially good for persons with skin issues due to the overuse of products or chemical peels. By helping to restore the skin’s natural acid mantle, it can help to soothe troubled skin. So what’s not to like about Niacinamide? The ideal concentration in skincare products is 10%. If you’re looking to try a product containing Niacinamide, why not try our Whole Earth Body Actives Age Defying Vitamin C Face Creme. In addition to using a gentler form of Vitamin C, it contains Niacinamide which adds its antioxidant benefits to a light gel-like formula that can be used day and night.