Are All Bar Soaps The Same?
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.
Smithsonian article on why you should stop using antibacterial soap
The Beauty Brains article about different surfactants
What Are Essential Oils?
Before we can get into the benefits of Pre essential oils, let’s duscuss what essential oils are. They are highly-concentrated essences derived from different parts of aromatic plants, including bark, leaves and flowers. Essential oils have been in use for thousands of years, dating as far back as Egyptian times where they were used in mummification. Frankincense and Myrrh are but a few examples.
A number of methods are used to concentrate the plant’s potent compounds into an essential oil. There is the cold-process method, which invlives applying high amounts of pressure to the plant material and collecting it (much like cold pressing olives). Other methods include steam distillation, CO2 extraction, solvent extraction, and others. The first two involve the least amount of manipulation and do not involve the addition of solvents.
Benefits of Using Essential Oils
Today, essential oils are used in the beauty, spa and perfume industries for their aromatherapeutic properties and to impart natural scents to products. They have been found useful and effective as insect repellents and are included in everything from pain relief ointments to cleaning agents to toothpaste. Many herbalists and holistic practitioners find essential oils useful to their clients. Properties of specific essential oils are listed below.
Precautions with Using Essential Oils
While truly natural, pure essential oils are very potent, concentrated oils with hundreds of bio-active compounds. As such, they should never be applied directly to skin in their undiluted form. They are usually combined with a carrier oil before being sold for personal use. It is also important to do a patch test to determine whether or not one is allergic to a particular essential oils. Many oils can cause sun-sensitivity, or are inappropriate to use if one is pregnant or nursing. Finally, check the labels to see what the standardized concentrations are and what carrier oil is used, in order to avoid allergic reactions. If any oil causes redness or irritation, it should be discontinued. Essential oils are also expensive due to the work required to gather huge amounts of plant material for distillation. As a result, synthetic oils have been developed that do not contain the many active ingredients found in pure essential oils. Moreover, pure essential oil composition can vary depending on many factors, so standardized and synthetic versions are created to maintain consistency.
Phytoestrogens vs Xenoestrogens
There’s been some talk about the “estrogenic” activity of plants vs that of synthetic compounds. Many roots, seeds and grains contain what’s known as “phytoestrogenic” compounds – plant-based compounds that serve to reduce the amount of estrogen in the bloodstream. This can result in a reduction in menopausal symptoms in women, for example. “Xenoestrogens”, on the other hand, are synthetic compounds (like BPA) which can increase the body’s store of estrogen, with deleterious effects. If you have any doubts about using an essential oil, consult an herbal practitioner, particularly if you wish to use essential oils on young children.
Favorite Essential Oils
- Eucalyptus Oil – A native of Australia, it contains the compound eucalyptol, a menthol found in rubs, inhalers, liniments, rash creams and mouthwashes.
- Lavender Oil – There are a few varieties, with Lavendula Angustifolia being the most often used in aromatherapy. Its sweet, floral and herbaceous scent has been found to relax, sooth and refresh. It is very highly regarded in the beauty and perfume industries. It is also a wonderful culinary herb that likes sunchine and well-drained soil. It is the main essential oil in our best-selling “Relax” Botanical Handmade Bar Soap with Lavender and Rosemary Oils.
- Lemongrass Oil – Cymbopogon Flexuosus has a light, fresh citrus aroma with earthy undertones. Rejuvenating, stimulating and balancing, it has been shown to improve mental clarity. It is also a popular culinary herb in Thai cuisine. It is the main essential oil in our “Purify” Botanical Bar Soap with Lemongrass Oil.
- Sweet Orange Oil – Citrus Sinensis is naturally cold-pressed from fresh orange peels. It has a rich citrus scent that can be uplifting. It is high in the powerful antioxidant d-limonene and other antioxidants. It is the main essential oil in our “Indulge” Botanical Bar Soap with Orange Oil and Cocoa Powder and our “Awaken” Body Smoother Sugar Scrub.
- Peppermint Oil – Mentha Piperita has a strong, clean, fresh minty aroma. Renowned for soothing digestion, it is popular in toothpaste and breath mints. It is one of the essential oils in our All Purpose Body Balm with Eucalyptus and Peppermint Oils. Avoid using on infants and young children.
- Tea Tree Oil – Melaleuca Alternifolia is indigenous to Australia. It has been shown to contain compounds that can help soothe bites and other irritations, and has a wide range of uses. No medicine cabinet should be without it! It is one of the essential oils in our All Purpose Body Balm with Lavender and Tea Tree Oils and in our popular “Heal” Botanical Bar Soap with Tea Tree and Oatmeal.
Organic Facts website
Essential Oils in the Ancient World, Part 1
Planta Medica paper on essential oils and estrogenic activity
Disclaimer: Statements made here are not intended to diagnose or treat diseases or medical conditions. Please consult a medical practitioner for assistance with these issues.
Bar soap vs liquid soap – the debate rages
Have you ever asked yourself about bar soap vs liquid soap for your regular skincare routine? There are many cleansers on the market today, and it can often be confusing to figure out which product is best for you and your family.
There are a few things to consider, like 1) cost, 2) effectiveness, 3) earth friendliness, and 4) additives. Which is easier to use? Which is kinder to skin? Which ones provide the most skin benefits? The choices may seem endless.
It’s important to know what soap is. “Real” soap is made by combining a fat with an alkali. IN the beginning, soaps were created by using rendered animal fat and wood ash. The basic formula hasn’t changed very much. What has changed are the ingredients used to make today’s soaps. Commercial soap manufacturers use fats derived from rendered cows or pigs to make their soaps. Manufacturers like WEBA would rather not support the factory farms that produce most of the animal fat used today. Instead, we use organic plant oils and butters, which contain many skin-nourishing fatty acids.
Companies also make non-soap cleansers which consist of commercially manufactured surfactants, like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which can be derived using petrolatum, a non-renewable resource. They are high foaming and they clean well, which can sometimes result in skin irritation. It is particularly harsh on hair, especially color-treated hair. There are alternatives to this ingredient which area less harsh available on the market today. You can read more about sulfates by visiting Best Health Magazine’s The truth about sulfates webpage.
Liquid soap, ounce for ounce, is more expensive than bar soap. The primary ingredient in liquid soaps and gels is water. This makes it more wasteful, as it’s hard to measure how much you’re using. This also makes it more likely to grow bacteria and mold. Hence, companies must add preservatives to liquid soaps. They often add other additives, as well, like artificial fragrance and coloring. Some of these ingredients may cause irritation or allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Bar soap does not require a preservative; its high pH provides protection against bacterial growth. However, bar soap manufacturers can use additives, too, so it’s important to read labels to avoid potential allergens or harsh chemicals.
If the jury’s still out on which soap is better, why not give our bar soaps a try? They are plant-based, synthetic and SLS free, and use pure aromatherapy essential oils for a fresh natural scent that is naturally antiseptic. You can see our selection by visiting our bar soaps store page.
Coffee, coffee everywhere!
Ah, the aroma of coffee! If you’re like me, you love the wonderful aroma of fresh coffee beans when ground and made into coffee. It greets me in the morning, as my husband always has a pot of hot coffee ready in the kitchen. Many studies have linked moderate consumption of coffee with health benefits, which you can read about in this article on the health benefits of coffee but the skin can benefit, as well. Did you know that coffee is not just for drinking? The caffeine found in coffee has a skin-tightening effect, and the phenolic compounds provide antioxidants to fight free radicals.
Many beauty companies have jumped on the coffee bandwagon; however, coffee has been used for health and wellness for some time. The jury may still be out on whether or not it combats cellulite and other ailments, but there’s no denying coffee’s appeal. High-quality organic and fair trade shade-grown arabica beans are available, and many women recycle used coffee grounds into scrubs and masks. At WEBA Natural Products, we’ve created a moisturizing cocoa butter-enriched bar soap made to help improve circulation and fight free radicals, while imparting the wonderful just-brewed aroma that we’ve come to love.
Why not treat a fellow coffee lover to the wonderful aroma of coffee with a gift bar made with organic, brewed coffee, coffee, cinnamon, and clove oils, and our signature combination of organic oils and butters? The pure essential oils in our coffee bar soap also provide natural antiseptic properties. If you’re looking for a “wake up call”, then give a coffee bar a try. There are few things more rejuvenating than the scent of coffee in the bath.
You can find our coffee bar soap, as well as our other bar soaps, by clicking on our “Revive” coffee bar soap product page