Why does soap have a bad rap? De bunking Soap.

This is a blog that I have been wanting to write for a very long time. Many of my students and patients ask me “Is SOAP really that bad for my Skin?” I always answer by sitting on the fence and say that there are a lot of bad ones on the market and there are some very good ones too that are great for different skin types and condition. There are so many articles and blogs on why this little bar of soap is bad for your skin. They mainly concentrate on the two key problems, pointing out the high pH level and the drying affect that most mass produced cleansing-bars have but they never talk about the non mass produced bars and how they differ. In this blog I will de-mystify the soap debate and show you that there is some good cleansing bars on the market that can be used as your daily cleanser for all skin types especially sensitive and acne prone skin.

When did we start to use Soap (Very brief history)?

Humans have been using soap for nearly 5000 years to clean items. An interesting fact that during an excavation of ancient Babylon is revealed that the Babylonians were making soap around 2800 B.C. Babylonians were the first ones to master the art of soap making. In the ancient times soap was made from animal fats and wood ashes. Today, it is produced from vegetable or animal fats and alkali/lye. Throughout the ages soap was used for cleaning wool and cotton, used in textile manufacture and was medically used for treatment of skin diseases. In the mid-nineteenth century, milder soaps for bathing became a separate commodity from laundry and commercial soap. Liquid hand soaps were invented in1970.

Why does Soap have a bad name?

Soap has a high pH value (8 to 10) thus making it alkaline. Your skin makes a lightly acidic pH 4.5 – 5.5 and is known as the Acid Mantle to help protect the skin from environmental nasties like bacteria. Because it is an acidic level, the most effective way to clean the skin of excess oils, dirt and germs, is by using an alkaline substance to attract the oil, dirt and germs from the skin and then be flushed away by water. It has been proven that the skin once the soap has been washed away that it immediately starts re-balancing the skin back to it’s natural pH Level. The re-balance normally takes about 2-3 hours if no other product like Toner/spritzers and Moisteners are used. These products are used to help speed up the process of re-balancing the skin acid mantle.

There are two simple reasons why soap has a bad name. The first is Excess Alkali, poorly quality and mass manufactured bar soaps usually have Free Alkali remaining in them. Free alkali means there has not been enough fats/oils add to convert into soap.  This free alkali is what makes them harsh and drying. Manufacturers are allowing this to happen as it increase the shelf life of the soap and also increases lathering properties. The second reason is because large manufacturers harvest glycerin from the soap for use in their more profitable lotions and creams. Glycerin is a humectant, meaning it attracts moisture to your skin. By removing the glycerin from the soap it will make using this type of soap more drying on the skin than using a normal cleanser or a non soap synthetic detergent bar like Dove.

Is there such a thing as a good soap?

Yes. Handmade soap. Traditional hand crafted soaps is technically a glycerin soap and it differs greatly from mass produced high alkali low glycern soap. During the handmade soap process method the oil is used to consume the all the alkali, and the valuable glycerin is not harvested out. They will also add extra oil to ensure that there is excess fat molecules at the end maturation as  this creates what is known as a supperfatted soap which is more skin-friendly soap and also reduces the pH of the soap. Handmade soaps are generally stored to mature between 4 to 8 weeks which enables the soap has full completed its chemical transformation from oil and lye to Soap, Glycerin and Oil. By taking the time to allow the soap transformation it ensure that there is no harmful alkali remaining to damage and dry out the skin.

Read: Read: How to cleanse your skin correctly

Ingredient list for Soap

By law the FDA does not require ingredient labeling for soap. That’s right! Nothing. But I would want to know that they have used in the soap especially if I have special allergies or sensitive skin. The reason is that the original ingredients is chemically transformed. Most hand made soaps will list the starting ingredients and not the transformed ingredients.

I have 2 favorite soap bases.

  1. Goat milk soap is wonderful for all skin types but great for people with dry or sensitive skin, or conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
  2. For my lactic intolerant and vegan readers, I suggest olive oil and coconut combination soap. It is not as mild as the goats milk but still gentle and beautiful.

Make sure you are buying true homemade/cottage industry soap. Look around your local farmers, gift markets and online. Many soap makers will happy to tell you the ingredients the super-fat % and other ingredients. Remember that you are washing this off your skin so do not buy a soap that boasts its anti-aging or other fantastic properties that will only do wonders for you skin if they are a leave on product like toner, serum, moisturizer. Plus remember if you skin becomes very dry or have a reaction to the soap, please stop use as soon as possible.

Next blog – Cleansers are for cleaning and not for feeding.

Coming Soon – Zen de Jour beauty bar


QUESTION ABOUT YOUR SKIN?  Make an Appointment Today or send me an email to debra@debraspence.com

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Debra Spence is a Qualified Medical Aesthetician, Cosmetic Scientist, Lecture and Author. Owned of an Australian National Award Winning Medi Spa. Now is concerntrating on Education of Skin and Skincare plus provideing advance treatments to her private patients. Plus developing Zen Dejour a Result Based Cosmeceutical Skincare Range and Dermal Solution Private Lable Professional Skincare.

QUESTION ABOUT YOUR SKIN? Make an Appointment Today or send me an email to debra@debraspence.com

PERMISSION TO REPRINT: You may use this article in your print, blog, magazine or electronic newsletter. But in order to do so, you must include the following paragraph “Information courtesy from Debra Spence – Answering your skin problems with Science and Nature. Debra Spence is a Cosmetic Chemist and Skin Specialist who provides skincare and treatment tips, product recommendations and reviews to professionals and patients. www.debraspence.com” Content Copyright © 2017, Debra Spence

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