What is Cold Processed Soap? (and why it's good for your skin) November 7, 2020 10:00
What is cold processed soap and how does it differ from 'normal' soap?
We've been experimenting and developing our own range of cold process soaps for over 18 months now. There has been a lot of research involved to understand how the cold process works, how it differs from other techniques and what a cold pressed soap delivers above and beyond the norm. At a time when we are all washing our hands with extra rigour and awareness, what we are washing them with is something that's worth further investigation. So here goes... my attempt at explaining more about the process, how we go about creating our gardener's hand soaps and what all the fuss is about :)
Appreciating the humble bar of soap.
For me, soap has to be one of the best examples of pure, unadulterated genius. I mean, who would think to mix oil and water to create something so universally necessary as soap?! Well, someone or a lot of people all over the world at different times, did exactly that. Lye - that critical third ingredient to help water and oil emulsify was home made, often from potash. A quick whizz around google revealed that people all over the world, have been soap making for thousands of years. A recipe for soap was found on a clay tablet believed to date back to Ancient Babylon, around 2200BC. That to me is mind boggling but in many ways, making cold process soap hasn't changed much over the years. Which for me is also part of its charm.
Cold Process Soap - What it actually means
Cold process soap is a method of producing soap that requires no extra heat to create the soap - it is therefore 'cold' - with no extra heat being applied to the process. That doesn't mean that things don't get hot - the combination of lye with natural butters and oils create its own heat. A chemical reaction between the ingredients takes place, leaving you, quite magically, with a block of soap. And while soap making can most definitely have a slightly witchy connotation (there is definitely something magical about it for me) making soap is definitely both art and science. It takes time to experiment with levels of ingredients to ensure you get a soap that is not too caustic, not too soft, not too hard… The list of potential problems can feel a little overwhelming. Changing one ingredient can alter everything. But careful record keeping and notes really helps and there are plenty of blogs, books and tools available to help make the process as easy as possible.
To answer that question, you have to understand what you are buying and what you are comparing it with. For me, a key part of this is glycerin. Through the soap making process, glycerin naturally occurs. Glycerin is a natural compound that derives from animal or, in the case of our soaps, vegetable fat. It provides a natural barrier for your skin. Research undertaken in the US in 2008 found that among its benefits, glycerin can accelerate the skin healing process and improve protection against skin irritants. It is a natural product - so can still cause an allergic reaction in some people, but overall it's considered a good, positive thing for a soap to contain. In fact, so much so that commercial soaps often remove the glycerin because it has so much value on its own. So, when you purchase a cold process soap that has been made by a small batch manufacturer like us, you know that the goodness that naturally occurs in soap has stayed put! And is part and parcel of the item you are buying. The other great thing about cold process soap is the lack of additives. Additives in the cold process soap just don't stick through the process.
Does hand made soap work as well as mass manufactured?
I sent some early batches of soap to family and friends and one family member was concerned that the soap might not be as effective as 'normal' soap. I think years of scrubbing hands and feeling the drying effect of commercial soap had convinced her that a soap that leaves your hands soft and nourished might not be as effective at cleaning them. Your hands don't need to feel dry or 'stripped' to be clean. All soap will clean and remove dirt and grime.
What about sensitive skin?
Handmade soap will typically have less ingredients than those soaps requiring a long shelf life. This is good news. The less ingredients in a soap, the less chance you have of an allergic reaction or irritation for sensitive skin, however, it is always worth reading the label or checking with the manufacturer if you know you have a sensitivity towards particular common ingredients.
Phew!@! I've written far more than intended about the humble bar of soap - but as you may tell, I love it!! I'm passionate about the incredible power of plants to look after and protect us in the simplest of ways. So, immerse yourself in the good stuff and if you haven't already, try a handmade soap or two… and let me know how you get on :)