A Comprehensive Set of Handmade Soap Questions and Answers

At Softie Beauty, we have been making handmade soap for a long time, and over that period we compiled a list of great questions related to handmade soap. We understand you care about what you put on your skin, so we created this in-depth guide to answer all your questions. 

You can use this list to find the question you may have and use the link to jump to the answer: 

Table of Contents

  • General Information
  • Pros and Cons
  • Process and Ingredients
  • Usage
  • Transition Period
  • Skin Types and Conditions
  • Characteristics
  • Versatility
  • Environment and Testing
  • General Information

    What is soap?

    Soap is a mixture of oils (or fats), water, and something alkali. The oil or fat can be sourced from either vegan or animal sources. Since our soaps are vegan, we tend to use fats like olive oil, shea butter, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, and castor oil.

    We use distilled water so there are no traces of chlorine, fluoride, or other minerals to interfere with the recipe. The alkali component is often lye, but sometimes another alkali source like soda ash can be used.

    When mixed, the oils, lye, and water chemically react, neutralizing the lye to produce a salt. This process is called saponification and it has been around in this format for almost 2,300 years. The salt produced in this reaction is the solid soap bar.

    The process of making soap creates molecules that have both a hydrophilic (water-loving) head and a lipophilic (fat-loving) head.  These heads wedge themselves into germs, viruses, and other messy things you may have on your hands and the soap rips them apart.

    Any germs that may be left over are trapped in tiny soap bubbles called micelles, which are washed away when you rinse your hands.

     

    How did soap come to be?

    Natural soap is thought to have originated as a cooking by-product from our ancient ancestors. Hunted game cooked over a fire most likely dripped fat over ashes and the reaction created a slippery substance that was amazing at cleaning dirt off the skin.

    We have written recipes for primitive natural soap that date back nearly 5,000 years. There are variations we have found in many great civilizations, including but not limited to, Ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and Egypt.

    Interestingly, modern soap-makers use similar techniques, with the addition of purer oil ingredients and alkali sources. Handmade soap-makers also use essential oil blends and better equipment to ensure the batch of soap is thoroughly mixed and smells great.

     

    Why should I use handmade soap over mass-produced soap?

    Most mass-produced soap bars are not real soap. If you look at the bar, you will notice nothing on the label suggests it's a soap. Drugstore "soap" bars often use commercial-grade detergents cut with other lathering additives to mimic soap.

    This allows most store-bought bars to be very cheap to manufacture, however it means you are stripping your skin's protection barriers with powerful ingredients that were not originally meant for usage on sensitive skin.

    The ideal pH of healthy skin usually ranges between 4 to 5 and the products you apply topically should be close to that value. It is easier to manage a pH of 5 in liquid soap, but natural handmade soaps are usually in that range without much intervention if you are using traditional recipes.

    In contrast, most mass-produced "soaps" tend to be closer to a pH of 9. This is fairly basic on the pH scale and not suitable for every day use.

    Handmade soap bars are made from scratch by either hot-process or cold-process. More care and time is put into a natural soap made by a small business or creator. The final soap bar from a handmade soap-maker is closer to real soap than anything you may buy from the drugstore.

    Essential oils and colourants are mindfully chosen when the soap is handmade. Essential oils are often used to make the soap bars smell great, and they do not contain any harsh chemicals that can dry out and irritate your sensitive skin.

    Instead, natural soap is packed with nourishing ingredients like Vitamin E and hydrating fats like coconut oil and shea butter that heal and protect your skin.

     

    What are the advantages of handmade soap?

    Handmade soap recipes are designed to be environmentally friendly. They are not made with synthetic and chemical detergents. Most commercial "soaps" can include parabens, phthalates, triclosan, phosphorus, and petrochemicals and are often not vegan.

    Some advantages of handmade soap bars are as follows:

    1. Handmade soap is better for sensitive skin.

    2. The recipes are easy to substitute animal fats for vegan alternatives.

    3. They're easier on the waterways and break down without disrupting our septic systems.

    4. They're not tested on animals.

    5. Often scented with essential oil blends and natural fragrance oils that are skin-safe, even at stronger concentrations.

    6. Provide a naturally occurring soap lather.

    7. Coloured with natural and safe colouring.

    8. Don't contain any chemical hardeners, so it doesn't strip your natural oils.

    9. Natural handmade soaps are made with love and are created artfully with care.

    10. You feel good about supporting a small or local business when you shop handmade.

     

    What is the difference between liquid soap and bar soap?

    Handmade soap can be found in both bar and liquid varieties. While Softie Beauty does not carry liquid handmade soap, you can easily find them from other artisan makers.

    Traditional cold-process soap-making utilizes sodium hydroxide as the lye component and liquid soap-making uses potassium hydroxide (another variation of lye called potash). Once the lye is neutralized by the oils, it leaves behind either hardened soap bars or a batch of liquid soap.

    Soap bars and liquid soaps are equally effective in reducing the presence of bacteria and pathogens. Soap bars do not transfer bacteria as bacteria cannot grow on a bar of soap. Soap bars generally last longer than liquid soaps and are also more cost-efficient.

     

    What should you look for in handmade soap?

    You want to look for simple ingredients like sweet almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter. You can also find natural additives that have additional benefits like activated charcoal, clay, oatmeal, coffee, or an essential oil.

    In most handmade soaps, including the ones we make and sell, the oils are listed with their saponified name. This is how you know the lye has been neutralized in the soap-making process.

    This is what that looks like in our Alpine Cheer Artisanal Soap:

    Alpine Cheer Artisanal Soap Ingredients

    The format "Sodium -ate" is how the saponified form of the oil is identified. For example, "Sodium Cocoate" is the name of saponified coconut oil and "Sodium Almondate" is the name of saponified sweet almond oil.

    Essential oils are identified by their botanical name because all essential oils are processed directly from natural sources, while "Parfum" indicates a fragrance oil blend.

    For example, this soap uses Abies Sibirica (Fir Needle) Oil, which is the botanical name for Siberian fir needle essential oil. Parfum denotes the use of a fragrance oil, in this case a French vanilla fragrance.

    An essential oil can add additional skin-loving benefits to a soap bar while a fragrance oil blend can give the natural soap a fun, sweet fragrance like honey ginger or chocolate orange.

    Softie Beauty uses only skin-safe and soap-safe colourants like earth micas and oxides. These colourants are safe and nonreactive. In our case, we use micas to give our coloured soap a beautiful look and add some joy and character to the art of soap-making.

    Natural additives are also characteristic of handmade soap bars. Sodium lactate is naturally occurring in your body and acts as a bar hardener and humectant. Charcoal powder can add purifying benefits to the soap bars and add some mild exfoliation.

    As a handmade soap-maker, we try to simplify the ingredients as much as possible while following local laws and guidelines to keep you feeling beautiful in your bath and shower.

    If you ever have questions about the ingredients in any soap or have questions about any recipe, please do not hesitate to contact us.

     

    What is the best soap for me?

    We understand everyone's needs are different. At Softie Beauty, we make natural soap accessible to anyone and everyone. Finding soap for sensitive skin at the drugstore is difficult, so that is where our recipes excel.

    We started by making soap for ourselves and our own skin needs. We also started to make extra luxurious soap bars for babies and their gentle skin.

    If you have dry patches, look for soaps with shea butter, coconut oil, and hempseed oil. Colloidal oatmeal is amazing for rebuilding your moisture barrier so those soaps are perfect for stubbornly dry areas.

    If you have excess oil you want to reduce, try soap bars with grapeseed oil in the recipe. Activated charcoal also adds more than just colouring. It helps absorb excess oil and clear out clogged pores.

    If you are super sensitive to most commercial products, try our Castile Purely Simple Soap. It is made with no fragrance and is gentle enough to be used on babies.

     

    How are Softie Beauty soap bars different from others?

    We use natural and locally sourced ingredients when possible. Coming from an engineering background, we do extensive research on all of our ingredients to ensure they are sourced humanely, sustainably, and responsibly.

    Softie Beauty uses a technique called "superfatting" where we add additional oils that are closer to the pH of your skin to our recipes. This creates a bar of soap that has more fat remaining in the bar after the saponification reaction, creating a more moisturizing, luxurious, and bubbly bar of soap.

    We also cure our soaps for longer than four to six weeks. This allows the handmade soap bar to effectively evaporate all its water and yield a harder bar of soap. Most handmade soap bars are exceptionally soft and wash away quickly, so our longer cure time extends the life of your soap.

    We test handmade soap bars in the shower, bath, and at hand wash stations. We test the products on ourselves to ensure the soap is ready and has the properties we promise.

    These methods make Softie Beauty's soap bars stand out as thoughtfully made pieces of art. Our recipes are carefully formulated for everyday use and for even the most sensitive skin.

     

    Pros and Cons

    Is handmade soap good for sensitive skin?

    Yes! Handmade soaps are made with superior methods and quality ingredients. At Softie Beauty, we design our soaps and their ingredients to be safe enough for babies and mothers.

    You can find a variety of ingredients that can help with any skin concern. For instance, in some soaps we use:

    • Kaolin Clay  - Absorbs excess oils and sebum which irritate oily skin types.

    • Shea Butter  - Contains elements that reduce swelling of the skin, while being an amazing source of fatty acids.

    • Spirulina Powder  - Helps regenerate damaged skin cells and soothes inflammation. Rich in Vitamin E and contains antioxidants.

    • Colloidal Oatmeal and Sodium Lactate  - Act as humectants, which repair your moisture barrier. (The FDA officially recognized colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant!)

    • Coconut Oil  - This oil has amazing cleansing abilities in natural soap and gives our soaps their characteristic "squeaky clean" feel.

     

    Is soap good for your hair?

    Yes! Handmade soap bars are great for both body and hair. Most mass-produced shampoo contains harsh detergents used in commercial and industrial applications.

    Commercial shampoos with harmful sulfates have been linked to hair loss and natural oil stripping, which means your scalp will overcompensate by making your hair oilier.

    Handmade soap is gentle and removes just the dirt, sweat, and excess oil in your hair without being too aggressive. Soap will provide an amazing lather, it will help thicken your hair and provide it with some much needed love and conditioning too.

     

    Is handmade soap better for your skin?

    Yes! Handmade soap is often made with gentle ingredients that are better formulated for your skin.

    The lack of synthetic detergents ensures the soap only removes dirt, grime, and excess oil on your body while replenishing your moisture barrier.

     

    Should I be using soap in my hair?

    Yes! Using soap in your hair is a great alternative to using shampoo. Shampoo can be harsh and can strip your hair of its natural oil, leaving it dry and brittle. Handmade soap is gentle and will clean your hair without stripping it of its natural oils.

    In our experience, the fragrances and detergents used in commercial shampoo are quite strong and can cause issues when used over a long period.

     

    What are some disadvantages of mass-produced commercial bar soap?

    First thing, most mass-produced soaps aren't even soaps. They are solid synthetic detergents instead of a true soap bar. They have artificial lathering agents that mimic a soap's bubbles so you're fooled into thinking it's a natural soap.

    Secondly, these lathering agents like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) strip away your skin's moisture and they agitate your pores, making them dry and tight.

    Handmade soap bars do not contain SLS, so they will not strip your skin of its natural oils. Most handmade soap bars have extra fats that help rebuild and moisturize your body.

     

    Can soap cause buildup in pores or leave a waxy residue?

    No, handmade soap will not cause buildup in pores or leave a waxy residue. Handmade soap can help remove buildup from your pores, especially with certain ingredients like activated charcoal.

    The only time you may experience a waxy residue is if you are using an old bar of store-bought mass-produced soap that has not been used in a very long time. However, most of our soaps are formulated to be used on your face, so we put a lot of emphasis on making sure it is the best for your skin.

     

    Why is handmade soap more expensive than store-bought soap?

    Handmade soap is more expensive than store-bought because it is made with better ingredients that are gentle and nourishing for your skin. Since the bars are also hand-poured, the time and energy needed to make a single batch of soap is vastly more per bar than any factory-made bar.

    Mass-produced soaps also don't need to be cured for 4 to 6 weeks as handmade soaps do. Soap bars from the store are molded, cut, dried, and packaged much quicker than cold-process soaps that need to cure.

     

    Process and Ingredients

    What is the soap-making process?

    There are several methods to make soap, and each method has its benefits. There is cold-process, hot-process, and a melt-and-pour process.

    We make our soaps using cold-process methods where no external heat is added to the mixture. We mix the lye, water, and oils together to make the soap batter and, depending on the batch, add an essential oil blend and colorants and pour it into the mold. We then unmold and cut the soap once hardened and let the soap bars cure for 4 to 6 weeks before use.

    Hot-process soap uses an external heat source to force the evaporation of water and accelerate the curing process. The soap bars can be cut and used the next day.

    Melt-and-pour soap is soap that has already saponified that can be cut into pieces, measured, melted and poured into a mold. The resulting bars are left to harden and can then be used immediately.

     

    What is in soap?

    Our handmade soap has its ingredients listed on each of our products. Our traditional recipe is a mixture of olive oil, coconut oil, sustainably sourced palm oil, castor oil, and sweet almond oil. Depending on the desired final soap texture, some recipes include shea butter, hempseed oil, or grapeseed oil.

     

    What is the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils?

    Essential oils are oils that are extracted and distilled directly from plants. They have a wide range of topical benefits and each essential oil has its unique scent.

    Fragrance oils are often essential oil and synthetic oil blends that mimic the smells of natural plants. They do not have the same benefits as pure essential oils, but they can be used to create any desired scent.

    For example, our Chocolate Orange Artisanal Soap is made with sweet tangerine and chocolate fragrance oils.

    Many people think fragrance oils are bad for you while essential oils are good, however both oil types have to be skin safe to be used in soaps and skincare products.

     

    Are Softie Beauty products sulfate and paraben free?

    Yes, all of our products are sulfate and paraben free.

     

    Usage

    How do you use handmade bar soap?

    To use handmade bar soap, start by wetting the bar and lathering it up in your hands. Apply the lather to your hands, body or face and wash as usual. Rinse off thoroughly and enjoy the moisturizing benefits of natural soap.

    Some people prefer to use a loofah, washcloth, or another exfoliating tool along with their soap to help remove dead skin cells and pollutants in their pores and achieve softer, glowing skin.

    If you choose to do this, simply wet your loofah and lather up the soap before scrubbing gently all over your body. If this is your preferred method, you can try our Natural Hemp Soap Baggies to give your skin a gentle exfoliation while you bathe.

    The soap baggie can also be used as a soap saver. When your soaps are running thin, you can throw them in the baggie and continue using it without dealing with a soap that is falling apart. Once used, you can hang the baggie up to dry in your bath for next time.

     

    How do I store handmade soap?

    Handmade soap should be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. This will help extend the life of your soap.

    If storing your unused soap in a humid environment, we recommend keeping it in an airtight container to prevent it from getting soft or mushy.

    Handmade soaps are very resilient, and a lot of natural soaps get better over time as they cure. Our soap is shipped in recyclable packaging to help protect them from moisture and damage.

     

    How do I keep my soap dry?

    Keeping your handmade soap dry is the key to extending the life of the bar. Most soaps get soft and disintegrate and you’ll get significantly less soap use.

    We don't recommend leaving your soap in an area that does not have good drainage. Try elevating it on a soap dish to reduce the surface area in contact with water when not in use.

    Our favourite way is to use a soap baggie in the bath or shower. You can use your soap and then just hang it up to dry.

     

    Can I use soap as a body wash?

    Absolutely! Our handmade soap is formulated to be used on your hands, body and face.

     

    Does handmade soap expire?

    Yes, soap bars can expire. Most formulations of handmade and natural soaps can last anywhere from one to two years after curing. However, natural soap can expire sooner if not stored properly.

    While that is a consensus, don't fret if your soaps have been sitting for longer. As long as your soap lathers it is still good to use!

    A commercial formulation of bar soap can last upwards of 10 years due to the number of preservatives used. For this reason alone, it’s better if your soap has a shelf life so you know the ingredients are natural.

     

    How do I know when my soap has expired?

    Some indication that your soap may have expired is a dry bar that is cracking and discoloring. Additionally, if there are signs of mould or there is a clear rancid smell, you should replace your soap bar.

     

    How long does a bar of handmade soap last in the shower?

    Our Artisanal Soaps often last a month of regular use in the shower or 2 to 3 months in a soap dish for use on the hands. Our Charcoal Facial Soap Mini can last a month of nightly use on the face.

    It depends on the way you use the soap and how you store it in your bath or shower. All of these lifespans are based on use with a Natural Hemp Soap Baggie or a well-drained Bamboo Soap Dish.

     

    Is handmade soap antibacterial?

    Yes! Handmade soap is naturally antibacterial and can protect you against almost all pathogens and bacteria.

    Commercial antibacterial soaps will use ingredients like triclosan to offer their antibacterial properties. Feel free to read the FDA article to learn more about triclosan and why you should opt for handmade soap instead.

     

    Can I shave with soap?

    Yes! To shave with a soap bar, lather the soap up with warm water on the area you are going to shave and proceed with your normal shaving method.

    Our Shaving Soap Mini soap recipe includes kaolin clay to help condition the hair and allow for a smoother glide. The soap lather produced is foamier than our typical recipe and the kaolin clay prevents the soap from rinsing away before you're done shaving.

     

    Should I use my soap daily?

    Yes, our soaps are moisturizing and formulated for safe everyday use.

     

    Transition Period

    Will I notice a change as I switch from liquid hand soap to a handmade soap bar?

    Yes, you will notice a change! Handmade soap is much more gentle than traditional liquid hand soap. You may find that your hands feels softer, less dry, and overall healthier.

     

    Will handmade soap bars moisturize my skin during winter months?

    Handmade bar soap is quite beneficial for your skin during winter months. The natural oils and ingredients in handmade soap can help to lock in moisture and protect your skin from the cold, dry air.

    We recommend using a soap that contains moisturizing natural ingredients like cocoa butter or shea butter for extra hydration.

     

    What differences will I notice when I switch from mass-produced soaps to handmade soaps?

    When you switch to handmade soap, you will notice that your skin feels softer, less dry, and stronger.

    Handmade soap is also much gentler than traditional liquid hand soap. You may find that your beautiful skin will be less irritated and overall happier!

     

    Skin Types and Conditions

    My skin is very sensitive, how can I choose the right soap for my skin type?

    If you have extremely sensitive skin, we recommend using a soap that is unscented or that contains only botanical ingredients like shea butter, turmeric, essential oils, activated charcoal, coconut oil, or colloidal oatmeal.

    We also recommend our Castile Purely Simple Soap if you are not sure which Purely Simple Soap is best for you or if you know for sure you can only handle unscented and uncoloured soaps.

     

    Does soap work well with thin hair?

    Yes! Handmade soap can be very beneficial for thin hair. The natural oils in handmade soap can help to condition and protect your hair from damage. Personally, we use soap instead of shampoo for our hair and have noticed significant benefits.

    Thin hair can often look oilier due to a drying scalp and over-production of sebum. Using superfatted soaps on your hair means the buildup on our scalp is washed away, but the oils in the soap re-balance your sebum so your scalp doesn’t dry out.

     

    Will using handmade soap dry out my skin?

    Not at all. Our soap is formulated specifically to be more moisturizing than traditional commercial soap. Our recipes are created so all skin types benefit from the extra hydrating ingredients.

     

    Can soap reduce eczema and dry patches?

    We have seen significant improvements in our friends and family who have issues with dryness and eczema. The effects of these dryness conditions can be painful and irritating so we make sure all our oils are gentle, soothing, and moisturizing.

    We recommend choosing products with hydrating humectants and clays. For example, kaolin clay, shea butter, sodium lactate, and honey. Colloidal oatmeal is also proven to be one of the best ingredients to combat the itchy effects of eczema, so we have oatmeal in some of our soaps and all of our bath salts.

     

    Where on my body can I use handmade soaps?

    All of our soaps can be used on the hands, face, and body. Some of our soap bars have added exfoliants like coffee grounds or poppy seeds, so these soap bars shouldn’t be rubbed directly on the face but if they’re lathered up in your hands, the soap is still face safe.

    Using handmade soap bars on your face is a great way to combat excess oil and acne breakouts. Keeping your sensitive face clean with a real soap bar can do wonders for problematic skin.

    Make sure to keep the soap out of sensitive areas like the eyes, mouth, or private areas as soaps are for external use only. If the soap gets in your eyes, rinse thoroughly with water.

     

    I am allergic to "X", can I still use soap made by Softie Beauty?

    We recommend testing the soap on a small part of your body if you are concerned about allergies. If you notice any redness or other symptoms, we recommend you stop using the soap and contact your healthcare provider to get more details regarding your allergy.

    Our labels list all the cosmetic names for all our ingredients, so if you know your allergy or if you're trying to identify a sensitivity, check the label for more information.

     

    How can I make sure I am not allergic to an ingredient in a handmade soap?

    Patch-testing is a common method people use with skincare to ensure they are not allergic to any of the ingredients.

    We recommend the same for our handmade products. Apply a small amount of the product to an area on your inner arm or leg and inspect it for any redness and tenderness. If you notice any irritation or redness, discontinue use of the product.

     

    Characteristics

    How does handmade soap lather compare to mass-produced soaps?

    The lather from our handmade soap is richer and more luxurious than what you would get from a mass-produced soap. This is because we use higher-quality ingredients and take more care in crafting our soap.

    Softie Beauty also only produces pure natural soap and does not add any artificial lathering agents like a store-bought bar.

     

    If I switch to bar soap, will I need to wash my hands more often?

    No, you will not need to wash your hands more often. Bar soap is just as effective as liquid soap. However, you will notice a noticeable, positive impact on the quality of your skin.

     

    What is the shelf life of an unused handmade soap bar?

    Approximately 2 to 4 years if it is unused, wrapped, and stored properly.

     

    How long does Softie Beauty cure cold-process soap batches?

    At Softie Beauty, we cure our cold-process soaps for over the typical 4 to 6 weeks for all of our soaps. Our Castile Purely Simple Soaps can be cured for longer to make the 100% olive oil soap harden as much as possible.

     

    Is a soap that is cured for longer better for my skin?

    Curing makes the soap more gentle and makes the bar harder and easier to use. So, a soap that is cured for longer will be better for your skin.

    Some of our soaps, like our Castile Purely Simple Soaps, cure for more than 4 to 6 weeks because they’re made with only a liquid oil and it requires more time to evaporate extra water and harden properly.

     

    Versatility

    Can you use handmade soap on babies and kids?

    Yes! All of our soaps are designed to be used on babies and kids. If you are concerned about any sensitivity to fragrances or colouring, please look into our Castile Purely Simple Soaps as they are unscented and uncoloured.

     

    Why should I travel with bar soap?

    Bar soap can be used instead of liquid shampoo and liquid soap. Therefore, if you are flying with only a carry-on, you can bring your soap bar on the airplane!

    As well, most hotels and gift shops do not have nourishing soap bars available so traveling with your own natural handmade soap is the best for your skin.

     

    Environment and Testing

    How is the soap at Softie Beauty formulated?

    The soap is formulated with the highest quality ingredients. We try to use simple ingredients like olive oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, coconut oil, and shea butter.

    We are constantly researching and developing new formulations with ingredients like activated charcoal, clay, oatmeal, coffee, and essential oils that can have additional benefits for your skin.

     

    Are handmade soaps better for the environment?

    Yes! We believe we are custodians of our planet, and we do our best to reduce our carbon footprint and environmental impact.

    Our soaps are made from natural ingredients that are locally sourced when possible and are biodegradable. Small creators who are not interested in making the cheapest product to sell for the highest profit also have the choice to make a soap bar from the most responsibly sourced ingredients.

     

    Are handmade soap bars septic safe?

    Yes, our handmade soap bars are biodegradable and septic safe.

     

    How is Softie Beauty reducing its impact on the environment?

    We try to limit the number of long-distance shipments we need to make by working with local suppliers. Additionally, we invest recyclable packaging.

    Softie Beauty also uses sustainably sourced palm oil and plants a tree for every palm oil product sold. To find out more about our tree planting, read more here.

     

    Is Softie Beauty’s soap tested on animals?

    We never test our products on animals or use ingredients that were tested on animals.

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