There’s so many brands of soaps and beauty bars on the market today, that the selection is absolutely amazing. There’re products available made specifically for children, men, women and heck, even for pets!
There’s soap that floats, and beauty bars that moisturize, exfoliate, fight acne and more. You have simple names like ivory and fancy sounding names that sound so yummy that you wonder if the company is selling a bath product or a piece of candy.
To help one better understand the difference between what is considered true soap from those products that are called beauty bars, let’s see what the federal government has to say.
Whether a product is a “soap” in the traditional sense, or is really a synthetic detergent, helps determine how the product is regulated. So, let’s take a look at how “soap” is defined in FDA’s regulations;
To meet the definition of soap in FDA’s regulations, a product has to meet three conditions:
What it’s made of: To be regulated as “soap,” the product must be composed mainly of the “alkali salts of fatty acids,” that is, the material you get when you combine fats or oils with an alkali, such as lye.
What ingredients cause its cleaning action: To be regulated as “soap,” those “alkali salts of fatty acids” must be the only material that results in the product’s cleaning action. If the product contains synthetic detergents, it’s a cosmetic, not a soap. You still can use the word “soap” on the label.
How it’s intended to be used: To be regulated as soap, it must be labeled and marketed only for use as soap. If it is intended for purposes such as moisturizing the skin, making the user smell nice, or deodorizing the user’s body, it’s a cosmetic. Or, if the product is intended to treat or prevent disease, such as by killing germs, or treating skin conditions, such as acne or eczema, it’s a drug. You still can use the word “soap” on the label.
As you can see, for a product to be considered true soap, its primary ingredients should consist largely of fatty acids and these fatty acids must be the ONLY material that results in the products cleansing action. Yet if the product contains synthetic detergents, then although it can still be called “soap”, it’s not true soap in the sense that it consists of fatty acids.
Now you may be asking why does it matter rather it’s called soap or beauty bar, and why should it matter if it has synthetic detergents in it or not. So long as it cleans, that’s all that should matter right?
Well sure, if you do not care what you are putting on your skin, so long as you are getting clean, then nah, it does not matter.
But if you are concerned with what you are applying all over your body, one a daily basis, and are concerned with the effects it is having or could have on your skin, you may find this information helpful.
Back in the day before mass production became so popular, many families produced their own soaps in the comfort of their own homes, or the few companies that did produce soap, made products that that consisted primarily of fatty acids.
In a sense, true soap was the most common body cleanser available on the market.
Heinrich Gustav Magnus, a scientist, developed a synthetic chemical back in 1833. This chemical is commonly known as “Isethionic acid” and a common fatty acid esther known as “Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate” is derived from this chemical.
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate is a biodegradable anionic surfactant and is also typically the MAIN ingredient in what is known as “Beauty Bars”. Some common uses of surfactants is that they may act as wetting agents, detergents, emulsifiers, foaming agents and dispersants.
To break it down for you, a guy back in the 1800s created a chemical that helps water spread (wetting agent), washes away dirt and grime (detergent), that mixes well with other ingredients (emulsifiers), that produces bubbles (foaming agents) that breaks down the bodies own natural oils so that they can easily wash away (dispersants).
This chemical is now used as the PRIMARY ingredient in many bath products available on the market today.
Now we go back to true soap. Soaps that consists of primarily fatty acids, already produce all the same effects as this widely used chemical. True soap consists of fat, oils or butters that have gone through what is called the saponification process where one combines fats, oils or butters and sodium hydroxide (another natural product derived from wood ash). Once the saponification process has completed, then one has what is considered true, all natural soap.
One can of course add additional ingredients to make it small better, such as essential oils. And one can add other natural ingredients such as clays and salts to give it extra cleansing capabilities, but so long as it consists primarily of fatty acids, it is still deemed to be true soap.
Now if you are wondering about the dangers of “Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate” then you should take a moment to review the article “Dove’s ‘Real’ Beauty Products Are Filled With Cancer-Causing Chemicals, Fake Dyes and Toxic Fragrance” posted in the “Daily Health Post” back in October 2016.
It provides in depth details about the dangers of bath products that are laden with chemicals, using one of the most popular bath products on the market as it’s example to show just how dangerous these chemically laden bars can be.
Now that I have explained the difference between what is known as true soap, and it’s fake knockoffs, you may be wondering what is the best course of action for you.
In todays time of mass production of chemically laden bath products, and even foods, what is a consumer to do? We no longer have farms where families are self-sufficient and can grow the majority of their own foods or make their own bath products.
One cannot become 100% self-sufficient unless they want to go into complete exile away from the general population (living off the grid) which is what some do, yet many do not truly desire to do nor could afford to do if they wanted to.
One typically does not have much spare time to cook or clean these days, so of course one can’t make homemade soap like they did back in the 1800s.
Does one throw out all of their chemically laden products? Nah, that would be foolish.
But one can do, is take charge of the products they do purchase, and take one step towards living a healthier lifestyle.
No, I am not advocating that one start trying to eat nothing but vegetables while running a 10-mile marathon!
But one can make small changes and start developing positive habits that produce benefits for one’s life, body and family.
Since most people bathe every day, then one is using a lot of cleansers on one’s skin. If you wish to help maintain healthier skin, then using a natural product would seem to be the wisest thing to do.
Let’s cover a few of the various different types of homemade soaps so that you can get a general idea of what to look for if you are considering a switch.
A basic bar of homemade soap that is all natural can be found at GrandMaws.com. Grandmaw’s Old Fashioned Pioneer Soap is made of nothing but saponified lard. This is one of the most common soaps made back in the pioneer day, because lard was easily obtained. This basic bar is great for many things from washing the skin to cleaning one’s home.
This soap has no scent, no added ingredients and produces a stable lather that cleanses well yet can leave the skin feeling a bit too “squeaky clean”, which many women do not like, although men seem to love it.
Women like a smoother, silkier feel, whereas most men just love to feel “clean”.
Several other varieties of homemade soaps can also be found at Lycial.com. These soaps are formulated with various oils and butters to produce thicker, more stable lather without leaving the skin feeling “squeaky clean” but instead, they leave the skin feeling “silky smooth and clean”.
The soaps there also include different fragrances to help leave the skin smelling fragrant and delightful.
Again, these soaps consist primarily of fatty acids, therefore they are considered to be true soap.
And for those who would love to make their own homemade soap, but who have no idea where to start, one can find instructions on making rebatched soap at Rebatching.com as well as affordable rebatch base selections that one can choose from for the creation of their own masterpieces.
One can also find homemade soaps on various online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy.
Regardless of rather you prefer soap or beauty bar or chemical bar, the one thing you can depend on is knowing that you are now a more informed consumer.
Large corporations rely on the assumption that consumers will “buy” products based on what they see (think commercials and printed advertising medias) and not care if they “know” much about the product that is being sold.
And many consumers, do not really care, because they have the mentality “well it must be safe or our government would not allow it to be sold”.
Well guess what, when it comes to things like bath products and cosmetics, there are NOT as many regulations for these types of products as there are for foods we eat or the medications we take! Therefore, our government does not regulate cosmetics and bath products as aggressively as they do for food products and pharmaceuticals.
Most corporations self-regulate themselves simply because they know that one bad product can make or break the company once news spreads, so they are careful to regulate their products where safety is a concern. But they are corporations, and of course, they are also interested in profits, so if one “unnatural” product will save them tens of thousands of dollars, over a natural product that costs a bit more, they have to make a choice.
Do they use the better, more expensive ingredients and pass the cost on to the consumer?
Nah, most corporations won’t do that.
Do they use the more affordable alternative and pass the savings on to the consumer?
Yes, this is the common practice.
This passes the ball into the consumers court, where it’s up to the consumer to determine rather a product is best for her or his needs.
An educated consumer makes wise purchasing decisions based on the facts; not simply based on flashy ads that display perfect smiles on perfect people who live perfect lives. Out here in the real world, we are not perfect, and we should all strive to obtain the very best when it comes to our own personal needs. And true natural soap, no matter whom it’s purchased from, is always the best solution over some chemically laden bar of whatever.