What is Natural Soap?

A big HELLO to all of you who are reading my blog! You are probably one of the first who read my article because I’d never thought I would ever start writing a blog.

So, what inspired me to kick off my journey of writing blogs?

Oh well, long story…. (NOT XD) So here it is:

I have been making soap, lip balm, oil blend for more than a year and decided to sell them half a year ago. Thanks to the amazing power of social media, a lot of my friends got to know about my natural skin care business. =) A lot of them even wrote to me personally and purchased my products to show their support. The process has always been fun, yet challenging. I do not dare to say I am an expert in any field yet, but I did a lot of readings and research on natural skin care over the past 2 years. From a total newbie to a self-taught skin care formulator, I have a lot of stories to share with all my friends and customers, which led me to the decision to write a blog.

Let me introduce myself. (At least after reading this article, you know who the hell is writing this HAHA) My name is Natalie Lo, I am from Sabah, Malaysia. Sabah is part of the beautiful Borneo Island in South East Asia. I speak multi-languages as most people do in Malaysia. My education background is marketing and management in Hong Kong. (Yup, I did not learn all the skin care in school; I learned all of them from online resources, of course through million times of trials and errors too). I am currently based in my hometown – Kota Kinabalu, one of the most important cities in North Borneo. So that is a little bit information about me! I promise you will find out more about me and my passion through my articles in future. =)

What is a Natural Soap?

For my first blog article, I would like to talk about natural soap. After all, ‘natural soap’ is one of the topics that I have spent much time researching on. Natural soaps are also the main product of my skin care business. So, what is a natural soap??

Well, let’s start from the definition of a soap bar. The dictionary tells us soap is a substance used for washing and cleansing purpose, made by treating oils and/or fats with alkali, usually sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.

If you are more of a visual person, the definition of soap can be explained in this formula:

Fats/Oils + Alkali Solution = Soap + Glycerin

Wait a moment, what is glycerin? Glycerin is present in all natural oil and fat. It has the ability to moisturize skin. When the fat/oil reacts with alkali, soap will be formed and glycerin is produced. In fact, glycerin is the ‘secret weapon’ that makes a natural soap so moisturizing.

Well, if you find commercial soap drying and unpleasant, it is likely because they do not contain or contain very little glycerin. Glycerin is usually sold separately by commercial soap manufacturer due to its higher market value. Natural soap's producer, on the other hand, does not remove any glycerin in the soaps. The main reasons that commercial soap is discouraged will be explained in my next article: 3 Reasons to Switch to Natural Soap from Commercial Soap

What does natural actually mean?

Now that we understand how soap is made and the function of glycerin in a soap, but what make it natural or NOT? First of all, remember that ‘natural’ does not have a legal definition. Different people or organizations can have different interpretations. In Native Body & Skin, we define natural as using plant-derived ingredients (essential oil, plant oil, herbs etc.) and animal-derived ingredients (beeswax, honey, milk etc.) instead of synthetic lab-manufactured alternatives such as color dye, fragrance oil and mineral oil.

Natural soaps, in Native Body & Skin’s definition, are made of plant oils, scented with only essential oil without using artificial coloring.

However, remember that the word “natural” is not regulated in cosmetic industry. Everyone can claim their products are natural even though they may contain fragrances, coloring, mineral oil and synthetic preservatives. Therefore, it is important to read ingredient label.

Three Ways to Identify a Natural Soap

The general rules of thumb of identifying a natural soap from a less-so one are:

  1. Smell: Soap scented with fragrance oil has a stronger and longer lasting smell that will linger on your skin after shower. Essential oil has a more subtle smell and does not stay on your skin for the whole day due to its volatility characteristic.

  2. Color: An uncolored soap has a creamy to yellowish color. Soap can be naturally colored by coffee, honey, clay, and herbs extract. By going completely natural, a soap bar will never get the vibrant, bold hues that artificial colorants can offer. If you see a bar of soap with extremely vibrant and vivid color, more than often it is dyed using artificial colorants.

  3. Ingredient list: Look at the first five of them. If they contain words such as sodium cocoate*, sodium palmate*, coconut oil, palm oil or any kind of plant oil, water/aqua, sodium hydroxide, you know that you are getting a real soap. If the first five ingredients contain words such as Sodium Lauroyl/ Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), PEG-ingredient, you know that you are getting nothing more than a solid detergent bar.

*Don't be afraid of the word sodium, sodium cocoate is the reaction of coconut oil and sodium hydroxide; sodium palmate is the reaction of plam oil and sodium hydroxide. They are both very common ingredients of a real soap.

I hope my very first article give you a clear explanation what is a natural soap. Feel free to write to me if you have something to say!


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