Sometime between World War I and World War II, we stopped using soap.
Yes! You heard me right. Our entire country stopped using soap!
Now we didn’t become dirty and smelly, because we replaced our soap with something much cheaper to make: detergent. Even the FDA knows it’s true. They state: “Most body cleansers, both liquid and solid, are actually synthetic detergent products.”
What is a detergent?
Detergents are different from soaps because they contain surfactants. A surfactant is a chemical that changes the properties of water. They basically lower the surface tension of whatever you are trying to get clean (skin, clothes, dishes, etc.).
Detergents are often sulfates and sulfites (like sodium lauryl sulfate) and glucosides. They enable products to claim that they are “grease cutting” or “cleaning”.
These are some possible detergents that may be in your soaps and cleaning products:
Linear alkylbenzene sulfonate, alcohol ethoxysulfates, alkyl sulfates, alcohol ethoxylates, quaternary ammonium compounds, imidazolines, betaines, sodium aluminosilicate, phosphates, sodium citrate, sodium carbonate and sodium silicate.
Detergents can be produced from petroleum-based chemicals (petrochemicals) or animal/plant-based chemicals (oleochemicals).
Petrochemicals in detergents include: Parabens (methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, Ethylparaben, isobutyl paraben), isopropyl alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Benzene(also benzol, benzole, annulene, benzeen, phenyl hydride, coal naphtha), Diethanolamines (also diethanolamine, triethanolamine and monoethanolamine), and anything else “petrolium” based. (Read more on petrochemicals here)
Another dangerous chemical solvent is 1,4 dioxane (also known as plain dioxane and diethyleneoxide). Avoid it at all costs!
If your soaps include petrochemicals such as those listed above, you may want to research some of the ingredients. Many are hazardous to your health and can be possible carcinogens.
Animal/Plant based ingredients in detergents include: anionic coconut kernel oil-based surfactants, Cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium coco sulfate, decyl glucoside, aloe barbadensis leaf juice , glycerin, citric acid (plant-derived pH adjuster), coco-glucoside
***If you are going to choose a “natural soap” make sure that you choose one made with animal/plant-based ingredients. There are lots of options out there like:
- 7th Generation Hand Soap
- 7th Generation Dish Soap
- Earth Friendly Hand Soap – Lavender
- Earth Friendly Hand Soap – Lemongrass
– While these soaps are great and safe to use, they are actually not soaps at all, but detergents. I know, I know. They are labeled as “soap.” You use them as “soap,” but in reality, they are not made like soap is! We’ll get to that in the “What is REAL soap” section.
Why Do Commercial Soaps use Detergents?
Soapmakers and companies started moving toward detergents and petrochemicals in soapmaking during World War I and World War II. There was a shortage of the fats and oils needed to make traditional soap, so a new method was needed. That’s when people turned to detergents. They were a big hit because detergent soaps are mainly liquid soaps, which was something new to many people at that time.
Flash forward to today: most people have never tried a natural liquid soap. They don’t know the difference between natural soaps and detergent soaps. Why?
The production of petroleum-based soaps (detergents) is much cheaper and the shelf life of these products lasts much longer than natural soap. Not only is the method of production different, but so are the other ingredients. They mainly synthetically fragranced and often contain other unnatural ingredients.
So why wouldn’t you want to use a detergent soap?
Detergent type soaps strip the skin of needed conditioning oils and other valuable moisture because of their use of surfactants. They often irritate skin because they are petroleum-based and contain synthetic ingredients.
What is “REAL” Soap?
“REAL” soap is soap that is made using LYE (either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) and fats (animal or plant-based). When combined with the proper process and water, the reaction that occurs is called saponification.
That’s it! Bar soaps are made with sodium hydroxide and liquid soaps are made with potassium hydroxide.
When I make my soaps, I use olive oil and coconut oil as my fats. I’ve made both liquid soap and bar soap and I can tell you that they clean much better and leave my skin feeling much softer than detergent based soaps.
Why Use Naturally Handcrafted Soap?
It’s really simple. Natural soaps retain glycerin that is a natural by-product of the saponification process. Many times commercial manufacturers take out the glycerin because it can cloud liquid soaps or cause bar soaps to retain moisture (which brings mold).
However, it’s important to keep the glycerin in soaps because it conditions skin! If you’ve ever bought a bottle of vegetable glycerin, you know what I’m talking about. That stuff is super sticky and has an almost honey like consistency.
Another reason to use natural soap: you know what’s in it!
When I create my soaps, I ONLY put in the ingredients that are absolutely necessary. Nothing else. If I don’t want it on my skin, I don’t want it on yours either.
If you want to check out my line of soaps, visit the shop tab above or my Etsy Store here.
If you are looking for a similar brand, you can also find Dr. Bronner’s soaps in a variety of stores.
Interested in learning about what else might be in your soaps? Try these other posts:
- Common Soap Ingredient: Polyethelyne Glycol (PEG)
- Common Soap Ingredient: Parabens
- Common Soap Ingredient: Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Common Soap Ingredient: Triclosan
- Fragrance Oils: Are You Playing Games With Your Skin?
- Fragrance Oils Vs. Essential Oils