There was a time when I didn’t give soap much thought. Soap was after all, just soap, intended to get you clean. I wasn’t aware that it could be a part of a skin care regimen. When my sister asked me to attend a class with her to learn how to make soap to help remedy her sensitive skin, I was curious but skeptical.
We enrolled in a class with a certified teacher from the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild who loved making soap as much as I do now. I was immediately fascinated with the chemistry portion of the process of soap making. I loved watching the oils and lye blend together to produce a soap batter which we poured into little milk cartons. I took my little diary carton full of soap home and became worried as the carton started to get very hot. This was the exothermic, or heat releasing, reaction occurring during saponification AKA soapmaking process. In fact, I put it outside in case it exploded. (It was July and 80 degrees outside, this only sped up the reaction and made it hotter, quicker). It didn’t explode and I was left with a lovely lemongrass soap, which I adored. And, so my journey as a soap enthusiast began.
The main benefit of handmade soap, in my opinion, is that true soap retains glycerin. Glycerin is a humectant that attracts water, and therefore, moisture to the skin. If you look on store shelves, the majority of “soap” you will see are synthetic detergent bars that do not meet the true definition of soap. The glycerin is usually removed from synthetic detergent bars, it is then, added to other products, such as lotions. Lotions that you will then need because your skin might be dry after using their “soap”.
I like to think of soapmaking in this improper scientific explanation: oils and butters get married with lye or sodium hydroxide and have a glycerin baby (picture of the proper scientific explanation below):
Jamie is a serendipitous soapmaker with a love for all things DIY, health, and wellness. She has a background as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Registered Yoga Teacher, and Professional Yoga Therapist. She lives with her husband, two daughters and her labradoodle near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.