Lather Is The Best Medicine - Soapy Goodness
By Alida Gulamhussein
It's all in the products? Time to rethink what products comes into contact with your skin.
If you are vegan you have taken the time to be more aware from a dietary perspective but has this awareness spread into other parts of your life such as into your bathroom and home product use?
What do you mean? I hear you ask. Your skin is your body's largest and fastest-growing organ. It has up to seven layers of ectodermal tissue and guards the underlying muscles, bones, ligaments and internal organs and everything that comes in contact with the skin has an effect. It’s just phenomenal!
When I was in India, I decided to go down the route of more natural products and I started questioning everything I was using. This included when I was buying bathroom products, so I started reading the labels and doing my own research to find out what ingredients were in these products (the names alone were alien to me) and for what purpose are they included in the end product.
When I came back to the UK I concentrated my efforts on soaps in particular. I found myself a soap making course in the UK and thought that would be an ideal place to start replacing the products most of us think of as normal – it was very eye opening course. I found out about all the different types of soaps that exist – Melt and Pour (about 15 different types just within this type), Cold Process Soap (possibilities are endless with this type) and also hot process (good for certain products).
I also found out why the commercially available soaps and shower gels make my skin super dry and made it crack – it had surfactants in it! "Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension (or interfacial tension) between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and dispersants. (Wikipedia 28/02/18)".
These surfactants are responsible for making detergents like soaps, shampoos, washing powders, and even toothpaste and other products bubble and lather. There are two that are used very commonly in these products due to the low cost and ability to produce them readily. These are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). They have been found to be linked to dry skin/eczema/psoriasis and other skin conditions. This isn’t to say that everyone is affected by them but if you do suffer from irritated and dry skin now could be the time to look at the ingredients in your bath products!
I started to research more about cosmetics and soap and how I could make my own and be empowered to choose how and what to use in them!
At the top of my list was to make soap that did not contain any animal fats (yes some still use animal fat!), did not use SLS or SLES and no parabens (another widely used chemical used in commercially manufactured products which acts as a preservative and could be linked to cancer, one of the reasons I stopped using deodorant!).
I also wanted to use natural colours and essential oils in my soaps, so the soap had multiple benefits for the skin. I went through tons of soap whilst in my testing phase (my friends and family loved it!) and after nearly a year my first set of soaps were ready for assessment (all cosmetic sellers - soap/bath bombs/skincare must have their products safety assessed before being able to sell to the public bet you didn’t know that!). I love that I know exactly what ingredients are in my soap and love what I do!
So why should you move away from commercially manufactured soaps and invest in handmade soaps?
Here are three of my reasons below (not in any order as
they are great reasons for buying handmade):
Reason #1: Handmade Soap won’t dry your skin as much as the commercial soap. Handmade soaps contain glycerine, this is a natural skin softener that is a humectant (attracts water from the surrounding air). Because of this soap containing glycerine helps to maintain moisture in the skin throughout the day. Vegetable oils contain between 7-13% of glycerine as a part of their natural chemical makeup. Some of the shop-bought soaps have had a lot of the glycerine removed and placed into other products such as lotions and creams. So now the consumer must buy soap to clean with but needs something with glycerine in to moisturise!
Reason #2: Handmade Soap is good for your Skin!
Handmade soap preserves the integrity of the oils, fats, and butters. Whatever going into the soap comes out just in the saponified state (the process by which oils, fats, or, butters turn into soap). Because of this, the oils, fats, and butters maintain their vitamins, minerals and skin-loving qualities in the final soap product. Hand crafted soap-makers can amend their recipe to produce certain qualities in the soap naturally instead of adding cheap chemicals to achieve the same purpose. For example, to create more lather more coconut oil is added, to make a harder bar of soap, add olive oil or coconut oil. Commercially produced soap is likely to have the addition of man-made chemicals to produce similar results and it can be achieved in different ways without the chemicals! But why take my word for it? The best way to find out is to put it to the test! Purchase a bar of handmade soap from a local soap-maker (ensure they have been safety assessed and approved to sell in the EU) and give it a try. You won’t be disappointed
Reason #3: Handmade Soap is Unique, made with love and a passion for the craft! Mass-produced soap is made in factories in high volume. Every single bar is identical; in fact, if a bar is found that isn’t the same as another, it’s considered defective and tossed (think wonky veg!). This assembly-line style of producing soap cannot create the same kind of magic as a handmade, homemade soap.
Alida Gulamhussein is an experienced artisan soap maker, qualified yoga instructor, essential oil advocate, reiki healer, fine metal jeweller, and is also a team member of Positively Vegan Magazine!
For more information on her work see her