The act of taking a shower, at a quick glance - seems like a really simple concept. Hop in the shower, lather up, feel clean, move on - but this simple daily activity sits on top of a heap of complex issues - from utilizing synthetic detergents and surfactants, energy and chemical stockpile use, to the use of animal fats in commercial bars. Not to mention, many of the synthetic detergents are petroleum based - and most of us just go along with it.
To start, lets recap what soap is - animal fat and/or plant oils (which is what we exclusively use!) are blended with a strong alkali to make soap. A true liquid soap is made with potassium hydroxide while a true bar soap is made with sodium hydroxide.
Now - I challenge you to take a look. Do you see sodium (ingredient)ate or potassium (ingredient)ate on the back of your favorite shower wash? No? You don't have a true soap - you have a chemically laden detergent. Moreover these chemically created detergents are often petroleum based, and require additional emulsifying agents and stabilizers just to maintain consistency - and while these agents have been tested and approved by governing agencies around the world, very few studies actually exist showing the long-term effects of repeated exposure.
Up to 40% of individuals buying skin care products have some level of concern for the environment and environmental factors, but few of them know that a 2009 study by the Institute of Environmental Engineering found that liquid soaps not only leave a 25% larger carbon footprint due to chemical processing, but that it takes up to 5x more energy to create. Bar soaps literally have a lower environmental impact than liquid soap in terms of carbon footprint, ecotoxicity, ozone depletion potential and eutrophication potential. Moreover in terms of raw material production and packaging, an additional 20x more energy is expended on that bottle of the new Bath and Body Works soap than on a bar soap.
More? Customers use more than six times the amount of liquid soap than bar soap by weight.
(Author note: The study did find a 20-30% increase of water usage utilizing bar soap)
The Vegan Issue:
The other thing to point out is that many of our favorite commercial bar soaps - from the ultra-cheap Irish Spring to the Moisturizing Dove Bar - contain an ingredient called Sodium Tallowate. As noted above - sodium tallowate is rendered beef fat. I'm not really sure we need to go further here.
When we look at detergents such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) - most are produced as a byproduct from petroleum - however, both of these items are able to be produced from coconut oil (companies often use this as a way to promote utilization of the word "natural") - that coconut oil is processed with the use of petrochemicals through an alcohol extraction technique, resulting in something that no longer looks anything like its natural form.
Now, SLES is considered "less irritating" to skin than SLS, but it starts off as SLS that is processed with Ethylene Oxide, producing 1,4 Dioxane. Both Ethylene Oxide and 1,4 Dioxane are considered possible human carcinogens - as such they are supposed to be vacuum stripped from the end product, but we weren't able to find guidance on this practice, and it's impossible to tell if this has happened once the item is sold on the shelves.
Ethylene Oxide and 1,4 Dioxane are banned for use in Canada and Europe - but there's a loophole that allows items with them on the shelves - if these two ingredients are used as a "contaminant."
Unfortunately there aren't really any long term studies into these items, and they've been regarded as safe in low quantities.
The Fragrance Conundrum:
This one is common among ALL soap-makers - which is why we include our ingredient list in plain sight.
Fragrance vs Essential Oils:
Not everyone likes to smell like peppermint and lavender. There really are constraints to making "soap smell good" when it comes to using essential oils as a fragrant base. There are very few essential oils out there, they're hugely expensive, and there are literally none of the fruity fragrant scents that are making the rounds these days.
As such Fragrance oils are used. These are largely synthetic.
This really has sparked a massive debate in the soap making world, as its crops vs labs. Natural vs. Synthetic.
Consider this - it takes 200lbs of lavender to make 1 lb of lavender essential oil, meanwhile, it takes exponentially less for lavender scent to be created in a laboratory.
Thankfully the International Fragrance Association guides perfumers and scent makers, who produce skin - safe fragrance oils that soap-makers are able to use in soap.
What does it mean for the customer? Be discerning - you're never going to get a beautiful pomegranate scent from essential oils. Why? They don't exist.
We at Special Flower Oil Co, offer both naturally derived fragrance soap, and essential oil based soap.
Why? Because we understand that fragrance IS important, we also know that some want essential oils as the base. We strive to be incredibly discerning - purchasing ALL of our oils - from our organic coconut and sustainable palm, to our fragrance and essential oils from reputable sources - that are also sponsored by the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild (which we are members of)
The Foundation of Beauty:
We clean ourselves daily - some twice a day. We find ourselves with various skin issues - from eczema to acne breakouts, and we attribute it to a multitude of various causes - from what we eat and drink, to human touch, to environmental factors.
Once you look at the back of your favorite shower gel or soap - does it make you wonder if the basis of the beauty issues we experience isn't rooted in the sheer amount of stuff in our soap?
Take a look at this ingredient list from Bath and Body Works "Be Joyful" Shower Gel:
Let's compare that, with the knowledge we've gained to our own Goat Milk Soothing Soap:
Ingredients: Goat Milk, Organic Coconut Oil, Sustainable Palm Oil, Canola Oil, Olive Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Essential Oil Blend
I think we may have some of our answers.
The way we clean is the true foundation of what makes us beautiful and healthy.