From Synthetic to All Natural Soaps

From Synthetic Chemicals to All Natural Soaps shower soap pure natural soap pure and natural soap natural soap recipes shower soap unscented body soapWhen I hit my mid thirties I noticed a huge change in the condition of my skin. I had trouble keeping it hydrated (it became chronically dry), it lost elasticity (wrinkles!) and most strikingly, I noticed heightened sensitivity.

Of particular concern was the fact that these issues were progressing with time – my skin was becoming increasingly distressed with each passing day.

Even though these changes to my skin were causing physical discomfort, I was resigned to my fate as a person who was going to have to live with bad skin.

And then one night, everything changed. As I stepped out of the shower it occurred to me that my skin was always most irritated just after I washed.

I went straight from the bathroom to my computer and started researching the soap I was using. I was, in a word, shocked.

While I thought I was using a gentle, natural, unscented bar of soap, I was actually using a harsh detergent loaded with synthetic chemicals (including artificial perfume), that were not only irritating my skin problems, I learned they were ultimately causing them.

I couldn’t believe this simple product, soap, had transformed so much in the past one hundred years that is was virtually unrecognizable as a natural product.

You may remember from grade school chemistry that soap is actually a very simple compound, made naturally by combining a fat with water and an alkali in a low-heat process called saponification.

In fact, soap has been made this way for over 4000 years, with evidence of this simple formula found inscribed on clay tablets dating back to 2200 BC.

Made this way, soap, like most of nature’s creations, has a couple remarkable properties that man simply cannot replicate in a factory.

First, soap is a natural surfactant. Surfactants do the heavy lifting in cleansing products, grabbing onto, and suspending dirt particles in water, which allows them to be washed away.

But most remarkable, and surprising, is the fact that natural soap is emollient. That’s right; properly made, in the millennia-old cold process described above, soap not only isn’t drying, it can actually be downright soothing, and even calming to your skin.

That is because glycerin, a powerful humectant (which attracts hydration), is a natural byproduct of the soap-making process.

The problem is that soap made this way is expensive. The botanical raw materials such as olive oil and shea butter are costly; and the saponification process requires careful hands-on attention.

As a result, manufacturers today use low-cost and synthetic ingredients to produce what we think of as soap, but is actually detergent.

Botanical fats have been replaced with animal byproducts (rendered fat from meat processing facilities), synthetic surfactants such as irritating Sodium Lauryl Sulfate have been added, and any glycerin which may occur naturally in the manufacturing process is commonly removed for use in other products like lotions and moisturizers.

And then, to add insult to injury, dangerous phthalate-derived scents and harsh preservatives are added to make the product both seductive and shelf-stable.

The most important thing I learned on the fateful night I sat in front of my computer to figure out what was causing my skin problems, was the difference between soap, which I thought I was using, and detergent, which I was actually using.

Soap is natural, effective and nourishing to our bodies, while detergent is synthetic, harsh, and strips our skin of important nutrients.

The next day I tracked down natural soap and have been using it ever since. The improvement in my skin was immediate. No redness, no itchiness, no irritation and most surprisingly, significantly less dryness.

I encourage you to look closely at the cleanser you are using. Read the label and understand the ingredients. If you’re using detergent, try soap for a change; and if you’re anything like me, once you’ve tried it, you’ll be hooked.

How to Choose Good Quality Soap:

  • Natural soap can be made with as few as three or four ingredients. Less is definitely more when it comes to soap.

  • Look for natural botanical fats like olive and palm oil or shea butter and jojoba butter.

  • Avoid products with synthetic surfactants such as Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, these are among the harshest ingredient in all personal care products.

  • Watch for “hidden” ingredients like perfume in unscented products.

  • Avoid products with harsh preservatives such as methylparaben or BHT.

By Bill Baker| January 14, 2010
Categories:  Eat

About the Author

Bill Baker

Bill Baker

Bill Baker is the General Manager of Consonant Body Organic Skincare. In addition to leading the company’s innovations in natural personal care products, Bill campaigns for greater industry and government oversight of cosmetics ingredients, manufacturing, and labeling.

To learn more, please visit

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