Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Soaps ~ Why Go Natural?

In short: Skin Conditions.  Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis (also known as overexposure), dry, damaged skin, sensitive skin, baby’s skin.
[Natural Glycerin Soap]
Animal Fats and Crude Oil.
Lots of soaps are made using lard or tallow (animal fat) and crude oil (mineral and petroleum).  Animal fats in soap is not a recent thing; animal fats have been used in soaps since the beginning.  Aside from not being animal friendly there is nothing particularly wrong or bad with lard or tallow: it is natural, it is bio-degradable, it lathers well.  It is said that animal fats in soap clog pores and cause acne and other skin conditions yet this is largely unproven.  In fact, even when tallow soaps were the norm acne was not a major problem like it is now.  Mineral oil in soaps may have more to do with this.  The thing about animal fats in soaps is that they don’t pass on any beneficial properties to our skin they way that vegetable oils do.  Animal fats in soap can also have a particular odour (though this maybe argued by some) which needs to be masked with other additives and strong fragrances.

It is the additives, harsh chemicals, colours and fragrances, that are the main concern with soaps today.  Unlike the soaps our mothers and grandmothers used, many soaps nowadays contain additives that are known skin irritants.  Soaps are made this way for a number of reasons.  They can sit on store shelves from long periods of time, they can be made in massive quantities and are stable enough (i.e. keep their scent and don’t go rancid) to be transported world wide.  It is all about consumerism [a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts].  Each soap is made differently by different manufacturers and may contain any number or different additives, here are just a few to look out for: triclosan, benzyl acetate, diethanolamine, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), parabens and phthalates [most likely these last two will not be listed on any ingredients label].

Fragrances vs Essential oils.
Many consumers LOVE delightfully strong smelling soaps.  They love the “wow factor” fragrances have.  It is true fragrances are stronger and longer lasting than essential oils.  They contain stabilizers (for e.g. they may contain parabens, phthalates and other animal or synthetic stabilizers) to extend their shelf life and scent.  Where as essential oils don’t have as long a shelf life and in soaps they may not hold their scent for as long.  More essential oil(s) maybe needed to reached the preferred level of scent making the soap more pricey.  Thus fragrant soaps are more affordable to make as well as to buy.  However, essential oils in soaps pass on their beneficial properties, they are natural, contain no animal or synthetic stabilizers and are considerably less irritating and aggravating on the skin – making them suitable for sensitive skin and for alleviating skin conditions.

Skin Reactions.
A growing number of people are having various reactions to using main stream soaps containing harsh additives and fragrance. Contact dermatitis, for one, is on the rise.  Mechanics at a work shops usually use a gooey greasy substance to wash their hands and arms.  This strong cleaning agent can cause severe skin reactions in users due to its chemical composition.  One such person presented with severe a skin disorder whereby the skin was red, swollen, painful and peeling and flaking away up to his elbows.  Topical creams and lotions had little effect.  When the mechanic switched to washing with a natural Castile soap the condition improved dramatically because the problem of contact with harsh chemicals was removed.

Benefits of Natural Soaps.
Vegetables oils are richly moisturising and contain nourishing vitamins and minerals and the beneficial properties of such oils are passed onto your skin.  Vegetables oils don’t have the same odours as animal fats or crude oils thus require less fragrance to mask any unwanted scent.  When accompanied by essential oils you also get the added benefits of the essential oil properties and soaps can be made to benefit certain conditions such as acne, eczema, sensitive skin, dry skin etc.  Soaps are antibacterial in themselves and you only need to wash your hands with soap and water to eliminate germs.

Vegetable oils have skin conditioning properties as apposed to animal fats and crude oils which have none or little.
Natural soaps don’t contain harsh additives and known skin irritants.
Essential oils have added beneficial properties and subtle natural scents vs fragrances with stronger scents and no beneficial properties.
Natural soaps clean just as well.

See also: My Green Soapbox Blog - Coming Clean About Soap.

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