What is in our soap

Posted by Inga Ford on

Our soap includes plant oils and butters, sodium hydroxide, milk, silk, colours and fragrance.  Lets have a look at these ingredients a bit closer.

Plant oils and butters make up the majority of our soap. By manipulating the quantities of particular oils an experienced soap maker can create many different types of soap.  In our Art of Soap range we focused on creating a blend that would;

  • be durable, resistant to water and be long lasting,
  • have an indulgent creamy lather and good slip over the skin,
  • have both large and small sized soap molecules to clean deeper,
  • provide a cushiony layer on the skin, reducing dragging while washing,
  • that rinsed away easily leaving no residues to irritate skin and
  • was softening and moisturising. 

The oils we chose are;

  • Rice bran oil - This oil creates a very mild and gentle soap.  An alternative would have been olive oil which has a longer shelf life but olive is high in oleic acid which tends to create a stickier lather and doesn't rinse off well.  Rice bran is also high in antioxidants and squalane
  • Coconut oil - the amount of this oil in a soap defines how cleansing it will be.  Too high and you end up squeaky clean, too low and the soap loses its cleaning ability and becomes harder to rinse off.  Coconut oil is also responsible for some of the small soap molecules for deeper cleaning.  Soap made from coconut oil is very hard but also very water soluble and wont last as well as a more balanced bar.
  • RSPO palm oil - sustainably farmed palm oil is included to harden the bar and make it wear better.  It also contributes to the lucious creamy cushiony lather, skin softening and moisturising in this soap. 
  • Shea butter - Shea contains many unsaponifiables (things that don't turn into soap)..  These include vitamins and minerals, plant sterols and antioxidants - great things to include in our skin care products.
  • Superfat - Not actually an ingredient as such superfat is a soapmaking term that refers to the portion of excess oils in the recipe after the NaOH (see below) has done its work.  Extra fats are common in cold process soap but missing from milled soap as they reduce shelf life.  They contribute to skin softening and make for a more gentle clean.

Other stuff

  • Sodium hydroxide is also called NaOH or lye.  It is a commercially created chemical that has a very high pH and is very caustic.  While we do add this ingredient into our soap it is no longer there in the final product.  Instead the NaOH reacts with the oils and butters in a process called saponification.  This creates soap and glycerin, with the NaOH consuming itself in the process.  Science in action!
  • Glycerin makes up about 9% of our soap.  This is the moisturising and softening superhero.  Handmade cold process soap contains glycerin but mass produced soaps have the glycerin removed because it makes the machines sticky.  It is also more valuable than the soap itself as it is an ingredient in lotions and other skin care products.
  • Goats milk - Many soap makers include goats milk in their soap and there are two ways to do it.  Makers using fresh goats milk dissolve the lye in the milk.  This can be a problem as the highly alkaline lye solution damages the goats milk, destroying enzymes, sugars and proteins, saponifying the milk fats and turning the lactic acid into sodium lactate.  To reduce this effect we use a freeze dried goats milk powder (from NZ goats) which we concentrate into a small amount of water and add to the oils late in the process after most of the alkali has been neutralised.  This is gentler on the milk and better for the soap.
  • Mulberry silk - We dissolve the silk in the lye water solution to create silk peptides.  These likely have no skin care benefits as soap is a wash off product but they increase the lather and make the soap feel indulgent and smooth.
  • Fragrances - Most of the fragrances in the Art of Soap are man made (except lemongrass and lavender).  These fragrances are made in the USA, are approved by IFRA and have safe usage guidelines which we respect.  The fragrances are guaranteed 100% phthlate free.  We consider these fragrances to be as safe as essential oils and possibly even more so as they are thoroughly tested for safety.
  • Colours - We use mica colours to colour our soap.  These are colour that has been bonded to a shiny mica substrate.  This helps the colour stay in the soap and not stain towels and skin.  We also use titanium dioxide (non nano), a common whitener found in everything from toothpaste to paint. Our soap base is slightly yellow from the vitamins in the rice bran and palm oils so titanium dioxide makes the lovely white base colour.

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