Soap is one of those things people either get or don’t. For some, soap is just a thing we use to wash the dirt and grease off our skin. There’s nothing special to it, and the cheapest bar on the shelf is the one we use.
But to others, soap is life.
Big, mass-produced soaps use very caustic — even potentially dangerous — chemicals, along with artificial coloring, fragrances and even potentially cancer-causing “plasticizers” called phthalates.
We don’t want to sound overly cautious, but we do believe it’s worth caring about something you’re going to be rubbing all over your body once, twice or maybe three times a day.
We prefer smaller, non-commercially produced soaps not because we care about artisanal sandwiches, wood-working, selvedge denim or when the next album from The Shins is coming out, but because they make better, safer, higher quality soap. Period.
The first thing we ought to comment on is the fact that, when you buy a normal bar of soap at your local market or grocery store, you’re likely not even getting an actual bar of soap.
According to the FDA:
“Today there are very few true soaps on the market. Most body cleansers, both liquid and solid, are actually synthetic detergent products. Detergent cleansers are popular because they make suds easily in water and don’t form gummy deposits.”
Real soap, traditionally, is made from few more than two or three things: Animal fats, oils and lye, an alkaline solution used for washing things. That’s it. Of course, in recent years, people have largely substituted animal fats for organic oils and plant-based oils, but the concept remains the same.
People have also added fragrance to soap for hundreds of years, but even then, a traditional, natural soap will use natural fragrances — not ones manufactured in a lab (Seriously, how on Earth is “Spring Rain” made in a lab?).
When you purchase small-batch soaps or even commercialized natural soaps, you’re likely getting real soap.
Climate change is a real thing. Like, a real, live, thing that’s happening right now. The oceans are getting warmer (and rising), the ice caps are melting at astonishing rates and scientists agree — we’re part of the problem. While not the largest, the soap and detergent industry is a pretty big culprit.
In fact, there are a lot of byproducts of — or direct ingredients in — commercial soaps that most people wouldn’t really think about. Things like edible oils, chemical detergents, animal fodder, hypochlorite, etc. The soap industry is also historically negligent for a large portion of the pollution it puts out.
But because smaller companies are usually run by much smaller teams, their ecological footprints are much, much smaller. And because they don’t produce anywhere near the same numbers as commercial soap companies, they’re generally less wasteful.
It’s super ironic, but the truth is that consumers are kind of oblivious to just how brutal the working conditions (and overall cleanliness) of the factories commercial soaps are made in really are.
Of course, just because smaller soaps are natural doesn’t necessarily mean that their ingredients are better for you. Just kidding — it does.
And this is really our biggest point. Even if you don’t care about the difference between “real” soap and detergent, even if you don’t care about the environment or what impact the products you buy have on it, you should still care about what you’re putting on/in your body.
Any way you cut it, most name-brand soaps — even if they’re labeled “natural” — are still nothing more than detergents packed with artificial fragrances, ingredients and even synthetic “foaming agents” that help them lather up and produce “fake” suds. It’s true. If your soap is commercial, it’s probably not very good for you at all.
Natural soaps rely pretty heavily on things like glycerin — it’s a natural skin softener that actually draws in water from the surrounding air. It’s found in animal fats and vegetable oils, which are found in generally all smaller batch soaps.
Name-brand soaps usually don’t include glycerin in their soaps because, well, they need you to have a reason to buy all their other fancy lotions and skin moisturizers — they are, after all, a business.
Handmade soaps use healthy and natural oils — including fragranced essential oils — to keep us clean and smelling fresh. They also use other time-tested natural ingredients — things like aloe, honey, oatmeal, etc. — to treat, repair, and maintain healthy skin.
They’re just better.
The more we look, the fewer reasons we see to not invest in healthy, ethically manufactured, environmentally friendly soap. You have far more options out there with small soap makers, and you’re also doing your part to support small businesses.
Far as we’re concerned, it’s a win on every side.
That is, until you start talking price points. It’s not unimaginable to see a homemade bar of small-batch soap go for $10 and up. And when we live in a world where we can run out to the store and grab a bar of Dove for a buck, it’s understandable why we usually choose Dove.
The truth, however, is that the second you look at what you’re getting by investing in real, small-batch soap that’s made right and with care, the benefits are totally worthwhile — because as with everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
You know the difference between a $5 haircut and a $20 haircut. You know the difference between a pair of $40 Levi’s and some $250 raw selvedge denim. Now learn the difference between a $2 bar of detergent and a $10 bar of real-deal soap.