Saturday, July 20, 2013

Handcrafted Soap Ingredients Self Study

Hi blog friends, I hope you are having a nice Saturday!

Today I wanted to share a little about soap making.
I'm not a doctor or a licensed medical anything I just love to make soap and was looking for relief from and help with the desperate feeling I've had because I can't find anything to help with my own dry, cracked, irritated skin.  I also know that is isn't "legal" to make claims about our handmade soaps other than they are soap so I'm not claiming my soap is anything but just that - soap.  I mostly want this post to be informational about what handcrafted soaps are made of and why soap makers research and choose the ingredients that they do.

What you see pictured here is a 5 pound loaf of handcrafted (homemade) Coconut Milk & Honey Soap right out of the mold.  It's been twenty - four hours since it was made and poured into the wooden mold.  In another twenty - four hours it will be ready to slice into one inch bars that weigh between 4 - 5 ounces each.  The next step in the process is the curing.  Curing most handmade soaps takes six weeks.  Properly made and cured handmade soaps are mild, moisturizing from all the natural glycerin that occurs during the saponification process and have lots of bubbly lather.  If kept out of the shower spray and puddles of water these bars of soap can be enjoyed for a long time.

Next is a photo of the soaps as they are being cut with a wire soap cutter.

I'm really happy with the way these turned out and look forward to seeing if they lighten in color as they cure.

After searching the internet and reading and doing more research on the ingredients I used for this soap here's the paper I wrote up drawing my conclusions from my research about those ingredients.

From my notes:

Coconut Milk & Honey Soap is an unscented specialty soap originally formulated for myself and friends suffering with skin issues.  The oils in this soap have been infused with dried Calendula Flowers and Comfrey Leaf.  Honey, Coconut Milk, Colloidal Oatmeal and Bentanite Clay have also been added.

The ingredients used were chosen for what I believe to be their soothing and moisturizing properties, listed below are some of the properties of these ingredients.

Bentonite Clay is said to be a powerful skin restoring ingredient naturally made from volcanic activity, a volcanic ash full of minerals for healthy skin.  It’s known as healing clay, good for skin detoxification, great for oily skin but not drying so it can be used for all skin types.

Calendula is a plant that has been used through out history in skin preparations.  Calendula is said to be beneficial for dry or damaged skin and also encourages fast healing and regeneration of the skin because of its anti-inflammatory properties.  According to, applying calendula topically is effective for decreasing inflammation and promoting the healing of wounds, burns, eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions.

Coconut Milk is said to help eliminate dirt, dead skin and other blemishing issues, not over-drying the skin. The rich milk is said to clean the skin gently without irritating it. 

Coconut milk soap is said to be high in vitamin E, which is well regarded for bringing benefits to dry skin, small cuts, burns and rashes. 

Coconut milk is said to have a large fat content and includes fatty acids that are beneficial for the skin.  The existence of fatty acids in soap is said to result in intense hydration.  Coconut milk soap is reported to be ideal for dry skin as well as offering a deep clean; and is said to not strip away the natural oils in the skin.  Instead, it acts to moisturize the skin, keeping it replenished and well hydrated.

Honey is a humectant, it helps retain and draw moisture to the skin. The antioxidant properties of honey are said to help lighten skin and prevent pimples and skin rash.

Castor Oil is said to have great moisturizing properties, is mildly cleansing, conditions well and gives a creamy stable lather - easily absorbed by the skin which implies it can help with dry skin conditions.

Coconut Oil is said to be excellent for nourishing our skin. 
It contains medium chain fatty acids which can be absorbed into the skin, where they can be directly utilized. 

Coconut Oil is said to have unique antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. 

Coconut oil is said to further improve the quality and appearance of skin by eliminating dead skin cells and reducing flaking skin. 

Coconut oil is also said to be a natural deodorant, since body odor is caused by microbes and Coconut oil is anti microbial.  (

The herb Comfrey is reported to be high in calcium and vitamin C.  It has a strong history of being used as an external application for mending wounds.  It is said to be a contact healer, relieving pain and immediately helping to grow new flesh and bone.

Reportedly one of the main therapeutic substances in comfrey is allantoin, an anti-inflammatory that perks up the immune system; speeds wound healing, and encourages new skin and cell growth.  The tannins in comfrey are astringent, and the rosmarinic acid might contribute some anti-inflammatory assistance.  (The Green Pharmacy Handbook)

Colloidal oatmeal (Genus Species name, Avena sativa L) is finely ground oatmeal. Oatmeal and its natural oil coat, are said to moisturize, protect and gently cleanse, while correcting the pH balance of itchy or inflamed skin back to normal. 

Colloidal oatmeal reportedly also contains phenols (a form of antiseptic), which encompass its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and ultraviolet absorbing properties. It can also be used as a gentle exfoliating agent. These healing qualities can all be transmitted to skin via soap.

It's said that Colloidal oatmeal suppresses the "need to scratch," which is especially useful for use on irritated, dry skin. Reportedly helpful for conditions like insect bites; acne; eczema; psoriasis; sunburn; sores; chicken pox; poison ivy, oak or sumac; shingles; prickly heat; and other itching, tingly rashes.

Jojoba oil is reported to have properties very similar to the sebum produced in our own skin which make it a wonderful moisturizer, it's non-greasy and easily absorbed. Jojoba oil is also said to have fungicidal properties.

For dry skin patches, Jojoba oil is said to be  just the thing to soften and restore the skin to a healthy condition. All of this reportedly makes jojoba oil a great treatment if you suffer from skin conditions that are caused by a lack of moisture, like eczema. Not only that, but jojoba oil has been reported to have anti-inflammatory properties, which will reduce the redness caused by dryness, or by skin conditions like rosacea.

Olive Oil is a natural and said to be a hypoallergenic way to nourish and moisturize the skin.  Soap made with olive oil is said to help the skin’s surface retain moisture.  It's said that regular use helps keep skin looking supple and smooth. 

Reportedly Olive Oil contains high levels of many antioxidants, including vitamins A and E, it is said to have the ability to renew and repair free radical damage in skin.  I read using soap made with olive oil helps protect and reverse the damage and wrinkles caused by sun exposure and pollution.  Additionally, the antioxidants present in soap with olive oil stimulate skin cells, leading to re-growth and maintenance of healthy skin.

Olive Oil in soap has cleansing properties.  When olive oil is applied to the skin it adheres to dirt which can then be washed away.

Sodium Lardate a.k.a. Lard reportedly increases the healing properties of soap.  Lard has been used for generations in healthy cultures and it is said to be the perfect carrier for cleansing and healing in body care products.  According to a Swiss study, Lard is the best medium for transmitting the healing properties of plants when studied in comparison with other fats/oils, it was shown to be the superior medicinal fat.

The saponification process is a simple chemical reaction between fats/oils and sodium hydroxide.  Fats/Oils + Sodium Hydroxide = Soap.  

In my research I came across other information about commercially made soap that I thought was interesting too.

Bar soaps such as Ivory, Dove and Lever 2000 from Unilever and Irish Spring are made with sodium tallowate (beef fat), a combination of animal fat and lye (Sodium Hydroxide).

So, there you have it.  We all need to draw our own conclusions from our own research and make informed choices about the products we use, handmade or commercially made.  

Thanks for visiting my blog today -


Billie A said...

That is a lot to write but found it to be great information. I think it would help people to know some little facts but cant see you writing this for each bar. If people know what it can do and of course they know their skin concerns it would help narrow down what bar/bars to get. It's hard that fine line of medical help's as we all are different so keeping that simple as you did is not really giving a medical "it will work for you" testimony. I am a distributor for a weight loss company and have to be very careful.. Your soaps if people buy them sell themselves. ((hugs))

Jan Hunnicutt said...

Thanks for commenting Billie, making any claims about handcrafted soaps being anything other than soap can lead to problems.

If claims are made that handcrafted soap is anything but soap you start getting into cosmetics, drugs, etc. that are regulated quite differently and need extensive testing and approval by the FDA.

It's hard to be quiet with all the hype on the commercial products we see on T.V. - if you really stop and think about their too good to be true claims and then all the potential problems that come with the chemically engineered stuff they produce...

Paula S. said...

Very interesting post Jan! I think we've reached a point in which a lot of what started out with good intentions has become such overbearing regulation that we too often now question our own common sense and simply believe what we are told, or sold for that matter. I've truly enjoyed seeing all the fabulous soap images, keep 'em coming! :)

Jan Hunnicutt said...

I'm really enjoying "getting back to basics" Paula and learning about how to create recipes and make my own natural products. The history of how all of our "convenience" products evolved and came to be is pretty interesting (to me anyway, lol).

I have to admit that making my own does take more time than picking it up at the store. There's a lot of satisfaction for me in "making my own" though =)

Thanks for commenting on my post Paula!

Shannon White said...

Wow!! Wonderful information Jan!! Thanks for taking the time to write it all out!! Sounds Wonderful and that this soap is one that my sensitive skin would probably Love!! Let me know next time you have a batch ready, And I will be getting some for sure! 8-)


Dotti's Hobbies said...

Excellent information, Jan! Thank you for compiling and sharing all of this with us.

I have enjoyed using your soaps and have a friend who is now also interested. I'll be placing another order soon (along with some you've earmarked for me that are curing!) and will add some for my friend (who will probably also become a happy customer of yours!).

Jan Hunnicutt said...

Thank you Dotti!

I'm so happy you are enjoying your soaps =) and thanks for spreading the word, you rock!

Krista said...

"According to a Swiss study, Lard is the best medium for transmitting the healing properties of plants. Yes, they studied it in comparison with other fats and it was shown to be the superior medicinal fat."

Just in case you want a source for that.....

Jan Hunnicutt said...

Thank you Krista!