Battle of the Bars – Commercial Vs Handmade Soap
A Bubble-ly Affair
Hello to everyone out there. Welcome back to your previous 9 a.m to 5 p.m routines! “Back to work and back to life” as some of us put it. This week we have decided to take a break from our regular beauty related discussions and talk about something as important a health hazards from essential commercial products used in households. The product that we have selected today is the “regular soap” that is considered as a staple cleansing item in our everyday lives by our parents, friends and children. Obviously no one drops dead after using a soap but it is extremely important that we should try to figure out what goes in them and whether we are/we are not facing any potential health or environmental risk by constantly using them.
It was quite some time ago during a trip to a grocery store that I picked up a bar of soap from a trusted brand.After ensuring that no one was looking I brought it right next to my face and took a whiff and oh dear it smelled heavenly! “Strawberry and Cream” said the label but I wondered whether I’ll be fooling myself if I believed there were actual strawberries in it.
I flipped the packet and tried to make sense of the ingredients, sulphates, various types of acids, handful of another difficult names, something called Methylisothiazolinone ( wonder what that does?) , another list of difficult ingredients and BAM! Finally some fruit extracts and flower oils. I flipped it back and looked at the model on the front, I was pretty sure she had connected eternal beauty and smooth skin with this soap in the commercial. Chemicals and eternal beauty? HOW?
I looked at the aisle and picked up another bar of soap, flipped it and more of less the same difficult names with a few oils and extracts thrown into the mix! They were almost identical in their chemical makeup but packaged differently and marketed for different skin types. I looked at both the bars and tossed the one I had originally selected into the basket and moved ahead. At least the one I had picked was beautifully packaged.
Commercial Soaps – The Skinny Science
It did not take me long enough to research on the subject and I am glad that I am able to share it with you all. A soap is more like a cleaning agent that is meant to remove dirt from the surface of skin but while doing so it removes the essential oils leaving it dry and sensitive. People like myself who have exceptionally dry skin cannot use soap without the presence of a moisturizing lotion at an arm’s length. Winters and soap do not fit into the same equation for people like us hence we indulge into soaps labelled as “moisturizing bars” or body washes which yet again produce the same results, dry skin with white patches!
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, The Culprit.
One of the most essential components in commercial soap-making, household cleaning items and detergents is Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. It has water soluble and oil soluble properties that breaks the layer of molecules on the surface making it possible for the soap to interact with skin. This in turn produces lather that helps wash away the dirt. But what if I tell you that
- SLS has been linked time and again with cancer by scientists.
- It is linked with skin irritation. Common skin irritations include dandruff, acne and even eczema.
- It is a pesticide and herbicide that is used in killing of insects and plants.
- Leads to corrosion of fats and proteins (that make up skin and hair) due to long term exposure. It is found in high percentages in garage floor cleaners and car wash detergents.
- Eye irritant that has been known to cause cataract in adults and stunted formation of eyes in children.
- Pollutes our ground water.
- Linked with Organ Toxicity, it has smaller molecules that get absorbed directly in the bloodstream and gradually accumulate inside your organs because you lack enzymes that help them breakdown.
And the fun fact is that it is generally considered safe to use at 1% but a regular store-bought soap has around 30% of SLS in its chemical makeup!
Personal Care & Household Cleaning Items – The Booming Industry
Having said all this it is very clear the personal care and household cleaning product industry is a booming business that churns out billions of dollars annually. The commercial cleaning products have surpassed all the traditional soaps in its true essence of cleaning but at the expense of care, health and environmental safety. All such brands spend a huge chunk of their profits on devising clever marketing slogans like “germ fighting” and “radiant beauty” to lure the masses into buying a product that is packaged beautifully, linked with a celebrity and has an intoxicating fragrance at an affordable price tag. It’s a complete package! Who would sit down and think about the health and environment concerns when you have literally grown up using it!
A Green Advice.
The Idea here is not to defame any brand or organization that is involved in making such products but infact motivating the masses towards being informed about the effects of repeated exposure to such chemicals and making smarter and infact more green consumer choices. Adopt the habit of having a look at the list of ingredients and put in the effort of learning their cumulative impacts on your body and environment.
Handmade soaps as opposed to their commercial competitors are made from “natural” plant based ingredients (seasonal) using traditional soap making ingredients. They are made in a time honored fashion and in small quantities which is why they are fresh and a more healthier alternative.
Why Prefer Handmade Soaps over a Regular soap?
- High in Glycerin – Glycerin is a natural emollient that is prized for it’s skin softening and moisturizing properties. Glycerin is produced as a by product in soap making process but in commercial environments it is extracted from the soap bars to be included in their other skincare products like lotions and moisturizing creams. So after selling you a soap that robs your skin off its moisture they entice you towards buying a second product that will hydrate your skin, how clever.
- No Artificial Fragrances – A handmade soap uses natural essential oils instead of chemicals to add fragrance. Lavender, lemongrass, rose and jasmine oils are used that not only have excellent benefits on the skin but adds a therapeutic aroma to them as well.
For example a lavender soap has skin repair and relaxation qualities. A citrus soap adds freshness and high surge of Vitamin C and Vitamin C is linked with brightening effects and radiance.
- Natural Colorants instead of chemicals.
- No artificial feeling. The major ingredients (petals especially) will be visible on the soap.
- Firm and Lathery just like the ones from the store.
Availability in Pakistan? YellowBerry.
Yes, you do not come across any handmade soaps in Pakistan. But just a while ago a company by the name of YellowBerry surfaced in the soap market and offers a variety of handmade soaps made up of only Natural and safe ingredients.
We got a chance to use their Anise Star with Jasmine Swirl Soap along with their Floral Glory Soap and we are already impressed. Not only does the company chooses the most skin-nourishing ingredients but the soaps smell divine! Just have a look at beautiful swirl pattern of the Floral Glory soap, the petals are visible at the top and all the ingredients are mentioned on the tiny card.
After having a chat with the Executive Director of YellowBerry (Zara Tahir) we came to know that she is highly selective about what goes in her soaps and tests every kind of product on herself before making it available to her consumers. Every ingredient is handpicked and free of animal fat. Some of the essential oils and fragrance oils are imported from USA and all of the ingredients are approved by FDA.
YellowBerry claims that their
1) Soaps are 100% natural and handmade
2) Free of preservatives and harmful chemicals
3) High in Glycerin
4) Use different layering and swirling techniques which is uncommon in a mass produced commercial soap. These techniques give some of the soaps their amazing texture.
5) Use the seasonal fruits and flowers in their soaps.
6) Are available in different sizes and weights (60g and goes upto 150 g)
7) Available for various skin types.
Available Products include Olive & Coconut soap, Coffee Soap made with Olive, Coconut, Rice Bran and Almond Oil, Orange & Rose soap, Mango & Peach Salsa Soap and Patchouli, Vanilla & Oatmeal Soap.
The “Soap-reme” Analysis
Packaging – The soaps are carefully packaged in a small and dinky yellow bag with black details on the side and a purple ribbon tied on top. Colorful and eye catchy! But we believe that had the soaps been packaged in a transparent sheet it would have ensured protection against breakage as we did spot some tiny bits and pieces of the soap inside the yellow bag.
Aesthetics – The products reached us in the shape of a rectangular bar almost half the size of your palm. A tiny ingredient card was attached on both of the soaps with the help of a string of coir yarn. The aesthetics of the product gave off a very “fresh” and “natural” vibe. We personally loved the way they looked.
The Anise Star with Jasmine Swirl Soap was formulated was people with dry skin. It had a huge anise star decorated on top of the slab and small pieces of the same ingredient could be seen all over and inside the soap.
The Floral Glory Soap (Combination Skin) was the winner in this category! From the dried rose petals on top to the beautiful swirl pattern on the soap, everything looked beautiful.
Use – Both of the soaps produced lather like the regular soap but did not leave the skin dry. We think that might be due to the high glycerin content. They feel buttery on the skin and leave behind a subtle sweet floral scent on the skin. We found that the Anise star soap was
Rating– Overall, we are impressed hence a 4/5 .
Feel free to leave behind your comments and do let us know what would you like us to write about. Till then, stay healthy and stay green!Share