Info: Facts about soap, ingredients, components

Soap is a passion and a livelihood. We would like to clear up some myths here and also inform you about the mysteries of soap!

What are the Different Components of Soap?

Soap is a  cleaning agent  made by the interaction of oils and fats [acids] with an alkali [sodium hydroxide] to produce a solid bar. Oils and fats for soap are compounds of glycerin and natural fatty acids [in general, fatty acids refer to any compound derived from the breakdown of fats]. When oils are mixed with a base, they form glycerin and the sodium salts of the fatty acids. Therefore, in theory, all soap should have a natural glycerin content [although some major soap manufacturers remove this substance and sell it separately]. Many natural soaps have the glycerin content intact, this wonderful substance is a natural humectant and draws moisture from the air, leaving the skin soft and supple.

Many different oils, fats and butters are used in the manufacture of soaps that contain various beneficial fatty acids, for example

  • Olive oil   contains mainly oleic acid that produces small, mild and creamy bubbles.
  • coconut oil   contains almost 50% lauric acid which makes large, oily, open, airy bubbles and sunflower contains mainly linoleic acid which produces large, open conditioning bubbles. So the skill of the soap maker comes into practice with combining different oils and fats in the correct dilutions used to produce the best possible lather, but keeping the soap mild and gentle - leaving a wonderfully soothing feeling on the skin left behind [and not squeaky clean, tight and rough to the touch like some soaps].

Soap removes grease and dirt from the skin because some of its components are surfactants (surfactants). Surfactants have a molecular structure that acts as a connecting link between water and dirt. This releases dirt particles, stale make-up, grease, etc. from the skin. One end of the molecule is hydrophilic (attracted to water) and the other is hydrophobic (attracted to substances that are not soluble in water).

So soap is a very effective cleaner, but it is much more! Some ingredients you see on many popular soaps do not have any beneficial effect on the skin. They can even cause problems in many users, such as allergies, e.g. Perfume - you will see this on the list of most soap ingredients. This is a chemical fragrance that is a man-made cocktail of chemicals, simply an aroma that has no therapeutic properties and can be toxic and irritating to many skin types. In fact, more than 70% of women claim to suffer from sensitive skin at some point for various reasons.

Therefore, the most important thing about soaps is that they contain NO artificial chemical fragrances, only aromatherapy grade essential oils that have beneficial therapeutic properties for the skin. In fact, all essential oils have a mild antiseptic effect and many are corrective for various skin problems, especially when there is an imbalance, i.e. too dry or too oily. By using a generous, effective dilution of professionally blended essential oils in many products that not only smell wonderful, but also have a positive, therapeutic effect on the skin. You will see and feel a huge difference when you use natural, cold process soap compared to mass commercial products.


Soap for perfect beauty

These are the ingredients of a famous "soap" bar that, as it claims, is moisturizing.

  • White Beauty Bar
  • Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate - detergent.
  • Stearic acid - wax.
  • Coconut acid - coconut fatty acid.
  • Sodium Tallowate - animal fat.
  • Water.
  • Sodium isethionate - detergent.
  • Sodium stearate - a white powder derived from vegetable fat commonly used in soaps and cosmetics. It can also be used as a waterproofing and gelling agent. Sodium stearate is also often used as a cheap stabilizer in plastics. A possible allergen.
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine - detergent.
  • Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate - coconut or palm kernel oil.
  • Fragrance - chemical aroma, a possible allergen.
  • Sodium chloride - salt, used as a thickener.
  • Tetrasodium etidronate - a chemical used as a water softener in soaps to prevent soap scum.
  • Tetrasodium EDTA - a synthetic preservative that may be irritating to the
  • eyes / mucous membranes.
  • BHT - a solid, white crystalline antioxidant that can be toxic to the kidneys
  • Titanium dioxide (CI 77891) - white dye.

But this is NOT natural soap, as you can see, it contains mainly chemical detergents, animal fat [yuk, who wants to wash with lard?], synthetic fragrances and preservatives.

Also, so many companies offer these types of soaps and call their soap natural, but of course it is not. The correctly formulated soap has a wonderful, abundant lather, there is no need to enhance the lather with chemicals.

These are the two common ingredients in these synthetic laundry detergent bars:

  • Propylene glycol - a petrochemical
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Laureth Sulphate - aggressive cleaning agents


Or an example of natural soap ingredients:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Virgin coconut oil
  • Organic fair trade raw shea butter and cocoa butter
  • sunflower oil
  • Castor oil
  • Spring water
  • Essential oils of aromatherapy
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables 
  • Organic botanical products
  • Natural plant colors and clays


When oils are mixed with the alkali [also called lye], a process called saponification takes place. Oils are composed of fatty acids, as mentioned earlier, require a certain amount of alkali to saponify them, or turn them into soap. This is a crucial part of soap making and when formulated correctly and professionally, NO lye remains in the finished soap.

"Superfat" soaps. This means that there are oils or fats left in the soap that have not been converted by the lye to allow fat/oil to remain in its original form, so that it forms an invisible, protective and caring layer on the skin. The purpose of making the soap extra greasy is to give it this more "moisturizing" quality, making it gentler on the skin.

When reading the  INCI  (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) which is a legal requirement for all cosmetic products, it is difficult for the person who is not in this industry or who does not manufacture personal care products to understand the meaning of this labeling to understand. 

It is a system devised for waxes, oils, pigments, chemicals and other ingredients of soaps, toiletries and cosmetics based on scientific and Latin names of ingredients, e.g.

When olive oil is saponified it is called:

  • Sodium olivate.

When coconut oil is saponified it is called:

  • Sodium cocoate.

When shea butter is saponified it is called:

  • Sodium shea butterate.

When castor oil is saponified it is called:

  • Sodium castorate or sodium ricinoleate.

When sunflower oil is saponified it is called:

  • Sodium sunflower.

When palm oil is saponified it is called:

  • Sodium palmate.

When animal fat is saponified it is called:

  • Sodium talcate.


It is a fact.

Natural soaps not only smell wonderful, they are also very good for your skin. You will see a marked improvement in the quality and texture of your skin if you use a natural soap instead of its synthetic detergent counterpart.

©  NA ten Hoeve 08\08\2008

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