Patty invited me to blog about soap-making, and I’m thrilled to do so! My name is Gail Kappenman and I make old-fashioned, hand-cooked, hand-poured, hand-cut lye soap. This is the good stuff – the soap that makes your skin feel smooth and silky.
If you’ve never used honest-to-goodness handmade lye soap, you should try at least one bar at some point in your life. . . you’ll likely never buy store soap again. Why? Because nothing feels as good on your skin as handmade, cold-process lye soap.
Commercially manufactured soaps are full of a host of impossible-to-pronounce chemicals and petroleum by-products that will get you “clean” but will not feed your skin. In fact, one study listed all the chemicals in an average bar of soap, and it was scary! Few people realize your skin is like a giant sponge – whatever you rub on the outside makes its way to the inside. Lye soap is made from pure water, lye, and all-natural fats, oils, and nut butters. Colorants and essential oil scents can be added.
Myth: Lye soap is harsh. Truth: The large soap manufacturers have successfully scared people for the past few generations from trying lye soap, because they’ve conditioned people to think lye is harsh on your skin. Well, if you were washing with straight lye, that would be true….you wouldn’t have any skin left! But when lye is mixed properly with fats and oils, the chemical composition is changed and soap is created – a natural, gentle soap that is good for your skin and hair, not harsh. And, what most people do not realize, is that ALL soap is made with one form or another of lye. Home soapmakers just use a different form of lye than large commercial manufacturers – but all soap has some form of lye. Don’t be fooled by the advertisers!
What’s so special about all-natural fats and oils? Well, olive oil helps skin retain its youthful appearance. Shea butter, castor, evening primrose, and avocado oils all have healing properties. Cocoa butter gives your skin a silky feel and glow. Other oils that are commonly used in soapmaking are palm oil, coconut oil, apricot kernel, sweet almond, and mango. Each has a special quality, something good for your skin or your hair.
Ever try a shampoo bar? They often contain castor and avocado oils – both are super for healing dry, overworked hair. Shampoo bars are used by simply rubbing them across your hair a few times, then working them up into a lather and washing as usual, then conditioning. Many women swear their hair is easier to manage and appears thicker and fuller after shampooing with lye soap bars.
Essential oils are often added for a pleasing scent. Aroma therapists recommend using naturally scented soaps in the bath as a means of relaxing and unwinding. Lavender is especially helpful in soothing and relaxing after a stressful day. You can go to almost any aroma therapy site that sells essential oils, click on an oil, and discover what that oil is used for – relaxing, healing, invigorating, etc.
Sometimes soaps are made with additional ingredients, such as oatmeal, French clay, corn meal, coffee grounds, goat’s milk, etc. Goat’s milk is a wonderful addition to soap as it makes the skin smooth and soft. A lot of people who suffer from acne and other facial skin inflammations have found goat’s milk soap to help their skin. Some sites have testimonials from people who suffered for years with eczemas and other skin ailments, and they finally found relief by using soaps made with goat’s milk. Oatmeal and the other ingredients mentioned above are added to soap as a natural exfoliate, naturally and gently removing old, dead skin cells.
Wow!! Thanks, Gail, for the info. I had no idea there was so much involved in making soap. Next time Gail will walk us through making a batch.