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Soap making and cooking aren't all that different, yet we are often guilty of paying far less attention to what goes on our body than what goes in our bodies. Did you know that harsh chemicals you put on your skin go straight into your blood stream, without the help of your digestive system to break them down? Not only that, they're washed down the drain, directly into our ocean torturing our aquatic life and causing irreversible damage to our environment.
Store bought manufactured soaps are filled with thousands of harsh chemicals that don't legally need to be labelled, and they often come in plastic packaging that is then simply sent to landfill.
We talk a lot about going back to basics in order to live a low carbon lifestyle
and aim to be as waste free as possible but often certain parts of our life are overlooked, for me it has always come down to the hygiene aspect.
I get nervous that if I use natural tooth pastes I'll be left with poor oral hygiene, or if by using home made deodorant I'll end up smelling bad because I've spent my whole life being fed the idea that these products are made by scientists in a lab and I'm not qualified, I didn't realise how wrong I was.
Soap making, is actually a pretty simple process, but companies have led us to believe otherwise. They feed us the idea that everything needs to be 'new and improved' in a lab, with thousands of synthetic chemicals, that way we continue to purchase over packaged products we don't need that ultimately end up in landfill.
So what are the alternatives?
Castile soap is known as genuine and pure soap whereas what we know as soap (store bought soap) is actually often a complex blend of detergent that don't actually contain any 'soap' at all.
Castile soap making as a process originated in Spain, and only uses vegetable based oils (Coconut oil, hemp seed oil, conflict-free palm oil, olive oil etc.) which are then combined with a natural chemical called 'Lye' (also known as sodium hydroxide) once combined they chemically change each other and turn into soap! The process is known as the 'saponification'.
So basically castile soap is only comprised of three ingredients, water, vegetable oil and Lye, and those three things together are exactly what soap is, of course you can always add essential oils to make them smell delicious!
Whilst I was reading all about natural soaps I came across a re-occurring theme, a lot of people seemed to be concerned about having 'lye' in their soap, worried that it was perhaps bad for their skin and the topic of 'lye free soaps' came up continually so I looked into it.
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Lye, as a chemical, before it meets with vegetable oils and performs the ceremony of 'saponification' is a harmful and burning product and should be used with caution (remember the 1999 film Fight Club? They use a thing called 'chemical burn' to induce scars? That was lye), however once met with oils the chemical compound of Lye literally changes, and you have soap, meaning the chemical that was harsh and could burn your skin no longer exists, because it has literally become soap (think of it as a transformer of cleanliness).
So in answer to if lye is good for your skin? No it's not, but once it turns into soap- it no longer exists.
Another reason to think about switching to pure soaps that they don't encourage super bacteria. There is this strange synthetic antibacterial ingredient that is called 'triclosan' and it's registered as a pesticide but it's also present in a lot of 'anti-bacterial' soaps and germ killers, it unfortunately kills everything, not just bad germs but also positive anti-bodies that help build our immune system and it has been linked to side effects such as increased allergies, weight gain, inflammatory and thyroid problems with zero scientific evidence to prove that it is any more effective at preventing illness that old-fashioned pure soap, like castile soap.Read more: DIY Antibacterial Mouthwash
When you start looking into the different harsh manufactured synthetic chemicals that are added to factory produced products you start to wonder how they've taken something that is made so simply and managed to create something so complex, another synthetic chemical that I was surprised about was 'Sodium Lauryl Sulfate' (SLS), it is a chemical compound who's primary job is to foam up and it is found in over 90% of personal care products even though it has been linked to eye damage, skin irritation and even depression.
Thankfully, due to castile soaps rich oil content it can produce a high-foaming lather naturally without the health risks and strange synthetic chemicals, it just does what they've tried to create naturally, without polluting the planet.
Due to this naturally occurring lathering castile soap is also incredibly versatile, it can be used as a hand wash, sensitive face wash, unisex shaving cream, bubble bath mixture as well as to wash your makeup and hair brushes- and that's just to name a few.
On average women add more than 200 chemicals to their skin daily and 60% of those chemicals are being absorbed directly into the blood stream. That's before we even take into account the chemicals in dental hygiene and hair care products. There is no way to know what these chemicals are, if they're natural chemicals or synthetic harsh chemicals because there is currently no regulation for cosmetics companies to list ingredients.
Buy sticking to the pure and simple soaps and processes that have been working for thousands of years rather than spending money on over packaged, over processed and over manufactured products we can be sure that we're making sure we cut down on harsh chemicals being absorbed in our blood stream, keep our happy bad bacteria fighting for our immune system and strive to live a waste free low carbon lifestyle.