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Natural handmade soaps….what’s the lather about?

Ishween Anand, owner and founder of Nyassa a luxury and fragrant line of bath and body products, shares valuable insights about handmade soaps exclusively for our readers. She helps us understand our soaps better, how to differentiate between authentic natural handmade soaps and how to select a natural soap based on our skin type.

Every time we switch on the TV, we can’t escape being bombarded with ads for new (or not so new) soaps. And of late, there is this new craze of natural “hand made” soaps. We use soaps everyday (well almost!); our precious skin is exposed to it every time we use it, so isn’t it time to understand what exactly is a soap and how is a natural handmade soap different than the regular bar of soap?

So lets start with the basics, all natural soaps are made from a recipe of three ingredients – first, natural vegetable oils like coconut, palm or olive oil; second, essential oil or fragrance oil to give the soap the fragrance and character and finally, some garnishing like flowers, buds, leaves, herbs and grains to give enhance the look (though this is optional). An alkali is used to convert the liquid oils to something called” soap”.

The basic formula can be tweaked to obtain whatever the soaper likes. Increasing the proportion of palm oil soap gives more lather whereas increasing olive oil decreases the lather in a bar.

However, creating a handmade soap is like a chef creating a dish…. the basic is just for the starter; there are as many recipes as we have needs, desires and moods. Listed below are some basic needs and benefits we have from natural handmade soap.

Dry skin: Adding shea or cocoa butter in soap can make it richer and creamier and is great for dry skin.

Ageing Skin: Add Wheatgerm, Avocado , Argan oil  to rejuvenate ageing skin.

Oily Skin: Clays such as green clay or pink clay in soap an help get rid of excess oil from the skin.

Minerals and Nutrients: Some soapers also add Dead Sea mud that has over 21 types of different minerals.  “From Nature With Love”, an ingredient supplier says, “Goat’s milk is a natural emollient that helps soothe and moisturize the skin. It contains vitamins A, B6, B12 and E.” So our grandmothers were right after all!

Shaving soap: Shaving soaps for men and women usually contain Bentonite clay, Kaolin, Rhassoul or Fuller’s Earth to provide the necessary slip and at the same time keep the skin soft and moisturized.

Characteristics of Handmade Soap

As you can see, with handmade soaps, there is no end to the variety; but what really makes truly natural handmade soaps different?

100% Vegetarian: Mostly all handmade soaps are made from 100% vegetarian ingredients though there are many soapers who still swear by tallow as an essential ingredient in their soap. Check with your company or read the label for the 100% vegetarian mark.

Preservative Free: Handmade soaps are usually made in small batches approx. 36 or 48 bars at a time. They are devoid of harsh preservatives, hardeners or lathering agents. They do not dry out the skin and they keep moisture in the body locked for hours. Read the label for manufacturing date and usually handmade soaps are never over 2-3 months old.

Animal Testing: Since most of the ingredients are natural, handmade natural soap manufacturers are also sensitive to issues such as “No animal testing”.  If you feel strongly about it, make sure to read the labels carefully.

Skin Diseases: Natural soap bars that are without any chemicals and artificial fragrances are highly recommended for people who are suffering from skin conditions such as eczema and psoriases and tend to develop rash and itchiness with the synthetic bars.

Think of a natural handmade soap as a piece of art with the fragrances, the swirls, the layers, the embellishments. A great gift idea on all occasions, be it birthdays, hostess gifts, weddings or party favors.

Natural handmade soap in an affordable luxury, probably the cost of a cup of coffee and a muffin but something that lasts for a few weeks making for a great bath and the fragrance staying with you all day. Maybe it’s time you wake up and smell the…soap!

Click here if you’d like to know more about organic handmade soaps from Soap for Soul and know more about the story behind Aroma Magic.

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Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

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