Kawartha Lakes Wellness Company

Natural Soap vs Commercial Soap, The Differences

Written by Liv Plowman

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Posted on February 20 2021

If you have noticed over the past decade the general public are making a shift from commercial soap products to natural and healthier soaps and personal care products; handmade products with an attention to natural and well sourced ingredients. Commercial soaps are often not even made here in Canada and are shipped here from developing nations and third world countries. Hygiene, formulation and ingredients are the major difference between natural hand made soap and commercial soap.

Anthropologists tell us that soap making dates back to the Babylonian times around 2800 BC. Then records show ancient Egyptians bathed regularly. The Ebers papyrus is a medical document from about 1500 BC and this paper describes combining animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to form a soap-like material used for treating skin diseases, as well as for washing. This is the original documented recipe for soap and home made soap makers follow this format to this day. In 1791 a French chemist named Nicholas Leblanc, patented a process for making soda ash from common salt this patent would eventually contribute to the commercial soap manufacturing that actually took off by the late 1850's. The first commercially manufactured soaps were considered an expensive luxury and most soaps were made at home. On farms and in most homes across Canada, soap continued to be made from ashes from the fire and lard or fat into the 1960's.

During World War I, commercial soap, as we know it today, came into existence. However, at the same time, the ingredients needed to make soap were scarce. German scientists created a new form of "soap" made with various synthetic compounds and as a result, detergents were born. By the 1950′s, detergent sales had surpassed soap sales in the United States. Commercial "soaps" available today are actually detergents. How many of the commercial soaps are not even able to write SOAP on their bar because it is detergent NOT SOAP? Beware, when you see a soap called "body bar" or some fancy name and you don't see the word soap anywhere - chances are it is detergent because by law you cannot write soap on a bar of detergent. Check it out for yourself. 

After the Great War and until the 1930s, soap was made by a method where batches were produced in large kettles. Commercial soap makers had huge three story kettles that produced thousands of pounds of soap over the course of about a week. By the 1950's Procter & Gamble came up with the "continuous process", this process decreased soap making production time to less than a day. Large commercial soap manufacturers still use the continuous process to this day.

Commercial soap manufacturers also learned around this same time that they could remove the naturally produced glycerin in your soaps which gives it moisturizing properties. The glycerin is removed  from the soaps so the manufacturer can store your soap for years before you get it. They sell it or use it in other higher priced products like the moisturizers and creams you need when their detergent they sell to you dries out your skin and causes you skin issues, you now buy products like creams and moisturizers containing the glycerin to try to moisturize and heal your dry skin problems that the detergents caused in the first place. A nightmare for your skin; a big CHA-CHING for the commercial soap manufacturers.

Today with cancers on the rise, heart disease, allergies, health and chronic skin diseases, fertility dilemmas, obesity, mental health issues, the list goes on, for many years we questioned as to why the stats were going up. Health problem statistics and numbers growing turned many research labs and scientists to search and expose the sad facts. Harsh and harmful chemicals that we have ingested through our skin over the decades through the use of commercial soaps, detergents, shampoos, conditioners, make-up, lotions, cosmetics have been found to contribute to our crumbling decline in health. If a soap can sit on a shelf for five years there are chemicals in that bar you don't want on your skin.

Now with the onset of Covid-19 our entire global population is focused on handwashing to combat germs in one of the many efforts to stay safe and healthy during a world-wide pandemic. Every time you and your family wash your hands with a commercial bar of soap you continue to contribute to the flow of harmful and dangerous chemicals that pass into and  through your body and then leech into our water, land and air. If we expect to survive this pandemic and plan to see a better world when we come out on the other side of this mess, we need to pay attention to the products we are using and turn our backs on the commercial soaps and products that are polluting our bodies and our lands.

There are 2 types of soap- those that are commercially made and those that are handmade natural soaps. Handmade soaps may have a higher purchase price, but that’s because they contribute to many more benefits when it comes to your health and well-being. I'm not condoning every hand made soap maker, hell, I've watched YouTube videos that showed the soap maker in a filthy garage, with, hair, dust and animals running around, disgusting and filthy conditions that I personally wouldn't visit never mind purchase a bar of soap that I plan on rubbing on my body from this person!

However, for all the hygienic soap makers, for all those who put on gloves, hairnet, proper clothing and have been trained, schooled and educated to soap in a lab-type spotless environment; those who clean and sanitize tools, equipment  to ensure they bring you a clean and healthy product...it is this type of hand made soap I defend and speak of in this article. These soap makers are part of a movement of individuals who care about their environment, they source organic products, they don't use Palm Oil from the forests that have become a major driver of deforestation of some of the world's most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. They don't put harmful chemicals into the products you will put on your skin. These soap makers have taken many years to learn their craft, because they care about their families and their responsibility to our global health. 

As a young elementary school girl I remember the entire class would be randomly called upon to stand up and put our hands out - as a teacher or public health nurse would inspect each young student to see that we had washed hands properly and that our nails were trim and clean. It seemed in the nineteen sixties and early seventies the focus of the home had Mother always yelling at you to wash your hands before dinner, change your clothes and wash your hands when you had come home from school - wash your hands was a constant lament from your parents. I suppose it was a gradual change and it seemed society got busy, parents had to work strange hours and families stopped sitting down for dinner at the same time. By the time I became a  mom was working two jobs to support my family and by the time my children started elementary school - teachers stopped inspecting hands and stopped teaching hygiene and eventually health nurses disappeared from our schools.

Times changed and by the mid nineteen eighties and nineties even our grocery stores changed. Where we had once had a moderate selection of products in the supermarket and drug stores, suddenly, overnight we had so many choices and varieties of everything....including soap, shampoo, and cosmetics. It was evident that corporation competition and chemicals to preserve the shelf life of products had replaced a once smaller yet healthier selection of items.

My grandmother was a homesteader, Irish decent and I remember watching her make soap from the coals of the fire on our farm in Bruce County Ontario Canada during the 1960's. Jumping ahead to the twenty first century, we as consumers now have rows and shelves of commercial soaps and products to choose from. Most have passed away from the generation of home made soap makers that same generation who had grown up through the Great Depression and two world wars are now elderly, sadly for the last few decades not only did they not have the energy to make everything from scratch, they hardly saw the reasoning. Our society had become easy and disposable and they went along for the ride. Most of the homesteaders and old-timers are gone now, but many of us remember and are trying to honour them and our earth by soap making and producing products that are natural and safe for all to use.

These are just a few of the chemicals that you ingest through your skin when you purchase store bought soap. Not to mention that they distill the glycerin out of their soaps leaving behind detergent. Handmade soaps use oils and retain the glycerin during the process of soap making for the rich moisturizing qualities.

Parabens: These unnecessary ingredients are found in majority of commercial soap and beauty products and act as chemical preservatives (extend shelf life)

Phthalates: This additive (known to be linked to several cancers) is often used as a ‘plasticizer’- an ingredient used to produce plastic.


Petrochemicals: Made from petroleum, these chemicals should be considered unsafe for humans because little is known about the long-term effects they have on our health.


Synthetic Perfume: Artificial perfume scents, although they smell nice, are linked to many allergies and the cause of hormonal issues. As well, synthetic ingredients such as perfume are likely to cause skin conditions and to aggravate existing issues such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Many laundry detergents hide very dangerous perfumes that end up on your clothing and bedding. SXY Soap Co uses only Essential Oils and that are 100% Certified as well offer fragrance-free options for many products.

Artificial Colouring:  Pert shampoo years ago used to glow under black lights. Commercial soaps are packed with artificial dyes that have been known to cause health problems and serious illnesses in humans. Again, no artificial dyes are used at SXY Soap Co - simply natural colour only.

Here are the differences and below I have listed all the positive components of natural soap. 


Healthy Oils: Oil is actually an important ingredient in soap making, especially for those with oily or acne prone skin. Oils like coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil help to nourish and moisturize skin and bring it back to its natural PH levels. (PH levels that are destroyed from the chemicals we have used for years on store-bought commercial products)

Essential Oils: These can be tricky and need a great deal of attention. There are many essential oils on the market today that are of the poorest quality and are not really essential oils. 100% pure essential oils are certified and will have the Latin name of the oil on the label. There are certain health warnings to individuals who are taking certain medications, have particular health issues that should not be around certain essential oils - The particular oil could weaken medication they are taking, cause side effects or intensify medications too. Only a professional health care worker trained in Essential Oils, your doctor or often a Massage Therapist is familiar enough to give you advice on Essential Oils that are safe for you. That being said - Essential Oils are natural, they can aid in your health and they have been treating mankind for centuries for everything from a bruise, sore muscles to serious illness. The beauty of essential oils is that generally they are very helpful when used properly. They are kind to our environment because they originate from mostly plant life.

Kelp, Aloe, Charcoal, etc.: Natural soaps are made with organic, biodegradable ingredients that are harvested, produced, or sourced in a safe and conscious way. Unlike chemical ingredients, you can easily understand what these ingredients are and how your body will react to them. 

From the treasures of our past when times were simpler and our world was environmentally safer because everything was natural and handmade to the era of the commercial soaps of today that are simply detergents and harmful chemicals. It is time for us all to seek out that natural soap maker, make the change, time to care about what we are putting into our environment. and what we are doing to plants and animals and ourselves. I'm glad that my next bar of soap will be a handmade soap from a beautiful soap studio in Kawartha Lakes. SoapCo at Gendermart.com produces the natural bar of soap I want to use. Check them out, you may change your mind too about using commercial soaps. 

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