Is There Lye In Natural Soap?
Won't It Harm My Skin?
If you are asking the question: Do you use lye (sodium hydroxide) to make Chagrin Valley natural soap?
The answer is -- yes, of course.
No lye -- No soap!
All REAL soap is made with lye (sodium hydroxide mixed with liquid).
Any skin or hair cleansing product made without sodium hydroxide is not soap, it is detergent.
If you are asking the question:
Is there lye in a bar of Chagrin Valley Natural Soap or Shampoo?
The answer is "No."
When the chemical reaction of making soap, called saponification, is complete, the lye and oil molecules have combined and chemically changed into soap and glycerin.
If the soap is made properly, the lye is used up in the saponification process to turn oil into soap.
There is no lye present in the finished bars of soap or shampoo. While all real soap must be made with lye, no lye remains in our finished product after saponification (described below).
It Doesn't Say "Lye" on My Soap Bar Ingredients
If it is real soap or contains real soap, it must be made with lye!
Handmade natural soap bars and some Commercial "soap" bars are made with lye even though the words "sodium hydroxide" or "lye" do not appear on the labels. Does your bar of "soap" contain ingredients such as...
- saponified oils: oils and butters are mixed with sodium hydroxide and a liquid (usually water).
- sodium cocoate: the generic name for the mixture of coconut oil with sodium hydroxide (lye).
- sodium palmate: the generic name for the mixture of palm oil with sodium hydroxide (lye).
- sodium palm kernelate: the generic name for the mixture of palm kernel oil with sodium hydroxide (lye).
- sodium tallowate: the generic name for the mixture of beef fat (tallow) with sodium hydroxide (lye).
- sodium olivate: the generic name for the mixture of olive oil with sodium hydroxide (lye).
It is true that the words "lye" or "sodium hydroxide" do not appear on the Dove ingredient label.
But, the first ingredients listed were sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, and sodium palm kernelate. So you can guess what I told her! Yes, Dove is made with lye!
These alternative words are not always used to deceive consumers!
But even natural soapmakers know that consumers are afraid of the word "lye."
At Chagrin Valley we believe that today's consumers are pretty savvy and the best practice is to educate.
Saponification: The Chemical Reaction Of Soapmaking
(The Science teacher in me could not resist!)
If you dig deep back to your high school chemistry days, you may remember learning about acid-base reactions. When an acid and a base combine they neutralize each other and make a salt. In simple terms, saponification is the name for a chemical reaction between an acid and a base to form a salt called "soap."
Sodium hydroxide is an alkali (base) and the acids are the fatty acids that make up the triglycerides present in oils and butters.
Once we select the oils and mix them with sodium hydroxide and a liquid (lye), the molecules combine, a chemical reaction occurs, called saponification (pictured below), and a totally different substance is created -- SOAP!
Notice there is no LYE (alkali) on the product side of the equation! No lye remains in our finished product!
I hope that it is now evident that once the process of saponification is complete, the lye and oil molecules have combined and have chemically changed into soap and glycerin.
Therefore, there is no lye (sodium hydroxide) present in the finished bars of soap.
An additional note: in the case of liquid soap, potassium hydroxide is used in place of sodium hydroxide.
One special thing to remember... all handmade soap is not created equal!
Superfatting is the process of adding extra fats (oils or butters) when formulating a natural soap recipe, so there is more fat in the mixture than the lye can react with during the chemical reaction.
We use a lot of extra fats (oils or butters) when formulating a natural soap recipe. Superfatted soaps have superior moisturizing and emollient qualities.
If you look at the colored picture of the chemical reaction above, in addition to "soap," glycerin, and water, Chagrin Valley Soaps also contain free oils that have been left unchanged by the saponification process and add extra moisturizing properties to our soaps and shampoos!
Read more about "Aren't all handmade natural soaps the same?"
If you are still not convinced, here is an example of another chemical reaction.
The element sodium (Na) is a highly reactive element that explodes if it touches water.
The element chlorine (Cl) is a deadly poisonous gas.
But when they come together in a chemical reaction a totally different substance is created -- table salt (NaCl)! There is no explosive sodium and no deadly poisonous chloride gas left at the end!
Interesting Note About Lye!
Lye has many uses in the food industry. The secret to great pretzels is often a lye bath! Lye gives pretzels their characteristic flavor, crispiness, and glossy finish.
Hominy is dried corn kernels reconstituted by soaking them in lye water until the germ is removed. Lye may also be used in the preparation of olives and pickles.