How We Make Natural Soap & Shampoo Bars
Soap was the first natural skin care product that I learned to make using a little mold that produced only 8 bars. After 15 years, my skin has become so accustomed to the gentle, mild lather that anything else makes my skin dry and itchy.
Have you ever wondered how we make natural soaps without using any artificial fragrances, artificial colors, or detergents like sulfates?
Chagrin Valley Natural Soaps and Shampoo Bars are handcrafted in small batches using the old-fashioned Cold Process Method, which means that the soap batter is not heated by any external means.
Real soap is the result of a natural chemical process called saponification, in which an acid (the fats--oils and butters) and a base or alkaline (sodium hydroxide--which is lye) dissolved in a liquid, are combined together to form a salt (soap), glycerin and a bit of water. The naturally occurring glycerin that helps moisturize your skin, is a by-product of the saponification process.
Consumers who do not understand the chemistry of soap making may be concerned with ingredients like "lye" and "sodium hydroxide." As a result, some soap makers will not use theses words in their ingredients list. Instead they use the words "saponified oils" which simply means that the oils are mixed with a lye liquid solution.
I know you are asking…is there lye in my soap? The answer is NO!
Real soap cannot be made without lye (sodium hydroxide). Any "lathering soap-type product" made without sodium hydroxide is not soap, it is a detergent. Detergents are fine as household cleaners, but do you really want to bathe using ingredients that are used to clean floors or dishes?
There is NO lye in a bar of Chagrin Valley Natural Soap. When saponification is complete, the lye and fat molecules have combined and chemically changed into soap and glycerin. No lye remains in a bar of our soap or shampoo.
How do we know that no lye remains in our soap? We add lots of extra oils and butter ("superfat" -- see below), we inspect them, and for each and every batch we perform the best possible test -- we use them.
We add extra base oils (super fat) to our recipes. For a more detailed explanation of the actual chemistry of making soap please read our blog, Is There Lye In Natural Soap? Won't It Harm My Skin?
The Soap Making Process
Any soap or shampoo is only as good as the ingredients used to make it!
We begin with fresh, nutrient-rich, sustainably and ethically sourced, organic plant oils and botanical butters. Solid fats are warmed just until melted.
The warmed oils are slowly mixed with an alkaline lye/liquid solution.
The liquid mixed with lye in our handcrafted natural soap may be water, herbal tea, fruit or vegetable juice, goat’s milk, buttermilk, cream, coconut milk, yogurt, beer, or even brewed coffee.
The mixture is stirred until it thickens.
Then, depending on the soap, we add pure essential oils, responsibly harvested wildcrafted and organic botanicals, organic spices, purifying clays, bamboo charcoal, chocolate, and other beneficial ingredients.
The natural soap mixture is poured into molds and allowed to set for 2 to 3 days.
Finally, the soap is cut into bars and allowed to naturally air cure for 8-12 weeks.
Each batch is carefully tested to make sure that the saponification process is complete.
For every soap recipe, there is a precise amount fat (oils and butters) needed to ensure that all of the lye has been transformed into soap during the saponification reaction. This exact amount would be a 0% superfat.
Superfatting is the process of adding extra fats (oils or butters) when formulating a soap recipe, so there is more fat in the mixture than the lye can react with during the chemical reaction.
The ratio of fats to sodium hydroxide (lye) is a critical in order to create a mild and gentle bar soap. So, we superfat all of our soap and shampoo bars.
If you are creating a laundry soap or dish soap, you would not want a lot of extra oil in your bar. However, superfatted body soaps have superior moisturizing and emollient qualities.
- Superfatting ensures that all lye has been used up and leaves a portion of unincorporated oils in the finished soap to ensure a mild, moisturizing natural soap bar.
- Our soap bars are superfatted at a higher level than shampoo bars (Read our Blog: "What is the Difference Between Soap Bars & Shampoo Bars?"
We superfat at a higher rate than most soapmakers. Although it makes the bars a bit softer, we think it is well worth it!
The Scents & Colors of Natural Soap
Some of our soaps have no scent added—these soaps have distinct natural aromas due to honey, grains, flowers, spices, herbs, or herbal-infused oils.
Scented soaps have all-natural plant essential oils added--NOT fragrance oils or "nature identical" oils. Read Why We Use Only Real Plant Essential Oils
Soap colors come from natural juices, teas, spices, botanicals, or clays--NOT synthetic micas or other colorants.
Why Do Handmade Natural Soaps Need To Cure?
Once the oils and alkali (base) have been mixed, we do not add additional heat to hurry the chemical reaction along--we allow the natural process to take its course over time. This is why it is called "cold-processed" soap.
The liquid soap batter that is poured into the molds has only partially saponified. The molds are covered with towels and after a 2-4 day insulation period, most of the saponification process, about 95%, is complete. The remaining 5% needs a bit more time. We also know that different oils may take longer to completely saponify.
The curing time for each type of cold-process soap is dependent on the type of oils used and water content of the recipe.
The freshly cut bars are soft. During the 8 to 12 week curing time, excess moisture in the bars evaporates, the bars will shrink and lose a bit of weight, and the bar hardens.
While some soapmakers use a 4-week cure, we believe our longer, slower curing time ensures a milder, harder, longer-lasting bar, with a very rich lather.
A bar of handmade soap is safe to use after just a few weeks, but it will melt more quickly when exposed to water. Although as our soaps sit waiting for a new home they will continue to shrink in size, this longer curing time results in a bar of soap with exceptional mildness and luxurious lather.
Our Chagrin Valley Natural Soaps & Shampoo Bars
The result of our painstaking, meticulous process is a mild, rich, moisturizing soap that feels creamy in your hands, offers a magnificent long-lasting lather, and leaves your skin clean, soft, silky, and radiantly healthy.
Our natural soap and shampoo bars are made without synthetic surfactants (detergents), sulfates, silicones, or parabens, using ingredients that are Certified Organic, non-GMO, cruelty-free, sustainably produced, and ethically traded.
The primary organic base oils used in most of our soaps are organic extra virgin olive oil, organic sunflower oil, organic coconut oil, organic sustainable palm oil, and organic castor oil.
Each oil is chosen for the special properties it gives to the soap. For example:
- organic olive and sunflower oils are gentle and moisturizing
- organic coconut oil provides natural cleansing and bubbly, fluffy lather
- organic sustainable palm oil creates a hard bar with creamy and conditioning lather
- organic castor oil creates a dense and creamy lather that conditions and moisturizes
Our soap and shampoo bars contain no alcohol, animal fats, detergents, synthetic fragrances, synthetic colors, or preservatives