By Terry Bryant, MoonEssence, Inc. 15 Western Ave, Petaluma, CA 94952, (707) 763-5363
Cold Processed Soaps: Natural cold processed soaps refer to the “old fashioned” way of soap making. Traditionally, soap was made once a year from rendered scraps of fat. This soap was commonly referred to as “lye soap” and usually harsh enough to take off a fine layer of skin! It was used to clean everything and anything. With the help of a little math and accurate equipment, MoonEssence natural cold processed soaps are more finely tuned and quite mild. The chemistry of soap making can be briefly summarized: In the saponification (curing) stage during hydrolysis the OH ion attacks the carbon in the carboxyl portion of each fatty acid, breaking one fatty acid at a time from the triglyceride, then the diglyceride, then finally, the monoglyceride. Each released fatty acid reacts with the sodium ion to make a salt, or soap. The OH ions react with glycerol to make glycerin. Glycerin naturally attracts moisture. OK. That’s more chemistry than you ever wanted to know or ask!
The myth about Glycerin: Glycerin, without an “e” at the end, is the chemical end product. Glycerine, with an “e” at the end, is an industrial trade name for glycerin products in which at least a little glycerin has been added. Buyer beware!
A Brief Description of Fragrance Ingredients: Synthetic fragrances and fragrance oils are compounds of chemical components created in a laboratory and may cause “scent sensitivity.” Essential oils are obtained by distilling plant materials, usually with steam infusion and separating the floral water from the essential oil. These oils contain hundreds of different beneficial compounds naturally occurring in plant material. MoonEssence uses the highest quality unadulterated essential oils and consults with a local chemist, Libby Fitzgerald.
Most soaps are scented in some way. Truly natural cold processed soaps use only pure essential oil for fragrance. But soap labels can be misleading. Some essential oils are extremely expensive. Lemon Verbena, for example, sells for about $2 a drop and would be cost prohibitive to add to soap. The soap maker who sells lemon verbena soap may have included a few drops in their soap batch, but probably added 99.9% lemongrass essential oil which smells similar but is much more affordable. Fruits and vegetables (with the exception of citrus rind) CANNOT be distilled to produce essential oils; therefore, whenever you smell peach, apple, strawberry, etc. assume the scents are synthetic and created in the laboratory. Most often rain, musk, chocolate, and coffee fall into this category. All of the designer perfumes sold today are mostly if not all made with synthetic fragrance compounds. The reason is reproduction is perfect every time and the cost of manufacturing is economical.
Commercial Bars: Commercial soaps are made in a very different manner by what is known as the “continuous process” using high heat, pressure, and a catalyst causing almost instantaneous saponification. To further harden the soap it is exposed to hydrogen. This process produces reasonably high quality soaps using lower grade fats and oils. The vast majority of these soaps are scented with synthetic fragrances. Since the glycerin has been removed, one is left with a bar of soap that has lost any moisturizing capabilities. Lastly, some commercial soap use animal tallow or lard because it is an economical commodity.
“French” Milled Soaps: Milled soaps are made from freshly made soap that has already gone through the curing process. This soap is usually made with animal fats and in most cases the glycerin has been removed (glycerin sticks to the rollers). The soap is processed through a machine. It is shredded and pressed, or milled, through rollers many times and compacted into a tight mass. This produces a shiny bar. The amount of times the soap has gone through the process denotes the number of times milled (for example, triple milled). The milling process can yield long lasting synthetically scented luxurious soaps. However, they do not have moisturizing capabilities because they lack glycerin.
Transparent or Glycerine Soaps: Transparent soaps can be made with either vegetable or animal fats. The process is the same as with the cold process method although alcohol (and sometimes sugar) is added. The addition of alcohol gives the bar its transparency. Often people think that because the soap is transparent it is somehow purer and contains more glycerin that other soaps. This may not be the case.
Synthetic Detergents: During World War II, fats and oils were in short supply. Chemists were quickly motivated to find other options for the production of soap products. Experimentation began with petroleum distillates to replace animal fats; hence, the synthetic detergent era began. Synthetic soaps fill our store counters in the form of shampoos, liquid hand and dish soaps, liquid and powdered laundry detergents, etc. These products contain many additives, preservatives, and large amounts of synthetic fragrances as well as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which may cause drying of the skin because of its degreasing ability and is an irritant to the skin. Concentrations should not exceed 1 percent for prolonged contact with skin.
Our goal is to educate you so you can be a more informed shopper