We’re living in a world where taking responsibility for our own health and environmental impact is not only a good idea – it’s absolutely critical. And while that’s a lofty task, it’s all about progress over perfection, and every baby step we take counts as a step in the right direction. If you’re ready to go on this journey to a healthier lifestyle for both you and the planet, one of the easiest, most-effective places to start is right in your own bathroom.
Skin is the largest organ of the human body, acting as our own waterproof, insulating shield, guarding us against extreme temperature, damaging sunlight and harmful chemicals. Our suits of armor deserve extra attention and thoughtful TLC – but using the wrong products in our daily bathing rituals not only strips our skin of its natural protectants, it can also harm our immune, hormonal, and respiratory systems. The best way to prevent this is to clean up our skin care regimens, paying attention to the ingredients in our soap, and how our favorite cleansers are being made.
Handmade, Natural Soap Vs. Commercial Soap
The commercialization of toiletries gradually turned the mass produced items we find on store shelves into chemically-laden bars of soap, filled with harmful parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, and other artificial components that are harmful to our bodies. These ingredients are linked to conditions including asthma, allergies, hormonal disorders, weakened immune systems, and even cancer. Very few bars even contain real soap as an ingredient! Not only do these additives have long-term consequences on our health, their immediate efficacy is often questionable at best.
Did you know that until very recently, skincare products labeled as anti-bacterial often contained the toxic chemicals triclosan and triclocarban? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently banned these two additives after determining that they weren’t safe for long term use, or any more effective in preventing illness and killing germs than the use of regular soap and water. Despite this finding and to this day, eighty percent of chemicals used in personal-care products in the United States still have never been tested for safety – it’s like the wild, wild west out there in the commercial soap industry!
Real soap is created through a process called saponification, which occurs when lye is mixed with water and a fat, like a natural oil or butter. This soap removes dirt and oil from our skin – which is really the basic point of using soap, right? You can then mix other ingredients found in nature with the soap for specific functions, such as moisturizing or exfoliating. It really is as simple as that.
If you’re a body wash kind of person, we promise, bar soaps are just as hygienic and beneficial for cleansing your body from unwanted dirt, oils, and bacteria. As an extra benefit, natural, handmade soaps are far superior when it comes to environmental impact. They tend to last longer, they are chemical-free which means no damage to the earth, and they can be packaged using biodegradable materials – no plastic necessary. We call that a win-win.
The Benefits of Using Handmade Natural Soaps
The base for real soap is water, lye, and a fat such as lard, tallow, coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, or other natural oils and butters. With that foundation, the possibilities to customize the soap into something truly joy-sparking and personalized to you are almost limitless! You simply need to look to nature for inspiration.
First, decide what additional support your body craves. Honey is an incredible moisturizer that hydrates and smoothes your skin (while making it smell amazing…). And don’t worry, its usual stickiness disappears when it goes through the soap-making process! Olive, coconut, and almond oils all work as moisturizers, too. Clays and muds soothe irritated skin. Coffee, salts, and finely ground oats serve as natural exfoliants. And goat milk both exfoliates and moisturizes, resulting in a creamy, rich lather when used in soaps.
Your herb garden is another great place to look for inspiration. Need to repair dry skin? Try patchouli. Need the help of an anti-inflammatory? Chamomile is your gal. Need an invigorating boost? Thank you, peppermint. Nervous system needs some support? Try lemon balm. Turmeric gives you a glowing complexion, and oregano helps balance oil production.
Next up, fruit and vegetable gardens – the source for all the vitamin-rich benefits our skin needs. Carrots brighten and reduce inflammation. Bergamot fights acne. Oranges are antimicrobial. Pomegranates and oranges are rich in Vitamin C, which are antioxidizing. What does that mean for your skin? Bye-bye wrinkles and age spots, hello bright, glowing skin!
Finally, take a walk in your flower garden to discover skincare options that will be as beautiful as their source. Geranium oil is great for treating acne. Roses act as antioxidants. Lavender is soothing, which helps with better sleep and reducing stress. And clary sage soothes, calms, and balances irritated skin.
One of our favorite parts of our daily shower is that fresh and clean smell when you first emerge. But fragrance as an ingredient on a label of commercially produced soaps can often disguise a number of unpleasant chemicals that cause allergies, asthma attacks, and irritated skin. The pleasant smell you associate with being clean doesn’t need to be sacrificed for natural skincare, however! Choose essential oils that complement your hardworking ingredients to create a subtle, pleasant aroma. If you're a new parent or someone with an especially sensitive nose, you can simply omit this entirely. You can further customize your natural soap by choosing different mold shapes and sizes or adding natural coloring.
You can see why it was a no-brainer for us to develop our handmade, natural bar soaps. We turned to the Farm Stand garden to create beautiful bars in vibrant colors, delicious scents, and custom formulations to address common needs, and we couldn’t be more obsessed with the results. Take a look through this list of concerns to identify which bar is the perfect match for you – or select a few if you can’t choose just one!
Our Lavender Pea Bar Soap will provide that additional comfort you need and even encourages sound sleep with lavender’s soothing, therapeutic properties.
If you’re looking for general skin protection from damaging chemicals, bacteria, and free-radical exposure, our vitamin-packed Moringa Bar Soap is the way to go.
Perhaps the most glamorous way to avoid an unglamorous problem, regularly bathing with our Rose Garden Bar Soap will keep bacteria and fungi at bay.
Hoping to improve the overall appearance of your skin by minimizing cellulite and encouraging firmness? Look for a soap with a natural, gentle exfoliant, like the finely ground coffee beans in our Vanilla Coffee Bar Soap.
For those wanting to preserve the youthful qualities of their skin, turn to carrots. Our Sweet Carrot Bar Soap harnesses the vitamin-rich benefits of this hardworking vegetable to keep your skin looking and feeling glowing, tight, and even.
Get a deep down cleanse with oats! Not only do they contain saponins which help draw out dirt and oil, but when finely ground, they also act as a beneficial exfoliant, which is why they’re the star ingredient in our Oatmeal Honey Bar.
Feeling inspired to ditch your current body care to create what you can source from your own garden and local farms? You might want to try your hand at making bar soap at home. It’s the perfect way to create a truly custom formulation, specifically serving your own preferences in aesthetics and scents while meeting your exact needs. There are three basic ways to go about the soap making process. Below, we’ll summarize each so you can decide which one will work best for you.
Melt and Pour
Beginners start here. The melt and pour process involves purchasing a pre-made base, meaning saponification is complete, and you don’t need to be involved with handling lye. Your pre-made base might include goat's milk, honey, or oatmeal. Transparent soaps contain glycerin bases. Then choose your additives, such as essential oils for scent or exfoliants if desired.
Simply melt the pre-made base in the microwave or using a double boiler on the stovetop, then stir in your chosen additives using a wire whisk in a heat resistant container. There are many recipes available, so do a quick Pinterest search if you need a little help at first with measurements. Pour the mixture into a silicone mold – fill it to the top, as it will not expand during the cooling process – and allow it to cool, undisturbed at room temperature. The time to cool will vary significantly from a few hours to a full day depending on the size and depth of the mold, the current temperature, and humidity levels. Once the bar is fully cooled, pop it out of the mold, and you can begin to use it immediately!
Once you’ve mastered the melt and pour soap-making process, you can advance to the hot process method. You will be responsible for the saponification process, but you will speed everything up by using heat. This is great when you want a fully homemade bar, but need it ready to use sooner rather than later.
Because you’re working with lye, consider making your soap outside. If poor weather prevents that, make sure you’re in a clean, well ventilated area. Pure lye can be dangerous, causing burns if it comes in contact with your skin, blindness if it touches your eye, or death if ingested. Intimidating stuff! But when handled responsibly, wearing protective gear including gloves and goggles or other eye coverings plus long sleeves and pants, the extra precautions are definitely worth it in making your own soap. If any spills happen – and to clean the equipment you use in the saponification process – keep white vinegar on hand. It neutralizes the lye.
Choose the oil base(s) you’d like to use for your soap, and head over to soapcalc.net to calculate the measurements needed of soap, lye, and water for saponification. Measure your oil and add to a slow cooker. While this melts and heats, measure out your water and place it into a large container. Next, measure the lye and slowly add it to the water, stirring constantly. It’s extremely important that you do this process in order. Never, ever add water to lye as the result is an exothermic reaction that is similar to the volcano experiment you did in middle school – a dangerous phenomenon when dealing with this intense substance. Avoid inhaling any fumes that come from the mixture. It should look cloudy and will rise in temperature up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow this to cool – you’ll know it’s ready when it’s clear instead of cloudy.
Next, check the temperature of your oils in the slow cooker, ensuring they are less than 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Add in the water and lye mixture to the slow cooker. Stir it together and allow it to heat on low until everything comes to a boil. Don’t leave it unattended during this process – it can boil over if you don’t watch closely. Turn the slow cooker off, remove the inner bowl from the heat source, allow it to cool slightly, then add in any additional ingredients, such as essential oils or salts. Spoon the mixture into your silicone molds and cover with parchment paper. Allow them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours before removing from the molds. Voila! Your bars are ready for use!
Begin by safely performing the saponification process described above. Allow the lye and water mixture to cool while you combine your oils and other ingredients in a separate container. Use an immersion blender to emulsify, then pour the cooled lye and water mixture into the oils slowly. Pulse a few times using the stick blender, until you get a thick consistency. Pour it into your molds and leave undisturbed for 3-4 days. You can then remove the cold process soap from the molds, but it will need to cure – meaning, the water needs to evaporate from the bars – for another 4-6 weeks before it’s ready for use. Patience is key here!
Your body deserves to be supported, protected, and nourished — the best way to accomplish that is through using natural soaps. Our garden provides everything we need and more, so ditch the harmful chemicals and processes commonly found in store bought soaps.
As you now know, making soap can require a ton of patience and caution – hard to find in this busy day and age. That’s why we created our line of garden-fresh bars which are handmade thoughtfully by expert soap makers to save you the time and effort, because we know how important taking care of your health and the environment is to you.