handmade soap, handmade bath soap, bath and body products

Navigating Handmade Soap

Johnson & Johnson was recently found to have cancer-causing ingredients in their baby powder, sparking an outrage. The Wen hair company recently had to fork over a small sum of $26 million dollars to settle a suit against their company alleging chemicals used in their product were causing hair-loss. The long term damaging affects of BPA and Phthalates are beginning to come to light to the main stream consumer.

The point?

We are becoming more aware of what is put into our skin care products. The past few years have seen an explosion of “natural”, “organic” “handmade” “vegan” “non-GMO”. We, as consumers are being enlightened with the ingredients that are being absorbed through our skin and we are demanding better.

We are seeing a mounting movement to reduce air pollution, clean up our rivers, fight to save endangered animals and rain forests...all things that were damaged by our industry. We are seeing people shift to clean eating, developing healthy habits both physically and psychologically. So, it only makes sense that we started evaluating what was going onto our skin.

A decade or so back handmade soaps were only found in health food stores, or at your local Farmer’s Market. Often sold without much attention to ingredients or variety. Handmade soap was remote and obscure and not taken seriously at all by the mainstream. But times are changing. And fast! Now, if you google handmade soap, or handmade bath and body products you will be presented with literally thousands of options. On Etsy alone there are over 96,000 results to the query “handmade soap”. This can make the task of deciding which soap to choose more than just a little daunting.

So what makes a good bar of handmade soap? Now, that is a question that has as many answers as it does handmade soap users. Everyone wants to claim theirs is the “best soap”, “lathers the most”, or “will help remedy your dry, itch or sensitive skin”.

Now, let me be clear. There are some amazing soap makers I have run across! Some that I definitely look up to and admire. I’ve met more amazing people in this industry than I ever could have imagined. And the majority of them make quality products that they take pride in. They truly enjoy putting out a product that solves a problem for someone, or makes them feel a certain way. Most of us do. It’s a huge reason we get hooked into this.

But which ingredients are going to work for you? Now, while everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for the other, you can go into this with some knowledge. Below is some of the most common and beneficial oils used broken down into what they are most beneficial for.

There are of course, many, many more options, but this can give you a starting place.

Avocado Oil

Properties: Conditioning, Medium Creamy Lather

High in vitamins A, B, D and E oleic and palmitoleic acids.

Babassu Oil

Properties: Cleansing, Adds Hardness, High Bubbles

High in vitamin E and antioxidants like phytosterols.

Castor Oil

Properties: Conditioning, Moisturizing, Creamy Lather with High Stable Bubbles.

90% ricinoleic acid, which has traditionally been used to help heal skin conditions.

Cocoa Butter

Properties: Conditioning, Moisturizing, Adds Hardness, Stable Rich Lather

High in vitamin E and other antioxidants. It doesn’t fully saponify, so it lends more of its properties to soap after curing.

Coconut Oil

Properties: Cleansing, Adds Hardness, High Lather with High Stable Bubbles

Grapeseed Oil

Properties: Highly Conditioning, Creamy and Stable Lather

High in lioleic acid, omega 6 fatty acids, and antioxidants.

Hazelnut Oil

Properties: Moisturizing, Cleansing, Stable Medium Lather

All around great oil for soap because it cleanses, moisturizes, and creates nice bubbles.

Hempseed Oil

Properties: Highly Conditioning, Low Lather

High in vitamins A and E, but can go bad in soap faster than other oils. Use as 5% or less of total oils for a longer lasting bar.

Jojoba Oil

Properties: Conditioning, Moisturizing, Strong Stable Lather

Like beeswax and cocoa butter, it doesn’t fully saponify, leaving more to hydropylic (water loving) qualities to help moisturize dry skin


Properties: Conditioning, Adds Hardness, Stable Creamy Lather

Makes a great, long lasting bar. Make sure to choose a free-range, natural source.

Mango Butter

Properties: Conditioning, Moisturizing, Adds Hardness, Creamy Lather

High in Vitamin A and C and antioxidants.

Neem Oil

Properties: Conditioning, Moisturizing, Adds Hardness, Stable Creamy Lather

Calming, gentle oil used in soaps as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial oil.

Olive Oil

Properties: Very Conditioning, Low Cleansing

Gentle oil with little cleansing properties, but high in antioxidants (Vitamin E and polyphenols). Makes a very soft soap and is best paired with a harder fat or oil.

Canola Oil

Properties: Very conditioning, Creamy

Not only does it contain Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant that will help to protect your skin from free radicals, it also contains omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids which help to combat premature ageing and soothe dry, irritated skin.

Shea Butter

Properties: Conditioning, Adds Hardness, Stable Lather

Gives a silky feeling to bars. High in vitamins A and E, fatty acids and minerals.

Sunflower oil

Properties: Conditioning lather

is rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin E,

Now that you’re loaded with the low-down on the oils in your soaps, it’s time to start trying different ones until you find the one that works for you! Check out our great selection of Artisan Soaps, Men's Soaps, or Natural Soaps. If you’re still not sure where to start, send us a quick email or message us on facebook. We’d be glad to help you determine what might work best for you and to sift through the information overload!

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