I keep thinking about when one of my uni friends went to a dermatologist to get a prescription for roacutane (for acne). She was on the drug for several months, and at the end her skin was perfect. The dermatologist told her to simply wash her face with soap and water. I was horrified! I had a morning and evening routine involving soap-free cleanser, toner, moisturizer and various other beauty “must dos”. Now I just splash my face with water in the shower once a day, and I really can’t see the difference. The strangest thing is that I often see in women's magazines (as often as I actually read women’s magazines!) that dermatologists recommend soap-free cleansers. Now that I have tried homemade soap instead, I'm convinced that its better for your skin, and here's why.
Why use soap?
The question should really be, why avoid detergents? Because the alternative to soap is a detergent, that's what all "soap-free" cleanser are, and I don’t know how that turns out to be less harsh! Soaps and detergents do the same thing, they make grease and fat soluble (including microbes), however detergents are generally stronger and better at removing fat. This is why they tend to dry out your skin. They actually dissolve the sebum that is supposed to protect your skin. The reason that soaps were thought to be harsh is that they can contain an excess of caustic (which will burn the skin) if the ingredients are not weighed very accurately, and a hundred years ago, prior to digital scales, soap making was a bit hit and miss, so it probably did seem harsh then. Also the cheap commercial soaps today often have the glycerin removed, this is a by-product of the soaping process, and it also moisturizes the skin, so soap with glycerin removed is more harsh than homemade soap.
Why use homemade soap?
I use soap for everything – washing my body in the shower or bath, washing my hands, washing the dishes, instead of shaving cream, spot stain remover for laundry, washing the dog – but I only use homemade soap. For several years I bought homemade soap until I learnt to make my own. I have several reasons for only using homemade soap:
- I avoid the artificial fragrances, colours and other ingredients in commercial soap
- Homemade soap has not had the glycerin removed
- In the soap I make, I can control the “superfat” to make sure there is no excess caustic, in fact I ensure that there is excess tallow instead.
|100% tallow soap|
Why use homemade tallow soap?
I was slow to try soap making because I didn’t want to have to buy lots of ingredients. At the time I thought that I should just buy the homemade soap from someone else, rather than buy all the ingredients to make the soap, such as olive oil, palm oil or coconut oil. When we started to homekill our beef and I had so much beef fat to use up (also known as tallow), I decided to try making tallow soap. Some people are going to think this is gross, but you might be surprised. It actually doesn't smell bad. My mum reckons she can smell the difference, but its just what tallow soap smells like, it doesn't smell like tallow. If you really don't like the smell off the 100% tallow, I also make soaps with essential oils, and they certainly don't smell like tallow.
Here are the reasons why I use tallow in my soap making:
- The excess tallow in the soap is very close to the fats in our own skin and can be easily absorbed - its even better at moisturising dry skin
- In my experience, tallow soap is harder and lasts longer
- We have an abundant supply of beef tallow and I like to use a waste product that we can produce ourselves, it doesn't need to be manufactured, packaged and transported for me to use it.
I make a range of tallow soaps, some with 100% tallow, and some with coconut oil for extra lather (find them on my etsy shop here or at the end of this post). I also have all the recipes on the blog if you want to make your own.
What are salves and balms?
I started experimenting with salves because I had bought so much beeswax. And now that we have bees there will be soon be more beeswax (do you see a pattern here? I get tallow so I make soap… I get beeswax so I make salve…). A salve or a balm is just a seed oil thickened with beeswax. Essential oils and herbal extracts can be added. Generally a salve refers to a herbal extract.
Again, the main reason I like to use my homemade salves is so that I can avoid artificial fragrances, colours and preservatives in commercial cosmetics. I prefer salves to lotions (which contain water) as they last longer without preservatives. I use the salves to administer herbal remedies and essential oils for various purposes.
I make the following salves and balms:
Lip Balm ~ Lavender, Peppermint or Honey
Ingredients ~ macadamia oil, beeswax, essential oils or honey, vitamin E
Uses ~ I also use the honey lip balm as a moisturizer every night (I make it in larger jars!)
Ingredients ~ Olive oil infused with comfrey, chickweed and calendula, lavender essential oil, vitamin E
Uses ~ Assists with healing and soothing skin conditions such as cuts, rashes and bites
Ingredients ~ Olive oil, essential oils (lavender, clove, oregano, wintergreen, eucalyptus and peppermint), vitamin E
Uses ~ anti-inflammatory and soothing oils to relax and heal sore muscles and joints
Ingredients ~ Olive oil, neem oil, essential oils (citronella, lemon grass, peppermint,
eucalyptus, and tea tree), vitamin E
Uses ~ for protection against biting insects (and soothing existing bites)
You can buy these on my Etsy shop or find instructions to make them here.
What do you think? Do you prefer homemade natural products? Do you use soap? Have you tried tallow soap?
Natural soap using beef tallow
How to rebatch a soap disaster
Why use natural soaps and salves?
Neem oil soap and salve
Soap with coffee grounds