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Why use natural soaps and salves?

Recently I started offering my handmade soaps and salves for sale on Etsy. I really just wanted to share with others the products that I make and use every day.  Since then I have had a few questions, so I thought I should explain more about the soaps and salves that I make.  It seems that soap has a bad reputation, but I think its all you need to use.  Keep reading to see how you can get my soap at a discount....

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.

eight acres: why use natural soaps and salves

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.

eight acres: why use natural soaps and salves
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:

If you have sore or dry skin, I recommend that you give tallow soap a try. I used to have very dry itchy cracked skin on my hands every winter, and even using the homemade soap that I used to buy didn’t help me. Since I started making and using tallow soap my skin has healed and hasn’t caused any discomfort for several winters now. I know I’m a sample of one and it could have been caused by other things (and I could be making it up to sell you soap), but I am personally convinced that tallow soap has helped me.

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.

eight acres: why use natural soaps and salves

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!)

~Herbal Salve~
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

~Muscle Salve~
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

~Insect Repellent~
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?

My other soap posts:

Natural soap using beef tallow


  1. Liz, I have made plenty of soap and my last experiment was nettle soap. I plan to make some salves soon too. I don't think I will ever bother to sell any though as the $400 annual fee for permission to do so is a bit too much for me. I haven't ventured into using tallow but I believe it can be quite smelly. ;-)

    1. The tallow rendering is a bit stinky, but it doesn't come through in the soap. Also you will be pleased to know that the fee is now $130, which is still ridiculous, but better than it was!

    2. Liz, does the fee differ in each state as I am sure someone in SA said it was around $400 now and $130 is a lot better than that. Who do you get the 'licence' from in Qld not that I am planning on selling my soaps but it is good to know as some people aren't aware of the fee I am sure.

    3. Its federal, but it has changed recently. Search for "NICNAS soap". Gavin did a great explanation on his blog a few months ago (the Greening of Gavin). I'll do another post and put the links in properly :) It is hard to keep track of it all!

    4. Thanks Liz. I did read something on Gavin's blog a while back. Someone gave me the link to NICNAS but I couldn't see what the fee was there.

    5. Yeah its not the easiest website to follow! Try this link - charges for this year are $138 if you're making less than $100,000 of product :) Still more than I think we should have to pay as it adds no value to register (we don't have to prove that we know how to make soap safely!).

  2. I am so impressed by your homemade soap making! They also turn out beautiful. I'll have to look back at your how-to post (I remember seeing it).

    1. Thanks! I hope the posts help. You should have plenty of fat from your lambs....

  3. What a great post! So happy you're selling your products - it's a lot of fun, isn't it? I have actually never tried tallow soap although it's on my "someday" list as an item I want to make. :)

    1. yes its so much fun trying new recipes! I hope you do get hold of some tallow, its a cheap ingredient and makes good soap :)

  4. Good for you Liz. I've been making my own soap for over 7 years now and can't live without it. We raise Red Wattle hogs so we have lots of lard instead of tallow for soap making. Makes a very hard bar just like tallow. I love essential oils for scents and their other qualities plus use lots of clays, plant powders for color. Sold lots in our farm store but now we have a tinier farm so just make for family. HAVE FUN!

    1. Thanks Donna, great to know that you use the lard too. People are put off by the thought of using animal fats, but it is quite common :)

  5. Thanks for the write up on your products. I'm glad you offer the tallow soap because it makes so much sense, with the by-product of your home kills. I'll be interested to know what it smells like, because I have memories at my grandmothers, using their soap and it always smelled different to the stuff we bought at the shops. One bar would also last forever!

    1. Its probably what you remember, it just smells like "soap" used to smell like!

  6. i use my own home made soaps & you are so right about it being so much gentler on the skin & doesn't dry it out either. have only made rhonda's copha soap so far but am planning on making some different types of olive oil soaps soon, including calendula & lavender. just have to get some molds :))
    one day i might venture in to the world of balms & salves will check out yours & your recipes
    a very informative post
    thanx for sharing


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