Stack of handmade soaps on a linen towel. Top soap is square and cream colored with oat texture on top. Middle soap is rectangular and rose - white swirled in color. The bottom soap is also rectangular, is a dark gray and clay swirled colored.

I started using handmade soap. Here's why.

Updated August 2021 to reflect current Covid-19 situation.

Not all bar soaps are created equal — I’ve finally realized that.

Awareness of how daily habits and choices impact both ourselves and our environment was not something I thought about, or, frankly, cared about. However, as I slipped out of my egotistical 20s, a time when it was definitely considered counter-culture to question anything mass-produced, and into my more conscientious 30’s, I began questioning “everyday” commercial products. You know — those tried and true brands we are all so familiar with due to relentless marketing. I began questioning the ingredients that made these products, and the very real possibility that they potentially (or probably) can be harmful to us and to our environment.

Soap was the first on my list.

I have to acknowledge how amazing soap is. This magical stuff has been keeping us clean for thousands of years. As we enter a second full year of battling the Covid-19 virus, we still see signs posted everywhere — wash your hands with soap and water. Why? Soap is such a simple and highly effective means to prevent the spread of the virus.

A quick note as to why soap is so effective against Covid and other viruses — in case you haven’t heard by now.
With at least 20 seconds of good scrubbing — in any temperature water — that yummy lather of suds is so perfectly effective in removing tiny virus and bacteria nanoparticles. By trapping them in micelles, or what can be called tiny soap pods, these trapped particles get rinsed off our skin from the water and washed down the drain. We are clean and protected.

Now, back to soaps and how they can be harmful (not just helpful).

How is it that a product that has been in use dating back to 2800 BC has become so harmful? Ingredients, and modern science, of course.

Take Dove — a well-known brand. We all know Dove. My grandma loved Dove!

Below are the ingredients (approx 12 total) in the Dove Beauty Bar
(note — ‘soap’ is not in the actual product name. This product is not considered a true “soap”):

Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Lauric Acid, Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate, Water (Aqua), Sodium Isethionate, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate, Fragrance (Parfum), Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891).


 What are all those scientific sounding words? Words we never use, or at least I never use, in normal conversation. What they are is a combination of various detergents with some naturally occurring materials. I highly doubt in 2800 BC they had ingredients called Cocamidopropyl Betaine or Tetrasodium Etidronate. Note - I realize many of the more naturally occurring ingredients such as Palm Oil and Coconut are identified by their scientific name, making them sound chemically manufactured. 

Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate

A detergent or surfactant commonly found in shampoos, body washes and face washes. Contains Ethylene Oxide, a known carcinogen.


Stearic Acid

A saturated fatty acid that comes from animal or vegetable fats. A hardening agent that helps to create a firm bar of soap. 

Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate

Sodium Tallowate

 The result of combining the fatty acid from animal tissue and some type of lye.

Sodium Palmitate

Made from Palm Oil
(also, click here to understand how Palm Oil is really bad for the environment when not ethically sourced).

Sodium Isethionate

A sodium salt derived from coconut oil, often a substitute for animal surfactants. Acts as a surfactant in soap, an agent to make water cling to dirt and oil on the skin better. Mild on the skin.

Sodium Stearate

A naturally occurring fatty acid. Helps harden soaps and acts as a surfactant or detergent. 

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Synthetic surfactant or detergent. Can be environmentally toxic, and can cause skin sensitivity. 


Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate


Sodium Cocoate

Made from coconut oil. Acts as a surfactant or detergent that helps get rid of dirt and other pollutants. 

Sodium Palm Kernelate

Surfactant. Derived from Palm Kernal oil. Can strip skin of oils and be irritating. (Palm Oil)

Sodium Chloride

Regular table salt

Tetrasodium Etidronate

A chelating agent (a compound that reacts to metal ions to form a stable water-soluble complex), used to soften water and prevent soap scum.  Can aggravate skin problems. Possibly carcinogenic.

Tetrasodium EDTA

Another chelating agent (synthetic chemical) and preservative. Weakens skin barrier to enhance skin absorption. Can present some toxicity to non-reproductive organs. 

Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891)

While is it is a naturally occurring material, notably used as an active ingredient in sunscreen and powder-based foundations, eyeshadow and other cosmetics, it is a possible carcinogen and can present some toxicity to non-reproductive organs.

 Many of those ingredients are called out by the Environmental Working Group as skin irritants (ironic, right?), carcinogenic, and of course, environmentally toxic.

If you’re concerned about what is in your favorite soap, look it up through the Environmental Working Group site at

Why buy handmade?
For starters, the main reason mentioned above…ingredients.
Take for example a small-batch handmade soap available on my site, (yes, shameless plug!); Even Keel’s French Elixir Soap. (Hey, it’s a readily accessible and easy comparison.)

[French Rose, Bentonite Clay, Olive oil with Calendula, Avocado Oil with rosehips, Elderflower, Hops and Rosehips, Essential oils of Clove, Cinnamon and Cedarwood, Virgin Shea Nut Butter, Sustainable Palm Oil, Raw Cocoa butter and Coconut oil].

The ingredients are a delicious combination of aromatics and natural healing goodness. Stuff you could almost eat, and probably have.

 Wouldn’t you want to lather up with olive oil and rosehips instead of Sodium Isethionate and Tetrasodium Etidronate?

In switching to handmade soap, by default, of course, I stopped using liquid soap. Not only did I save money — on a per-wash basis consumers use more than 6x the amount of liquid soap (per weight) than bar soap, but I’m not contributing more packaging to landfills. You know those pretty plastic bottles in the fun shapes that those liquid soaps come in?
• 1.4 billion disposable body wash bottles used every year
• It takes a plastic bottle about 450 years to breakdown
A plastic bottle that, on average, is tossed to the landfills in 6 months.

We need to make better choices.









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1 comment

Hi love that you took the time to write this article I was now looking into the ingredients and I’m so grateful for this.
I’m a Holistic Therapist will definitely share. I’ve been using natural for years but happy to have an article to share on this.


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