One of the things I’ve been pondering for my business is how to communicate/educate potential customers about my concept of what makes good soap. For many years I have worked in, been mentally engaged with the world of science, computers, logic, and analysis. While growing up, I was obsessed with reading anything I could about medicine, the human body, the mind. I started my early college career planning to be a veterinarian. And I grew up in a household and community of mountain folks who placed their hopes more on various herbs, tinctures, salves, and raw human endurance than on anything a doctor might provide. Along the way I became deeply disenchanted with what many people think is “natural” and the perceived value that concept brings to taking care of your personal health and well being. Sometimes the notion of “natural” is unnaturally misinformed and misunderstood. The folks I know who relied on herbs and salves to control and cure skin cancer, died of the disease.
But there is also the reality that we live in an increasingly complex chemical environment that takes a toll on people and our environment. When working with soaps we are definitely working with chemicals (soap is made with lye, after all). Is it intrinsically better to use essential oils? or are quality controlled fragrance oils a viable and safe option? Is it OK to use palm oil – even if we source from quality vendors who do everything possible to insure that they are purchasing the product from environmentally viable sources?
It is curious to me that people will say they “only” use soaps or cosmetics scented with essential oils. But almost none of those people seem to know how soaps, essential oils, cosmetics, or fragrance oils are actually made. The assumption automatically is that if an essential oil is used, that the product is at least good, if not “better” for you. But many essential oils are dangerous and cannot safely be used in any quantity for soaps or cosmetics. Some are safe for use in soaps or cosmetics, but are very dangerous to pregnant or nursing mothers. Some essential oils were created specifically for their scent and actually have little or no medicinal or therapeutic value at all. And some less-than-honest vendors of essential oils water them down or cut them in other ways that, at best, reduce any possible therapeutic value or worse change the chemical nature altogether to something that may actually be unsafe.
And let’s not forget that soap heats up in the saponification process to such an extent that it is unlikely any of the therapeutic qualities of the oil remain. In fact, no studies have been done to definitely prove there is ANY value in adding an essential oil to a product that heats up to the point at which most soaps saponify, and which is ultimately being diluted even further by the washing process itself.
So – conundrum. I didn’t start this journey so I could have a “soapbox” on which to stand to try and persuade someone to use/not use “natural” products. I want to MAKE boxes of soap that are wonderful to the touch, delightful to smell, refreshing for the spirit, and cleansing for the body.
Who knew making soap would be such an interesting and complex journey?!