We use the word 'soap' everyday to mean some type of cleansing agent, whether it be for body or home use. But most of what we call soap isn't soap at all.
If you read the label on your bar of commercial soap or shower gel, it could be called 'soap' or 'beauty bar' or 'cleansing bar' or 'gel'. Chances are, if it's not defined as soap, it may not be. Less and less, we see true natural cold process soap available in our supermarkets.
Most body cleansers, both liquid and solid, are actually synthetic detergent products.
Detergent cleansers are popular because they make suds easily in water and don't form gummy deposits.
Some of these detergent products are actually marketed as 'soap' but are not true soap according to the regulatory definition of the word.
The word 'soap' actually has a legal definition provided by the FDA. Most commercial brands cannot be called soap because they are detergents and don't meet the legal definition of soap.
Both soaps and detergents are surfactants (a blended word that comes from 'surface active agents'). A surfactant decreases the surface tension of water which allows grease and water to mix.
But, soaps and detergents are not the same. Detergents are synthetic, they're made from synthetic surfactants, petrochemicals, and other cleaning agents. Detergents were developed during World War I in response to a shortage of the animal and vegetable fats and oils needed to make natural soap. Most products you think of as 'soap' are synthetic detergents or 'syndets' - a blended word made by combining the words 'synthetic' and 'detergent'.
The word was invented by the personal care industry to make their products that contain synthetic detergents sound more attractive to consumers who tend to shy away from synthetic skin care. As you should. Why do you need to put synthetic chemicals on your skin?
A 'synthetic detergent bar' doesn't sound appealing, while a 'syndet bar' sounds like it's something special. They are often fun colors, pretty scents, and lather very well due to the synthetic foaming agents in the detergents. Detergents are good for one thing - removing oils. Detergents may be good for cleaning laundry or dishes, but NOT for cleansing your skin. Fancy a shower with laundry powder? Commercial detergent bars strip the natural moisturising oils from your skin. So after you take a bath or shower with commercial soap you reach for that bottle of expensive lotion, to put back the moisture that was taken away by the commercial soap. But natural cold process soap has the ability to cleanse and moisturise at the the same time.
The label of ingredients on a bar of commercial soap has a long list of unpronounceable chemicals. Our skin doesn't need these.
Our skin is our body's largest organ, and like a sponge it absorbs chemicals. Natural hand made soap is the best cleanser you'll find.
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