What is Lye?
Sodium Hydroxide is a chemical used in soap making, people commonly refer to it as lye. Many people have told me that their grandmothers used to make lye soap in a cast iron pot just like Granny on the "Beverly Hillbillies". The same process and basic components of Granny's soap are still used today but we have MUCH better tools, and we are not using potash as our lye. In this blog I will discuss what lye's job is in soap making, dispel a few myths, and tell you why handmade soap is good for your skin.
Why is lye used to make soap?
Basically Lye's job in soap making is to bond with the fat (oil) molecules to create the chemical compound soap. Soap has two different components in it, a salt (this does not mean you can eat it) and glycerine. Glycerine is great for the skin and promotes hydration. Those clear soaps you can get almost anywhere are glycerine soaps, but they are created in a factory with lots of interesting chemicals. You can also find glycerine at the craft store to make melt and pour soaps at home. Lye's job in soap is to make the soap. It is IMPOSSIBLE to create the chemical compound "soap" without lye.
"Lye soap will tear your skin up!"
Common myths about soap include some of the following; lye soap is harsh on the skin, lye soap actually contains lye in the finished product, ________ Brand soap does not have lye in it. Granny's lye soap probably was harsh on the skin. I bet she did not have a scale, or pure lye to work with either. Thanks to technology we modern day soap artisans can accurately weigh (to the gram) how much lye to mix in the exact proportion to our oils to create soap. I also SUPERFAT my soaps so that there is extra oil for moisturizing your skin. Granny got some ash out of the fire pit and mixed it with her hog drippins, and yes that probably created a harsh soap, but boy did it remove stains! Lye is used to create soap, but there is no lye in the finished product. Just like there is no water in concrete, it was used to make the concrete, but once it has reasted and dried it is gone. All those bars on the shelf at the store were created with lye too. Have a look at the label, the first ingredient is likely Sodium Talloate. The producer has mixed lye with beef fat to create that chemical compound (soap made out of cow fat).
Why use handmade soap?
Handmade Soap is good for your skin because it is a complete product. The soap compound bonds with dirt, lifts it off the skin and is then rinsed away with water. The glycerine in the bar helps your skin stay moisturized. Handmade soap should not leave your skin feeling dry and tight. This is described as "feeling clean" by some, but your skin is DRY! Handmade soap is also less likely to irritate skin conditions, it will not heal them, but it may allow them to heal on their own by not irritating. If you do have a condition I always recommend the Castile soap, made with only olive oil. (and lye of course)
Do not take my word for it, please research for yourself. As long as you care about what you use on your body you are going to come back to the handmade healthy sector every time.