WHAT IS A COLD PROCESS SOAP?
Cold process is an age-old method that combines the triglyceride in animal fats or plant oils and Lye (Sodium Hydroxide/Potassium Hydroxide) to produce soap, with glycerin as a natural by-product.
In layman terms:
Oil (acid) + Lye (alkali) = Soap + Glycerin
It is one of the only two ways to make real soap from scratch. And it's not what you would normally find in the supermarkets.
ARE COLD PROCESS SOAPS GOOD FOR ME?
Soap makers all over the world love cold process soaps because its "gem" - glycerin, a humectant that attracts moisture from the surrounding to our skin is produced and kept intact during the process.
A cold process soap not only retains its natural glycerin, it allows soap makers to have total control over the ingredients being put into the soap. With this process, soap makers are able to design their own recipe with specially formulated oil blends and additives to handcraft the types of soaps and the corresponding skin benefits they envision.
For example, soap makers may choose to add in natural ingredients such as cucumber and aloe vera for skin hydration, oatmeal for sensitive skin and turmeric powder for oily skin. The saponification process acts to lock in these natural products in the soap without needing the addition of preservatives like paraben.
Cucumber, Aloe vera, Oatmeal and Turmeric Powder are often added into soaps for their skin loving benefits.
Additionally, soap makers can opt to scent their soaps with 100% pure essential oils extracted from plants, instead of synthetic fragrance oil which often is a source of skin irritant. Synthetic fragrance can smell a lot more interesting or sophisticated and lasts way longer than essential oil, but it can come with a hidden "price tag" since all of their ingredients are "hidden" too.
Besides smelling good, essential oils such as Lavender oil, tea tree oil and Lemongrass oil, potentially contribute to additional skin benefits in the soap based on their individual properties. For people with really sensitive skin e.g. eczema, the scent can be totally omitted to further reduce the potential of flares.
Scent aside, soap makers also have the chance to avoid artificial colouring and instead use natural colourants such as clays, and everyday ingredients from our pantry such as cocoa, moringa, carrot, etc., to not only add colours but skin benefits to their creations. The soaps will not look as bright and eye-catching as soaps made with synthetic colourings but soap users can have the peace of mind that what makes their soaps pretty are often "good enough to eat" too.
Many soap makers also choose to use only plant-based oils to make vegan soaps and climate advocates may choose to go palm-free or only use sustainable palm oil to do their part for our planet.
Natural Additives and essential oils such as Cocoa, Clay, Lavender are common every day ingredients you can find in cold process soaps.
With cold process method, the entire saponification process (to produce the final bar of soap) is completed using heat it generates internally over 48 hours. This is in contrast to the alternative method - hot process which accelerates the saponification process and shortens it to a couple of hours by adding external heat through continuous boiling, thereby also reducing the necessary soap curing time from six weeks to two.
WHY ARE COLD PROCESS SOAPS MORE EXPENSIVE?
A cold process soap is often many times the price of a commercial bar soap, and there are many good reasons for that. For one, a commercial bar of soap more likely than not, no longer contains the natural glycerin as it is often removed and replaced by synthetic versions. They are then sold to manufacturers of higher priced skincare or pharmaceutical products which explains why commercial soaps can be sold at a fraction of cold process soaps. Additionally, the 6-weeks long curing time for a cold process bar soap is a cost that most, if not all commercial brands would not want to take on.
But when it comes to the health of our skin, price can't be looked at simply based on the number on the tag. Friends with chronic skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis know this best, as most of them are on the perpetual hunt for cleansers and skincare products that do not dry out their skin, so they can keep the flares at bay, the longer the intervals the better.
Cold process soaps provide them an option to shower without artificial detergent as well as keep their skin hydrated with glycerin that is naturally produced. At a really low cost, if you ask us.
BUT ARE ALL COLD PROCESS SOAPS GOOD FOR ME?
Unfortunately we have to say it's not a given.
Cos it really depends on what ingredients are being added into the cold process soaps and whether the ingredients work for your skin.
While many soap makers prefer all natural soaps, there are also many who may choose to use more interesting scents and colourants not available through natural sources. Many of these soaps are really really pretty so much that it's hard to resist. In fact we love to see all these soaps being made and admire the creativity demonstrated by some these amazing soap makers. It's truly be an art in itself.
So the best advice we can give, is to check the ingredients or ask the soap maker. If your skin is particularly sensitive, stay away from soaps with bright colours and perhaps even scent totally. Reserve those beautiful soaps just for your eyes only.