The truth about bar soap and shower gel detergents

close up image of bar soap swirl

The truth is bar soap and shower gel will both cleanse your skin. A good bar of handmade soap will leave the natural oils in your skin and only take away the dirt and grime. This will leave your skin feeling much less thirsty for lotion or some other moisturizing product afterward. Well-made organic bars of soap often include essential oils for scent, which smell great and can offer some aromatherapy. This isn’t possible with a shower gel scented with fragrance, as almost all of them are. Even those shower gels with a name like lavender don’t actually use a significant amount of lavender essential oil because it is so much more expensive than a fragrance oil.

What exactly is soap? 

Soap is the product of a chemical reaction that occurs between lye water and some fat. Saponification is the chemical reaction that subsequently combines oil moluecues with lye molecules to create soap.  This is the same as the lye soap that all of our ancestors used. Lye is nasty stuff; it can eat right through your skin.  The key to making good soap is to balance the chemical reaction properly so that all of the lye molecules have reacted with the oil and there is no more lye left in the finished product.  Our ancestors may have had trouble balancing this equation because the lye would vary from batch to batch.  If the ratio was off, the soap might be soft and goopy, or it could be harsh and irritating to your skin. They didn’t have access to the digital scales and pure ingredients that are available to us today.

What exactly is shower gel? 

Shower gel is actually mostly water. In addition to water, detergents create a lather and cleansing action. Detergents are actually highly effective at cleansing. That is why it is generally preferable to wash your clothes with detergent and not soap. The detergents can actually work so well that they take the dirt and oils from your skin, but they also can strip it of its natural oils that keep your skin supple and healthy.

Modern chemistry allows chemists to create highly refined chemicals that work like detergents. Chemists create detergents from things like coconut as the starting point because it sounds natural, but the process is highly refined and not something we would consider natural. High fructose corn syrup isn’t a natural product to us due to the processing required. The ones used in products are generally created in a lab and are quite prevalent in our modern economy because they are profitable to make, store, and ship in large quantities.

Which should you choose?

Both bar soap and shower gel will cleanse your skin. Only bar soaps will leave your skin soft and moisturized after use. Shop a wide selection of soaps made with organic oils and butters at Bay Berry Bliss.


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