The Truth about Why Soap is Made with Fat

Olive oil poured into a dish. Olive oil is a common fat used to make soap.

The truth is you can’t make true soap without fat. Soap is a compound made by mixing two ingredients: fats and lye. You can’t make true soap without both fats and lye. Detergents can also cleanse our skin and come with names like body wash, body bar, and/or beauty bar but they may not be true soaps. Figuring out which one you are looking at is easy if you know the ingredients. The definition of soap requires that it mostly consists of fats and lye and the products they create when properly combined.

Fats in Soap

Soap makers can make soap with a wide variety of different fats. Historically speaking, our ancestors likely rendered tallow to create a basic form of soap, which would have been the most available fat source. In more modern times, we have a wide selection of plant-based oils and butters to choose from. Each type of fat has a different fatty acid profile, which impacts the soap’s overall qualities. Modern soap makers have the ability to select a blend of oils that will result in a finished bar of soap with the qualities they desire. The combinations are endless.

Detergents perform the same cleansing action as soap but are not made with fats; they often have names like body wash, body bar, and maybe beauty bar. A typical shower wash for sale in large retail stores like grocery stores is probably an example of a detergent. Detergents consist of mostly water and some surfactants, and some other additions. It will cleanse your skin and may strip your skin of its natural oils. This isn’t a surprise because many surfactants are very effective at their job. Maybe almost too effective.

True soap is made with fat and its natural cleansing action does not strip the naturally occurring oils from your skin. Our ancestors have made soap dating back some 4000+ years. We aren’t sure how nice their soap was, but well-made modern soap bars are fabulous to use daily. Many people wouldn’t consider using anything else to wash their hands with.

Check out our selection of true soaps made with fats and lye at


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