Although soaps look alike, they are not the same in the eyes of a conscious beauty consumer. Only an informed consumer will be able to tell the difference between handmade and a commercial bar of soap. The more we read labels, ask questions and look beyond attractive packaging, will we be able to make better spending decisions. So what's better - handmade or commercial soaps? Let's find out!
Simply put, commercial soaps are the ones you will easily find at supermarkets and stores. Wrapped in fancy packaging and labelled with glossy words like 'natural', 'organic', 'brightening', all of these soaps are packed with strong foaming agents, artificial fragrances and chemical hardeners.
As mentioned earlier, one way to tell if a commercial soap is 'organic' or 'natural', is to read its ingredient list and labels. Don't spend your money on commercial soaps that contain toxic ingredients like parabens, SLS, SLES, fragrances, triclosan and Cocamidopropyl betaine as they are toxic for the skin and body.
Unlike commercial soaps, handmade soaps aren't made in bulk, but in small batches. Handmade soaps also contain a natural skin emollient called glycerin. Glycerin is responsible for attracting moisture in the air and the deeper layers of your skin to the outer layer of your skin. Glycerin is derived from animal fat and vegetable oil. Too much of glycerin can cause the soap to break quickly and become lumpy. While too little of it can dry your skin out and cause irritation.
The sad truth is that most commercial soap companies put little glycerin in their soap products and put more of it into their creams and lotions. This tactic may be done to trick the customer into buying two products instead of one (soap to clean and a lotion to moisturise)
Another reason why commercial soaps are popular is that they smell so damn good. The more exotic their scent is, the more chemicals they tend to have in them. That's why your skin feels dry and itchy after you use them. For smell, handmade soaps, on the other hand, contain pure essential oils. Compared to artificial fragrances, pure essential oils are gentle on the skin, have a natural scent and have therapeutic benefits.
And finally, good things take time. There's a lot of effort and care that goes into making handmade soaps. Along with the soap base, essential oils, carrier oils and natural colourants are added to the soap. The hot mix is then poured into a mould and left to sit for 24 hours. It takes a few more weeks later to cure and harden. Whereas, commercial soaps are produced in large quantities and come straight from factories. Chemicals, machinery and artificial fragrances hamper the quality of the product.
The biggest difference between handmade soap and commercial soap is their shelf life. Since handmade soaps contain natural and pure ingredients, they have a shorter shelf life for 8-12 months. Due to the chemical content and preservatives in them, commercial soaps last for 2-3 years.
The next time you are shopping for soaps, buy them for local soapmakers. Handmade soaps are made with love, are good for your skin, and the best part is that your purchase would good a long way in supporting small businesses.
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