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The Beauty of Using Natural Soap: From Nature to Nurture

Natural Bathing Soap

If I need to mention a cosmetic product present in every home, I suggest soap. This product is used in almost any home around the world. We use it to clean different things, including the skin, and it's available in many options, colours and shapes, with every fragrance you can imagine. However, most are not natural soaps; many soap bars result from industrial manufacturing.

Nowadays, most people look for natural and organic soap products without harsh chemicals that are gentle on the skin. A great selection of soap is available for customers, including me. The excellent range of soap bars available offers many benefits that can target different concerns depending on the ingredients.

Today, I want to discuss the benefits of natural soaps and give an overview of the effect on the skin of the most common ingredients these soaps include.


Soap is not a new product and is one of the oldest cosmetics. Scholars found some clues indicating that Babylonians already used soaps from 2200 B.C. Other ancient cultures also used soaps, like in Egypt, Ancient Rome and China.

Ancient Egyptians making soap

In Europe, Castile soap, made with olive oil, was used from the 7th century.

Some Islamic documents show the soap manufacturing process dated to the 12th century. Other Islamic records show that some Islamic cultures produced soap industrially from the 13th century.

Nowadays, soap is a product in almost any home worldwide. Or not.


I previously mentioned that soap is present in almost any home. However, that is not entirely true.

Natural Soap Bar

If I say "soap," you quickly think of a soap bar. Nowadays, these soap bars are not truly soap but detergents.

What is the difference between soap and detergent? Soaps and detergents are used similarly: they clean and remove dirt and bacteria.

We usually use them interchangeably, but they are different.

Detergents typically come from a petroleum source. Alkyl chain salts usually contain a sulfonate group (SLS, SLDS). On the other hand, soaps come from a natural source: salts of fatty acids from vegetable or animal fats and oils.

In other words, soaps come from a natural source, whereas detergents are petroleum derivatives. In this post, I will also refer to detergents as industrial soap. They contain artificial colours and fragrances which may irritate sensitive skin.


The main benefit of natural soap is that they are produced using natural ingredients, usually vegetable oils. The scents of these soaps come from essential oils, which generally have an extra benefit on the skin.

Oils used to make soap

Natural soaps are moisturising. To understand why that is, I must investigate how soaps are produced. The soaps are made by saponification (I will explain the process later in the post). This reaction produces a by-product with lots of benefits for the skin: glycerine. Glycerine is one of the best moisturiser ingredients.

Their colour is from a natural colourant such as beetroot powder, spirulina, etc.

The industrial process also produces glycerine as a by-product, separated from the soap. Industries do that as they can sell the separated glycerine as a raw ingredient for other cosmetic production.

The glycerine produced in a natural soap process remains in the soap. That gives natural soap moisturising properties. If your skin is not dry, you can skip the moisturiser if you use natural soap.

In addition to that, natural soaps have other benefits for the skin, like:

  • Cleanse without drying the skin.

  • Help to keep natural oils present in the skin barrier.

  • The high content of antioxidants and vitamins

  • Help to repair the skin barrier.

  • Natural soaps can have additional benefits depending on the ingredients. Therefore, you can choose a soap targeting a specific skin concern.

Cold Process Soap being cut


The saponification is the chemical process used to produce soap. It is an elementary reaction of an alkaline solution (usually sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) called lye with an oil or fat to produce the corresponding fatty acid salts and glycerine.

Reaction Scheme

Fats and oils contain tri-acyl-glycerides. These are esters derived from glycerol and three fatty acids. The tri-acyl-glyceride is first hydrolysed to glycerine and three fatty acids during saponification.

The following step is the esterification of the fatty acids carboxylic group with sodium or potassium hydroxide to produce the soap.

Depending on the fatty acid in the vegetable oils, the soap will present different hardness, cleansing and other properties.


The saponification process can be carried out in either hot or cold. Both of the techniques have pros and cons. Let's take a look.

Cold Process

In the cold process, the oils and lye are mixed at about room temperature to 40 degrees centigrade. The reaction occurs slowly and is complete after 24 to 48 hours. Then, the soap needs to cure for 4 to 6 weeks. This is a slow process, but it is the most commonly used.

This is the process used by Live Well. This process's main advantage is allowing more precise control of the soap properties.


  • Allows adding fresh ingredients like fruits or milk

  • Allows more attractive soaps (swirl)

  • Can suspend particles on it

  • It is considered more "natural."

  • Produces a soft and creamy soap


  • Needs to calculate the lye concentration precisely

  • moisturiser takes 4-6 weeks to cure

  • Fragrances and natural colourants may change during the cure

  • It is quite a messy process

Hot Process

In this process, the mixture of oils and lye is heated for some time. That allows the complete saponification of the oils.


  • Saponification is fast

  • This can be done in an oven

  • It is not as messy as the cold process

  • Do not need to cure


  • High temperatures may damage some fragrances

  • It doesn't allow adding fresh ingredients

  • The soap will last less time

Which are the most essential properties of soap?

There are different properties to consider when making or choosing soap. These properties depend on the type of oil used to make the soap. The range of each property goes from 1 to 100. Let's see and define these properties.


Cleansing is the ability of the soap to clean. In other words, cleansing refers to how easily and effectively the soap removes dirt and oil from the skin.

Cleansing is soap's primary job, and this property's value should be high. Remember that our skin has natural oils as part of the natural barrier. Soap with a very high cleansing power will also remove our natural oils and, therefore, will dry the skin!

It is better to look for soap with medium cleansing power between 12 and 22.


The hardness refers literally to how hard or soft the soap is. That is related to how long the soap will last. If the soap is too soft, you must replace it frequently; if it is too hard, it may produce skin irritation.

Aim for a soap with medium hardness (29 to 54).


This property defines how much foam and bubbles the soap produces when mixed with water. Lather is generally related to cleansing; a high amount of lather makes us think of high cleansing values. That is not entirely true; soap can clean the skin well without froth or foam. However, the lather is related also to the feeling the soap produces. Who doesn't like to take a bubble bath after a long working day to relax?

Natural Soap Lather

I love to wash my face and body with many bubbles. The ideal lather value is between 14 and 46.


The condition relates to the soap's moisturisation ability and emollient content. If the soap contains emollient ingredients, like glycerine, the skin will retain more water and feel hydrated and supple.

The satisfactory value range of this property is 44 to 69.


The fragrance is the smell of the soap. Natural soaps contain fragrances, ideal for people with sensitive skin. However, some people prefer fragrance-free soaps.

Lady smelling Natural Soap

Types of Ingredients

There are many ingredients involved in soap making. However, they can be divided into primary and additional components.

Main Ingredients

In any soap, there are three main ingredients which must be in the formula:

  • Oils and fats. They are the source of triacylglycerides. Oils and fats can be from vegetal or animal sources. The variety of oils and fats is huge (beeswax, vegetable oils and butter, animal lard, etc.). The choice of oils and fats will have a direct influence on the final properties of the soap.

  • Lye. The lye is the solution of the alkaline material needed to produce saponification in water. There are two chemicals used to create the lye. Each one will provide a soap with different properties. Sodium hydroxide produces solid soaps, whereas potassium hydroxide will make liquid soaps.

  • Water. The purpose of the water is to dissolve the sodium or potassium hydroxide. However, other aqueous materials, like hydrolates, herbal teas, and fruit juice, can be used instead.

Additional Ingredients

These ingredients are optional. However, all of them will give attractive properties to the soaps, like colour, smell, texture, etc.

Colourants. The colourants used in non-detergent soap come from a natural source. The main products used as colourants are:

  • Turmeric, for the yellow colour

  • Parsley or spirulina powder for green colour

  • Cinnamon, cocoa powder or cloves for brown colour

  • Paprika for the orange colour

Fragrances. The smell of natural soaps comes from essential oils.

Lavender Essential Oil dropper & bottle

Texture. There are different ingredients which may change the texture of a soap. Some are oatmeal, flower petals, coffee ground, tea leaves, poppy seeds, and pumice stones.

Ingredients for making Honey and Oat soap
Honey & Oat Soap

Salt and sugar. These two ingredients modify the hardness and lather of soap. Adding sugar makes a foamy soap, while salt increases the soap's hardness.

Preservatives. The ingredient used as a preservative in natural soaps usually is vitamin E, which has different beneficial properties for the skin.

Which oils are in Live Well Natural Skincare soap?

Most of the soaps available at Live Well contain at least one of the following oils: olive oil, coconut oil, responsibly sourced palm oil, calendula oil, castor oil and shea butter. All these oils have tremendous benefits for the skin and give different properties to the soap.

Let's summarise the most critical benefit of each.

Olive Oil (INCI Sodium Olivate)

Olive oil produces a light soap, which only lathers a little. The cleanliness level is low also. Olive oil on its own produces a non-attractive soap. Most soaps made with olive oil include another oil in the formula to improve the soap properties.

Olives and Olive Oil Soap Bars
Olive Oil Soap

Olive oil is rich in antioxidants, vitamin E and essential fatty acids. The benefits of adding olive oil to soap are:

  • Antioxidant properties. These property helps to fight signs of age.

  • It helps to control acne. Olive oil soaps help to cleanse the pores and control sebum production. It is also anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial.

  • Soap is stable at room temperature.

  • Soothes irritated skin.

  • Helps to control dandruff

  • It acts as a hair condition thanks to the content of oleic acid.

Coconut Oil (INCI Cocos Nucifera)

Soaps with coconut oil as hard as a good amount of lather. Their foam is creamy and stable. They have a high cleaning ability.

The coconut oil concentration should be at most 95%, or the soap can get dry quickly.

Coconut oil has high amounts of saturated fatty acids. Lauric acid gives protective properties to coconut oil. It also contains vitamin E, which is an excellent antioxidant.

The main properties of coconut oil soaps are:

  • Moisturiser

  • Protects the skin

  • Purifying

  • Antioxidant

Coconut and jar of coconut oil

Castor Oil (INCI Ricinus Communis Seed Oil)

Castor oil is a prevalent oil in soap making. The primary use of this soap is to stabilise the foam. However, castor oil has beneficial properties for the skin.

Castor oil has a high unsaturated fatty acid content, which gives the oil unique properties. Soaps containing castor oil are moisturising and emollient. Castor oil penetrates the skin and helps with collagen and elastin production.

It has other properties, such as:

  • Helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles

  • Helps to reduce scars

  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

  • Helps to fight dandruff

  • Strengthens nails, brows and lashes

  • Hydrates dry skin

Another vital use of castor oil in soaps is as an emulsifier, as castor oil is soluble in alcohol.

Palm Oil (INCI Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil)

Palm oil is not a good oil to make soap on its own, as it produces very tender and non-foaming soap. However, in combination with other oils, it gives the soap beneficial properties for the skin. Palm oil makes soaps with high humectant properties.

The type of fatty acid contained in palm oil easily penetrates the skin. The skin will look, therefore, soft and smooth.

Finally, palm oil has antibacterial properties, eliminating bacteria that are harmful to the body.

Palm Oil Nuts and bottle of Palm Oil

Palm oil has a bad reputation because of its irresponsible production and source, which can harm the environment and wildlife or even go against human rights.

However, palm oil can also be produced sustainably. Sustainable palm oil has been made and sold responsibly under strict rules that protect animals, the environment and people.

This palm oil is identified as Responsible Sourced Palm Oil (RSPO) and is the palm oil used by Live Well Natural Skincare.

Calendula Oil (INCI Calendula Officinalis Flower Oil (Marigold Flower Oil))

This oil comes from the vapour distillation of calendula flowers. It is a yellowish, very viscous and sticky oil. Calendula oil is not an oil “per se”. It is extracted over a carrier oil such as olive oil, sunflower seed oil or sweet almond oil. It is typically added to the soap after the saponification process, which in soap-making is called after the formation of the trace.

It has numerous beneficial cosmetics properties:

  • It is antioxidant

  • It is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial

  • Helps with cell regeneration

  • Soothes and hydrates the skin

  • Helps to treat acne, psoriasis and eczemas

Shea Butter (INCI Butyrospermum Parkii Butter)

Shea Butter is not an oil but a fat and is one of the most used soap-making products. That is because of the fantastic properties shea butter has on the skin.

Shea butter acts as an emollient. It creates a protective film that covers the skin and protects it against external damage. It has other important properties like:

  • Helps to delay skin and hair ageing

  • Nourishes and hydrates the skin

  • Protects and helps to repair cracked lips

  • Highly recommended for people with sensitive skin

Additives in natural soap

Sometimes, a soap may contain additives that give the soap extra or additional properties. Additives can be natural or artificial. Natural additives are so much better for the skin.

All the additives Live Well Skincare adds to their soaps are natural. The main additives are:

Lavender buds

Lavender is a Mediterranean plant with lots of benefits for health and skin. Some soaps contain dry and ground lavender flowers that give the soap not only a fantastic smell but also the following benefits:

  • Hydrates the skin

  • Lavender has relaxing properties

  • It is anti-inflammatory

  • Helps to treat scars

  • It contains lots of antioxidants

Ground Coffee

Coffee has the property of waking you up and accelerating your metabolism. It has also a lovely smell and taste.

When applied to the skin, coffee helps to increase blood flow. The skin can eliminate the toxins more efficiently, and the appearance of the skin improves.

Coffee is an antioxidant and moisturiser that helps keep the skin young and smooth.

Ground coffee particles are an excellent physical exfoliator in many body scrub products.

Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are added to the soaps as natural exfoliating particles. They help to eliminate dead cells. However, poppy seeds are a pretty aggressive exfoliator and are not indicated for people with sensitive skin.


Clays are a ubiquitous soap additive. Depending on the clay used, the soap will have different properties.

Pink clay soap is a perfect option for people with dry skin. Pink clay is anti-inflammatory, helps to treat different skin concerns and reduces skin dullness. It is also moisturising.

Green clay, on the other hand, is suitable for people with oily skin. Green clay helps to control sebum production. It absorbs impurities and helps to treat acne.


It is also a popular additive for babies and children's products. It is also prevalent in products indicated for people with sensitive skin.

Oatmeal helps to hydrate and soothe the skin. It can calm skin irritation produced by allergies or sun exposure. Oatmeal can also absorb the excess of sebum and is a good choice for people with acne.

Goat's Milk

Goat's milk is becoming a popular ingredient nowadays. It has a lot of beneficial properties. However, products containing goat's milk are not vegan-friendly.

Goat's milk contains proteins, vitamins and minerals in addition to lipids. This combination of ingredients is ideal for hydrating the skin.

Goat's milk contains lipoproteins, which help to introduce nutrients and water into the cells. That is especially important for damaged skin. Goat's milk will help to regenerate the skin faster.

The main components of goat's milk are:

  • Retinol. Helps with skin ageing

  • Lactic Acid. It is a good chemical exfoliator.

  • Vitamin D. Helps to treat different skin concerns.

  • Vitamin C. It is one of the best antioxidants

  • Vitamin B. Goat's milk contains different vitamins from group B, like vitamin B1 (thiamine), which helps to brighten the skin; vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which helps with skin hydration; and vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin), which gives a healthy tone to the skin.

  • Vitamin E. It is another very effective antioxidant.

My Favourite Live Well Skincare soaps

I love all the soaps available at Live Well Natural Skincare, and I need help to choose only a few. They are handmade, and all of them contain many beneficial ingredients. If you ask me to choose my favourites, I would choose the Orange Grove and the Pink Rose Geranium.

I love the smell of the Orange Grove. It is fruity but not very strong; it leaves a light fragrance on my skin. I love how it lathers and how this soap cleans my body.

I use the Pink Rose Geranium as a face wash bar. I don't use it daily because my skin is dry, and I wouldn't say I like using clay-based products daily. However, this soap profoundly cleans my skin while moisturising it simultaneously.

Bar of Rose Geranium and Pink Clay Soap

In summary, we use soap daily to keep our skin clean. However, daily use of industrial soap or detergents may produce allergies or other skin concerns. Using natural soaps to care for and nourish your skin while cleaning it is better.

Live Well has a good range of natural soaps to cover all your skin necessities. At this moment, I only use their soaps for my body and hair care routine. Please have a look at their website; I highly recommend them.

Dr Irene Resa

Analytical Chemist & Beauty Product Tester


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