Is your soap all natural?
This is a tricky one. Let me explain why. The word "natural" is not regulated by the government. This means that anyone can (and they do) claim that their product is "all natural" without it actually being true.
Let's start with the definition of natural: adjective; existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind.
With that definition, no soap would be considered natural. Soap is not caused by nature and definitely needs a human to create it. However, many of the ingredients involved in soap making can be considered natural due to them deriving from substances found in nature. For instance, you cannot find olive oil in nature, but you can find olive trees. Olive oil is the liquid that is obtained when you press olives. Are you following me so far?
To me, a natural soap would consist of oils and/or fats, butters, sodium hydroxide (there is none of this left in the soap after saponification, (covered in another section)), and any ingredient that is found in or derived from a substance found in nature, i.e.) clays, botanicals, essential oils, herbs, etc.
People can sometimes abuse the word "natural" in their marketing or ingredient lists. For example, claiming an "all natural" soap containing mica for the bright purple color isn't exactly a true claim. Mica, by definition is "a shiny silicate mineral with a layered structure, found as minute scales in granite and other rocks, or as crystals. It is used as a thermal or electrical insulator". It is commonly used in soap making as a colorant. Mica in nature is usually white; sometimes brown. You will not find a bright purple mica in nature.
Mica colorants in soap making are usually a mix of natural mica colored with synthetic dyes and/or pigments. There are naturally occurring oxides and ultramarines which would provide color but these substances often contain dangerous heavy metals and cannot be used in skincare. The synthetic colorants used are made to be nature identical and are regulated by the FDA for purity standards and safety. So again, not "all natural".
So, even though the word "natural" is not regulated by the FDA, I am confident that most of us can agree that if an ingredient is man made in a lab, it is clearly not natural.
One more ingredient I see on "all natural" labeling is fragrance oil. There is not much that is natural about a bar of soap that smells like champagne and strawberries. Fragrance oils are not regulated by the FDA or any other entity. As a matter of fact, fragrance companies do not have to disclose their ingredients due to their "trade secret" status. The only ingredients that I would consider natural as far as fragrance goes would be essential oils, resins, and absolutes.
So, is my soap all natural? No, most of them are not. I do make a select few bars that are scented and colored with natural resources. Most of my bars have skin safe colorants and skin safe fragrances. I just can't resist a fruity aroma with a bright, vibrant swirl!!! I will say that my products are more natural than a commercial bar you may pick up at your local grocery store.
Does you soap contain lye?
The technical answer is no. I did, however, use lye when I made my soap. Confusing, right? Let me clear some things up.
Lye, sometime called sodium hydroxide or caustic soda is a metal hydroxide traditionally obtained by leaching ashes, or a strong alkali which is highly soluble in water producing caustic basic solutions. That's according to Wikipedia. Lye, when mixed with a liquid creates a lye solution. When this solution is mixed with oils and/or fats, a chemical reaction called saponification occurs. This is how soap is produced. NO LYE, NO SOAP!!
A correctly formulated bar of soap no longer contains any lye. Instead, it contains the salt of fatty acids and glycerin. This is soap!
Lye based soaps have gotten a bad rap. You see, years ago, when our ancestors were making soap, they did not have the proper equipment or the knowledge to properly measure and formulate a well balanced bar of soap. Thanks to modern technology and further research, we can now measure precisely and have the knowledge of knowing what each ingredient brings to the bar allowing the result to be an amazing, luxurious, gentle bar of handcrafted soap.