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What's in a Soap

How well do you know your favorite soap? Have you ever wondered what's in a soap? Why some soaps are mild and why some makes our skin itchy?

Soaps are basically made up of fat blend or oil, lye solution and additives; however, adding fillers and builders can be an option. These fillers and builders are also optional in herbal soap making.

The fat blend is one of the main ingredients in soap preparation, without this and the lye solution, no soap will be produced. The fat derived from animals is normally called "tallow"; however, in herbal soap preparation, the oil from plant with beneficial aromatic properties are used instead. But since our country is abundant with coconut oil, this is just perfect for use in herbal soaps.
A single type of oil or a combination of two or more oils may be used as fat blend. For example, coconut oil may be used alone, or it may be combined with castor oil and palm oil. The ideal amount of fat blend in soap must range from 55% to 65%.

Another main ingredient in soap making is the lye solution, which is a liquid solution of caustic soda prepared by the addition of a strong alkali, such as sodium hydroxide, in water.

Other ingredients are also added to enhance the quality and cosmetic values of soaps, and these ingredients are also known as additives. Normally, soaps have the following additives:
  • Foam boosters such as Coco Diethanol Amine (CDEA) is used to enhance the the foaming property of the soap in both hard and soft water.
  • Sodium Silicate determines the hardness or the softness of the soap.
  • Extracts are used primarily to give the soap a distinct quality and characteristic. In herbal soaps, extracts from herbs, fruits and vegetables are added, such as papaya, guava, tomato, and kalamansi extracts.
  • Fragrance of course gives the soap its distinct smell.
  • Oil-soluble colorant, on the other hand, gives the soap its desired color.
  • Preservatives such as sodium benzoate extends the soaps' shelf-life.
The challenge now is to master the right combination of additives to give the soap an outstanding quality and characteristic which often times becomes the soap makers' trade secret. 


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