Soaps are soaps. Unlike facial serums or leave-on facial creams which are designed to stay on the skin and deliver relatively high doses of their purported contents, soaps are designed to be washed off. As such, we cannot expect soaps to perform as well as do creams, lotions and serums. Please don’t expect soaps to function as facial serums because they’re not. For me, it is already a cause for joy that my soaps are natural and gentle cleansers and that they’re free from synthetic chemicals. Whether or not they do me a makeover is not the big issue for me.
Forgive me if I my next few blog posts will be all about soaps as I only want to highlight the goodness of natural cold-processed soaps. Cold process soapmaking entails no cooking, hot process method which involves boiling the soap batter over a stove. True, heat may ensue upon mixing of lye and water but the rise in temperature never goes beyond 220 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, tropical oils like coconut oil and palm oil do not yet undergo oxidation — they only do so at temperatures above 400 degrees Fahrenheit. As such, the famed lauric acid of coconut oil still is intact.
The base oils account for much of a bar of soap. Every soap consumer should thus check soap labels for the oil component. In formulating Leafy Lather soaps, I took into consideration a variety of factors in my choice of oils — nutritional quality, hardness, lathering signature and cost.
- Nutritional quality. I want oils that would impart quality fatty acids and nutrients to the skin.
- Hardness. I want oils that would make hard, long-lasting bars of soaps.
- Lathering signature. I love rich, creamy and abundant lather.
- Cost. The reality for most of us Filipinos is that we are not rich and soaps, being non-food items, should be basic and not fancy.
Taking into consideration the above factors, I have come up with the following ingredients for my soaps that I think make them beneficial to the skin, a joy to the bathing experience and relatively easy on the pocket as well.
The oil I use is food-grade coconut oil — the one I use in cooking, in fact. I have no intentions of scouring the market for some cheap cosmetic-grade coconut oil that may have sludges. I want food-grade coconut oil that I can safely eat.
Did you know that the late Dr. Conrado Dayrit — the esteemed cardiologist and former Dean of the UP School of Medicine — used our ordinary cooking oil brands such as Minola and Baguio (yes, not VCO) in his landmark study which showed how coconut oil significantly lowered the viral load of HIV-AIDS patients?
Do not be afraid of refined, bleached and deodorized coconut oil. Sure, VCO is better by far, but RBD coconut oil is still good. Refined coconut oil still contains lauric acid which, once absorbed into the body, transforms into monolaurin which is a powerful antimicrobial agent. It also has caprylic and capric acids which are antibacterial and antifungal agents as well. Coconut oil is the second richest source of lauric acid, next to mother’s milk.
In soapmaking, coconut oil is excellent as a surfactant which means it cuts off grease and grime so well. (You know what, the soap shavings and scrapings that I use as hand soaps in my kitchen cut through the thickest of grimes, soot and oils). Coconut oil also creates big and bubbly lather which makes bath times nicer. Lastly, coconut oil makes hard soaps which last a long time.
To sum up, coconut oil is the all-time favorite soaping oil among soapmakers as it is healthful, utterly cleansing, delightfully bubbly and frugal. And contrary to critics, coconut oil soap is not drying for as long as the soap is superfatted — that is, more oils are used than the lye can turn into soap, leaving some unsaponified oils to moisturize the skin.
Palm oil has taken a beating lately due to the fact that some unscrupulous traders in Southeast Asia are razing vast tracts of palm plantations just to sell oil. Indigenous populations and forest animals are being displaced in the palm oil trade.
Palm oil-containing soaps are thus villified as being ecologically unfriendly. This is sad as palm oil is one of the best secondary soaps for soapmaking as it creates soft, luxurious lather similar to when one uses beef tallow. Also, it adds hardness to the soap thereby improving the frugality aspect. Then too, palm oil is relatively cheaper than other oils which is one of the reasons why Leafy Lather soaps are — on a per gram basis — one of the most affordable cold-processed soaps in the local market. (Yeah, check it out.)
From an ecological standpoint, the use of palm oil may have pricked my conscience a bit but then I’ve come across this study which points out that all the bath and body products in the world account for only 5% of the demand for palm oil. The greater culprits are really the food and biodiesel industry. Besides, Leafy Lather soaps are primarily coconut oil-based and palm oil makes up a lesser proportion of the oils.
I would gladly use sustainably-harvested palm oil if I could find one. If you sell a brand of palm oil which is sustainable, please ping me. I really cannot do away with palm oil as I love the soft, rich and luxurious lather it makes in my soaps.
But really, the soft lather pales in comparison to the nutritional value palm oil offers. Palm oil is 15 times richer in Vitamin A than carrots! Vitamin A is a carotenoid which is so protective against sun damage. That’s good news for gardeners like me who would rather have skin issues than give up gardening. Not only that, palm oil is rich in Vitamin E which is of course well-known among celebrities as a beauty vitamin.
To sum up, palm oil is rich in the beautifying vitamins (Vitamins A and E) and creates soaps which lather so luxuriously and last long. Palm oil also lessens the cost of soaps as it is fairly affordable.
Lastly, the Philippines, according to this article, is gearing herself up to be the next big source of palm oil in the region — and sustainable at that. I look forward to buying locally-sourced palm oil that is sustainably managed and harvested.
Water is only used as a solvent for lye.
I choose to disclose lye as one of the ingredients in my soaps despite the fact that fully-saponified and thoroughly-cured soaps NO LONGER CONTAIN LYE. I remember making soap back in my chemistry class in college and lye, though highly-corrosive and abrasive in itself, is essential in soapmaking. No natural soap forms without lye, as lye is a catalyst for saponification — the one that sets off the chemical reaction which transforms greasy oil into a grease-cutting miracle that is soap.
Lye is commonly known as caustic soda and chemically known as NaOh or sodium hydroxide. It is what makes oils turn into saponins which give soap its cleansing power.The wonder of natural soapmaking is that lye is consumed during the saponification reaction. Well, not in all cases though, as sloppy computation may yield underfatted soaps in which more lye has been added than can react with oils, leaving unreacted lye in the soaps — a horror.
I must assure you, though, I have all the science and math down pat in my soapmaking. I also use a digital kitchen scale which makes volume measurements so much more precise than when using only measuring cups and spoons. My academic background in biology, chemistry and biochemistry have made the learning curve not so steep when it comes to soapmaking and Leafy Lather soaps are guaranteed to not contain lye. Proof? Even my 4 year-old’s skin loves my soaps. They’re that gentle.
Need I say more? Virgin Coconut Oil is the holy grail of soapmaking. It has all the soapmaking benefits of refined coconut oil — all-around antimicrobial lauric acid profile, abundant lather, long-lasting hardness — plus many protective antioxidants and phytochemicals that are present simply because it has gone through a gentle, cold-process method that leaves all nutrients intact.
As I’ve said, Leafy Lather soaps are of 11 variants and counting. The variants are due to the different herbs I have added. I will discuss in the next blog post the various skin benefits each herb endows but for now, let me just give you a rundown of the herbs.
By the way, I have chosen to use only one herb for each soap as it makes it easy for me to isolate that herb’s effects on my skin. Many soaps have a mixture of carrots, papaya, gluta, kojic, etc and in the end it makes one wonder which of these ingredients really made the difference. (Click on the links to read up on the benefits each herb gives to general health.)
- Turmeric fights bacteria, improves skin circulation, is a good exfoliator, is rich in antioxidants and is popular in India as a skin brightener.
- Annatto or atchuete is a skin and hair conditioner that contains Vitamins A and D. It is an emollient, antiseptic, antibacterial, astringent, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Personally, I just love the sunny color!
- Moringa is of course our backyard vegetable that is very rich in nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals which are so good for health and skin.
- Mangosteen is rich in the super-antioxidant xanthone which fights free radicals responsible for aging. Xanthone protects against sun damage.
- Coffee soothes, detoxifies and firms up the skin.
- Cherry leaves come from bignay or local berries which, like grapes, are ultra-rich in nutrients and antioxidants and thus nourishing and protective.
- Lemongrass is antibacterial, anti-itch, insect-repelling and skin-smoothening herb.
- Neem is popular in Ayurvedic medicine and has been used for thousands of years in skin products as an antimicrobial, anti-aging and nourishing ingredient.
- Cocoa is rich in iron and magnesium which make arteries and veins more flexible and thus enhance skin circulation. It is rich in theobromine which is anti-aging. I love the smell, too.
- Activated charcoal draws out toxins, dirt and oils from the skin. It eliminates odors and bacteria and can even brighten skin.
- Cinnamon is an antiseptic spice that improves skin circulation, tightens and plumps up the skin and of course imparts a deliciously sweet scent.
- Papaya leaves have more carpain and papain than papaya fruit. Carpain is an antimicrobial agent while papain is a proteinase or protein-digesting enzyme which can slough off dead skin cells.
- Milk is from grass-fed cows and contains lactic acid which is a gentle skin exfoliant. Milk also normalizes skin pH and is rich in skin-loving nutrients.
- Local lemon or calamansi is rich in skin-exfoliating AHAs and Vitamin C to brighten skin.
- Guava is said to be a hair grower and is an all-around antiseptic. It also has astringent and skin-toning properties.
- Oats calm, soothe and moisturize the skin. It is very mild and suitable for itchy, irritated or inflamed skin.
- Egg yolk is the developing chick embryo and is thus rich in Vitamins A, C and E or the so-called beautifying vitamins.
- Coconut milk soap and shampoo bar contains real, freshly-squeezed coconut milk and is rich in nutrients and lauric acid to nourish skin and hair. It is also rich in proteins to fortify hair.
- Black rice is a super-food and contains many nutrients and antioxidants. Black rice facial masks and scrubs are popular in Japan and Korea.
- Ripe papaya has the beautifying A, C and E vitamins plus papain to dissolve dead skin cells.
- Tomato is rich in nutrients and the antioxidant lycopene which acts as a natural sunscreen and a gentle skin-exfoliating agent.
Here are the steps if you want to buy Leafy Lather soaps:
A. Choose 10 soaps, any variant, any combination. Send the list to me via firstname.lastname@example.org
B. Pay via any of these avenues: bank deposit (BPI or BDO), via money senders such as LBC, Palawan, etc.
If via bank deposit, deposit to BPI SA#9219-1752-37 (account name: Michelle Asuncion Mabalod).
If you pay via money senders, please contact me via email or via my mobile nos. above so I can give you the address.
C. Send me your proof of payment — screenshot of bank deposit or photo of payment slip.
D. Send me your full name, complete mailing address and mobile number so I can ship the soaps ASAP.
Thanks for your interest!