Understanding glycerin formation in cold-process saponification

natural soaps
Leafy Lather soaps in 11 botanical variants

Most of us are familiar with glycerin. It is often a highly-prized skin care ingredient simply because it is a skin humectant or emollient which means that it attracts moisture from the air and seals it into the skin. It is a comfort to me (and to you out there who buy my soaps) that cold-processed soaps are really the true glycerin soaps. Read on to understand how and why.

Glycerin in its pure, isolate form is actually an alcohol, specifically glycerol. The isolated commercial product is called glycerin. Glycerol (or glycerin) is known for being hygroscopic — that is, it has an amazing ability to capture moisture from the air. Left by itself, for example, a bottle of 100% glycerin will grab moisture from the air so that in time, it becomes only 80% glycerin and 20% water.

This hygroscopic nature of glycerin makes it valuable in skin care in that it hydrates, moisturizes and softens the skin. There could also be other as yet unknown mechanisms by which it softens the skin.

How is glycerin made?

Glycerin is a natural and thus inevitable by-product of cold-process saponification — the method by which I use to make Leafy Lather soaps. Natural oils consist of about 10 to 13% glycerin and when oils react with lye, the glycerin content is retained, making natural soaps far more moisturizing than chemically-produced soaps which are in reality nothing but detergents.

A sad turn in soapmaking history came about in the 19th century when soaps began to be stripped of its natural glycerin content. In 1889, glycerin began to be harvested or isolated from cold-processed soaps. Remember, back then, ALL soaps were cold-processed and thus contained glycerin.

The striking fact is that glycerin was used mainly by the dynamite industry, since nitroglycerine which is a component of dynamites can be made from glycerin. In fact, the dynamite industry may have been the culprit for the demise of cold-process soapmaking. Real, natural soaps, with their glycerin stolen, are now reduced to glycerin-free and therefore drying surfactants.

The process of isolating glycerin from cold-processed soaps is a complicated procedure but one which manufacturers painstakingly go through just for the sake of selling off glycerin at a price.

Glycerin has many uses, to wit:

  • It can be turned into nitroglycerine for the manufacture of bombs. (No need to worry though, as glycerin in my soaps are glycerin and not nitroglycerine.)
  • It prevents freezing in hydraulic jacks.
  • It is used as lubricant for various industrial molds.
  • It is used in some printing inks.
  • It serves as antiseptic in cake and candy making.
  • It can be used to preserve canned fruits.
  • It is used as preservative for laboratory specimens.
  • Lastly, it also used in various skin care products to make them moisturizing.

What about glycerin soaps?

It must be noted that there are many so-called glycerin soaps that are being sold in the market. These are usually melt-and-pour or hot-processed soaps in which the glycerin is added. Understand that no glycerin is added to cold-processed soaps as glycerin is inherently formed during cold-process saponification. Glycerin need not be added to cold-processed soaps since the latter are already rich in glycerin.

Commercial glycerin soaps may be very moisturizing, but they have the annoying disadvantage of melting off so easily. They are expensive and they last for so short a time that they are not practical.

Besides, which would you prefer, a soap with added glycerin or a soap which naturally contains glycerin? Personally, I think isolating glycerin from soaps entails some chemical procedures which we are not privy to and which could have unknown chemical residues. I would prefer using cold-processed soaps because I know they have natural, unprocessed glycerin.

The bottomline is that cold-processed soaps are the real glycerin soaps. Other soaps have added glycerin. Cold-processed soaps are the source of all commercial glycerin. Original and natural glycerin trumps processed ones, don’t you think?

To know more about cold-process saponification, click here.

For a spotlight on each of the ingredients found in my soaps, click here.

To view the complete soap gallery in full color, click here.

To buy my soaps, here are the steps:


A. Each 60-gram soap bar sells for PhP40. My introductory offer is FREE SHIPPING NATIONWIDE  if you buy 10 assorted soaps.Choose 10 soaps, any variant, any combination. Send the list to me via michelle.a.mabalod@gmail.com Here are the variants:

1 Turmeric

2 Annatto

3 Moringa

4 Mangosteen

5 Coffee

6 Cherry leaves (bignay)

7 Lemongrass

8 Neem

9 Activated charcoal

10 Cinnamon

11 Papaya leaves

12 Milk

13 Lemon (calamansi)

14 Guava

15 Oats

B. Pay via any of these avenues: bank deposit (BPI or BDO), via money senders such as LBC, Palawan, etc., or via PayPal.

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.

If you pay via PayPal, send to michelle.a.mabalod@gmail.com

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.



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