What’s in a Bar of Soap?

What’s in a Bar of Soap?

Your skin is constantly absorbing everything that it comes into contact with- dirt, grime, lotion, soap etc. Did you know that you don’t just breathe through your nose but you breathe through your skin as well? What you put on your skin is inhaled and absorbed into your bloodstream. One thing that we have full control over is the soap we choose to wash the dirt and grime away with everyday. So what exactly is in a bar of soap?

We’re going to take a look at a normal commercial bar you would find in any store and compare that to our b.a.r.e. soaps bar. Below you’ll see the list of ingredients for b.a.r.e. soaps and the list of ingredients for a Dove Sensitive Unscented Beauty Bar. Now, I’ve used this Dove Sensitive Soap Bar before and it’s never irritated my skin. From my point it did the job by clearing off all the dirt and debris. But upon closer inspection, you’ll realize that the ingredients are a bit of a mystery and do not sound natural at all.


How is soap defined by the FDA?

The FDA defines soap as a simple combination of oils and fats with a strong alkaline solution. True soap is created through a chemical process known as saponification, which forms a natural byproduct called glycerin. Glycerin actually forms the base for the hydrating characteristics of lotions and creams. It is so valuable that commercial manufacturers sell it to make lotions and creams. The question is, does a Dove bar adhere to this definition of soap?

What does Dove say about its soap?


Dove states on its website that:

“Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar pampers sensitive skin with Dove ¼ moisturizing cream, and a truly mild formula that's fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and unscented. Dove is the #1 cleansing bar recommended by dermatologists and pediatricians.”

Notice that Dove never states the word soap in its bar. It says “moisturizing cream” or “beauty bar”. I’m sure there is some marketing research to back up their wording, but what they’re trying to do is avoid using the word "soap". In reality, they are detergents. By law, commercial brands cannot use the label, "bar soap" if it’s considered a detergent. The word “soap” is heavily regulated by the FDA.

You know that dry feeling you get after taking a shower? You might feel clean but that’s a byproduct of the detergent, which is meant to wash off all your oils, including the good oils that protect your skin. So after you’ve washed, you reach for the brand’s lotion to moisturize. This obviously starts a cycle of using soap to dry out your skin and moisturizing it with lotion. Detergent makes sense if you need to wash clothes or dishes, but it’s definitely not something that should be put onto your skin.

What is in the Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar?

There is huge debate with the synthetic chemical additives listed in a typical “cleansing” bar. Let’s take a look at the list of ingredients for Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar. We found the details of each ingredient from Ethereal Aura Spa. Check out what each ingredient means:

Sodium lauroyl isethionate is a surfactant/detergent used as a cleansing agent and to help lather onto your skin. You’ll find this in shampoos, body washes, facial care, and toothpastes. This chemical can irritate your skin depending on how sensitive your skin is, but for most people it shouldn't cause an issue.

Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate are both very different ingredients. Sodium Tallowate is actually derived from the saponification of tallow (such as fat from cattle or sheep) whereas Sodium Palmitate is created from the saponification of vegetable oils . The use of "or" in the ingredient description is interesting because it is the difference between a vegan or non-vegan bar. Nevertheless, tallow has an important history in traditional soapmaking and is responsible for how the first soaps are thought to have been created. 

Lauric Acid is derived from whole oils and is typically used to add hardness and a big fluffy lather. However, it is void of glycerin, which is a property that helps moisturize the skin.

Sodium Isethionate helps water cling to the dirt and oil on your skin, allowing it to be washed away. It's considered a mild cleansing agent.

Sodium Stearate is another traditional soap ingredient that is derived from coconut and palm oils. It is the sodium salt of stearic acid and acts as an emulsifier. This ingredient does have a long history of safe use.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a synthetic surfactant that helps remove oils from your skin. Because it originates from coconut oil, even some personal care products labeled as natural still contain it. Of all the ingredients listed thus far, this one is mostly likely to be associated with irritation (ie rashes) if used in high concentrations.

Sodium Cocoate is derived from the fatty acids of coconut oil. It is one of the most common ingredients in making soap as it helps cleanse the skin while helping to maintain a "hard" bar.

Sodium Chloride is common table salt, which is used as a binding agent.

Tetrasodium EDTA and Tetrasodium Etidronate are chelating agents used primarily to improve lather and foaming action while preventing changes in color, texture and fragrance. In the last decade, more research has come out that says it appears to be a lower risk ingredient. Depending on who you ask, they are either safe or carcinogenic. However, we feel that real soap should be expected to have a shelf life and discoloring or texture changes should be expected (similar to fresh food), so there is no real need to use this agent. 

Titanium Dioxide is typically used to lighten the color of soaps, particularly in creating a pristine white bar. The mineral is processed to remove impurities and it's commonly used in commercial sunscreen products because of its ability to absorb UV light. It's generally considered to be a safe ingredient. 

What’s in b.a.r.e. soap’s Black Tie Affair Bar?

Let’s take a look at b.a.r.e. soaps' black tie affair. At first glance, you'll notice that our list is significantly shorter compared to Dove’s Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar. While both bars clean, there are many "unnecessary" ingredients within the Dove bar that are not found in our bar. The difference can be attributed to cost (we are using higher percentages of vegan oils) and shelf life (the shelf life of our soaps are generally 1 year).

Sodium Palmate comes from the saponification of palm oil (natural chemical reaction that occurs when making any kind of soap). We use only sustainable palm oil that is Rainforest Alliance certified, which adheres to strict rules to prevent deforestation.

Sodium Cocoate is derived from the fatty acids of coconut oil. It is one of the most common ingredients in making soap as it helps cleanse the skin while helping to maintain a "hard" bar.

Water is water.

Glycerin is a moisturizer formed from vegetable oils. It actually forms the base for the hydrating characteristics of lotions and creams.

Sodium Chloride is common table salt, which is used as a binding agent.

Sodium Gluconate is a natural preservative, derived from corn or beet. It helps prevent the growth of microbes in soap. 

Eucalyptus Essential Oil is extracted from dry leaves and is a pure essential oil. You can check out more about Eucalyptus essential oil here.

Goat Milk is milk from goats

Activated Charcoal is a natural absorbent that is produced by heating wood. Want to learn more about activated charcoal? Check out our blog post here.

What’s Next

Something as simple as Googling your beauty products can save your skin from long term health not only externally but internally. You’ll find resources you need to choose the best skin care products for your skin. How do you choose the best soap bar for your skin? Is there a checklist you go by to choose the best skin care for yourself?


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