This is the final post in this series….promise!
The last topic in this series is additives, which is anything added to the soap other than the lye, oils, fragrance, and colour.
The first one I’ll touch on is exfoliants. This is anything added to the soap for the purpose of gently removing, or exfoliating, the top layer of dead skin. Our skin is constantly shedding epithelial cells, but sometimes not quickly enough, and skin can begin to look dull and unhealthy. Gentle exfoliation will polish off the dead cells, revealing the fresh, glowing skin underneath.
There are two types of exfoliants: physical and chemical. Examples of chemical exfoliants would be fruit acids and lactic acids. Due to the rinse off nature of soap, chemical exfoliants are not widely used in handmade soaps, as most of the benefit would be washed down the drain with the water. You will find them more frequently in scrubs and lotions.
Physical exfoliants are anything that makes the soap “scrubby”. Some of the popular natural options are sea salt, sugar, poppyseeds, colloidal oatmeal (just a fancy way of saying it is finely ground), jojoba beads (hydrogenated jojoba oil), or ground walnut shells.
Beneficials such as essential oils and natural clays – this is a matter for much discussion in the world of handmade soap, and we’re probably pretty evenly divided! Many will tell you that the essential oils added to their soap will help clear acne, balance your skin, remove excess oils etc. Others will go further, and claim that their soaps can clear up your acne, and heal your eczema, rosacea or psoriasis. Claims for clay additives include their capability to draw and absorb toxins from your skin.
The issue with these statements is that in Canada and the U.S., handmade soapmakers are not allowed to make any claims that their products will treat or cure a condition. If such claims are made, then their soap is no longer just soap, or a cosmetic in Canada, but is considered a drug, and must be submitted for testing and receive a drug identification number.
Until someone is willing to take the time and go to the considerable expense of doing clinical trials on these ingredients, it will remain illegal to make any such claims on soap.
If you are shopping for a bar of soap, my advice is to take it all with a grain of salt, and don’t favour one brand over another based purely on the presence or absence of these claims.
Some soapmakers aren’t aware that making these claims are illegal, while others really don’t care. The reality is that there are so few people with Health Canada or the FDA whose job it is to administer the legislation, and so very many soapmakers, that the chance of any one soapmaker getting caught is very slim. Also, don’t think that just because a company is well known and popular, that means they are in compliance. Many of the largest and most successful players in the “all natural” category are fully aware that they are not complying with the regulations, but know that even if they do get caught the penalties are so low that it is worth the risk when stacked against the revenue to be generated by making the claims.
So where does this leave the consumer? Buyer beware. Do your homework. There is a wealth of information on the internet, but be aware that much of it is issued by the people who are trying to convince you to buy their products! Look for neutral parties. I will post a list of some useful websites during the next week. If, after doing your research, you feel that some of these additives would be worth trying in a bar of soap, by all means go for it. If it helps you, then that is all that really matters.