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What is sodium hydroxide and why do people care about it? Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, is an acid that is used in all true soap bars. When seen on an ingredient list, it may stand out because it sounds like a potentially harsh ingredient. In reality, you can’t create soap without sodium hydroxide – but that doesn’t mean there is lye in the final product!
Let’s talk about what sodium hydroxide is, how it’s used to make soap, and why it matters.
Sodium hydroxide is an alkali substance, also known as lye, that is commonly used to make soap. Alkali is necessary for soap because it reacts with the oil (fat) and creates soap in a process called saponification. In this chemical reaction, the sodium hydroxide fully reacts with the oils and fats and converts from an alkali into a soap - ultimately, no sodium hydroxide remains in the final product.
Saponification is the chemical reaction that occurs between a fat, oil, or lipid with an alkali liquid to form soap. For many soaps, this means sodium hydroxide mixing with an oil. Our Body Wash Bars are made with sunflower oil and/or safflower oil, and coconut oil, and do not contain any sodium hydroxide in the final product. These oils are perfect for soap due to their moisturizing properties. We use sodium hydroxide because it makes heartier, more durable soap, helping you get the most out of your bar soap!
Soaps are different from shampoos in the sense that shampoos are detergent-based, whereas soaps are not. Detergents do not require a chemical reaction like saponification; they are a combination of ingredients that can emulsify and disperse other ingredients. As a result, detergents are preferable for hair, which boasts pH balanced, gentle lather to cleanse and moisturize.
The primary difference between detergents and soap, other than saponification, is that soap has antimicrobial properties. The surfactants in our shampoo bars are gentle yet effective, getting your hair clean without stripping it of its natural oils. Our shampoo bars do not contain any harsh ingredients like parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, or synthetic fragrance.
Our Body Wash Bars are soothing soap bars that are safe for all skin types. We call them body wash bars because they are full of nourishing ingredients like moisturizing oils and unique botanicals, and won’t leave your skin feeling dried out or uncomfortably “squeaky clean” like some harsher traditional soap bar formulations. The Body Wash Bars come in a variety of scents and degrees of exfoliation, meaning there’s a Body Wash Soap Bar for everyone! Give them a try and see the difference natural soap makes for your skin.