Handcrafted Soap – Better for Your Skin and the Environment

This is soap? WOW!


Have you ever noticed the beautiful, eye-catching bars of fragrant soap at the farmers’ markets and natural food stores? These handcrafted bars come in a dizzying array of colors, fragrances and shapes. They’re as much an art form as a science, but what makes them different? Are they better for you? Here are details to help you decide.

Soap is a cleaning agent that takes many forms. The most familiar is a hard, pressed bar of detergents. These bars are widely available, inexpensive, and generally harsh. Do you often feel like slathering yourself with lotion after you’ve showered? You can blame your detergent soap. Meant to be cleansing, and nothing else, these soaps can strip the natural oils from your skin, leaving it feeling dry and tight.

True soaps, made from vegetable oils or animal fats like lard or tallow, are much more skin-friendly. These soaps can be tailored to fit any skin type. Another factor is the natural glycerin that is formed in the soapmaking process. This glycerin is often removed from commercial soaps. Glycerin is a natural humectant, drawing moisture to the skin. Handcrafted soaps retain all their natural glycerin and you get the benefits.

What should you look for when buying handmade soap? Ingredients are critical, especially the oils that the soap was made with. Olive oil Castile soaps are going to have a much different feel than a rich bar with Shea Butter. Ask the soapmaker what they are using and why. Every oil has different properties and a good soapmaker should be able to explain them. Also, is the soap made with all-natural ingredients or do they use synthetic colors and fragrances? This is mainly a personal preference, but becomes important if you have allergies or are sensitive to certain ingredients. Ask what type of soap you are buying. Many types of soap are difficult to tell apart. Some soapmakers make their soap completely from scratch, using oils and lye. Others will buy a pre-made base, and add color, fragrance and more to customize. These melt-and-pour soapmakers may be using detergent-based bases, so it is always good to ask. The Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild has even more information.

In the last 20 years, the business of making soap from home has exploded and buying it supports small business owners in your community. Here’s a list of local soapmakers and some of our favorites: Great Lakes Natural Soap Company, Heidi’s Artisan Soap, and Butter Duck Farms. Handcrafted soap makes a wonderful hostess gift, stocking stuffer or a practical gift for any another special occasion. With all the variety available, you can find the perfect bar for anyone right in your town.


Make sure to check the Oaklee’s Gift Guide in Nov. – Dec. 2014 where you can enter our raffle for some fabulous bars from The Great Lakes Natural Soap Company.

photos courtesy MichiganSoap.com