Why use natural soaps and salves?

by Liz Beavis

It seems that soap has a bad reputation, but I think its all you need to use.  I keep thinking about when one of my uni friends went to a dermatologist to get a prescription for roacutane (for acne). She was on the drug for several months, and at the end her skin was perfect. The dermatologist told her to simply wash her face with soap and water. I was horrified! I had a morning and evening routine involving soap-free cleanser, toner, moisturizer and various other beauty “must dos”.

But then I found out what was in all those products and I completely agree with the dermatologist!  Now I wash my face with soap and water twice a day, and I really can’t see the difference compared to my previous regime. The strangest thing is that I often see in women's magazines (as often as I actually read women’s magazines!) that dermatologists recommend soap-free cleansers.  Now that I have tried homemade soap instead, I'm convinced that its better for your skin, and here's why.

Why use soap?

The question should really be, why avoid detergents?  Because the alternative to soap is a detergent, that's what all "soap-free" cleanser are, and I don’t know how that turns out to be less harsh! Soaps and detergents do the same thing, they make grease and fat soluble (including microbes), however detergents are generally stronger and better at removing fat. This is why they tend to dry out your skin. They actually dissolve the sebum that is supposed to protect your skin.

The reason that soaps were thought to be harsh is that they can contain an excess of caustic (which will burn the skin) if the ingredients are not weighed very accurately, and a hundred years ago, prior to digital scales, soap making was a bit hit and miss, so it probably did seem harsh then. Also the cheap commercial soaps today often have the glycerin removed, this is a by-product of the soaping process, and it also moisturizes the skin, so soap with glycerin removed is more harsh than homemade soap.

Why use handmade natural soap?

I use soap for everything – washing my body in the shower or bath, washing my hands, washing the dishes, instead of shaving cream, spot stain remover for laundry, washing the dog – but I only use homemade soap. For several years I bought handmade soap until I learnt to make my own. I have several reasons for only using handmade natural soap:

  • I avoid the artificial fragrances, colours and other ingredients in commercial soap
  • Handmade soap has not had the glycerin removed
  • In the soap I make, I can control the “superfat” to make sure there is no excess caustic, in fact I ensure that there is excess tallow instead.


100% tallow soap


Why use handmade tallow soap?

I was slow to try soap making because I didn’t want to have to buy lots of ingredients. At the time I thought that I should just buy handmade natural made soap from someone else, rather than buy all the ingredients to make the soap, such as olive oil, palm oil or coconut oil. When we started to homekill our beef and I had so much beef fat to use up (also known as tallow), I decided to try making tallow soap. Some people are going to think this is gross, but you might be surprised.  It actually doesn't smell bad.  My mum reckons she can smell the difference, but its just what tallow soap smells like, it doesn't smell like tallow, it smells like tallow soap.  If you really don't like the smell off the 100% tallow, I also make soaps with essential oils, and they certainly don't smell like tallow.

 Here are the reasons why I use tallow to make handmade natural soap to sell and for my own use:


If you have sore or dry skin, I recommend that you give tallow soap a try. I used to have very dry itchy cracked skin on my hands every winter, and even using the homemade soap that I used to buy didn’t help me. Since I started making and using tallow soap my skin has healed and hasn’t caused any discomfort for several winters now. I know I’m a sample of one and it could have been caused by other things, but I am personally convinced that tallow soap has helped me.

What are natural salves and balms?

I started experimenting with handmade natural salves because I had bought so much beeswax. And now that we have bees there is even more beeswax (do you see a pattern here? I get tallow so I make soap… I get beeswax so I make salve…).  A natural salve or a balm is just a carrier oil thickened with beeswax. Essential oils and herbal extracts can be added. Generally a salve refers to a herbal extract.

Again, the main reason I like to use my handmade natural salves is so that I can avoid artificial fragrances, colours and preservatives in commercial cosmetics. I prefer to make natural salves to lotions (which contain water) as they last longer without preservatives. I use the salves to administer herbal remedies and essential oils for various purposes.

What do you think?  Do you prefer homemade natural products?  Do you use soap?  Have you tried tallow soap?

 Other posts about soap:

How to avoid soaping mistakes
How to rebatch soap in a slow cooker
How to use water discount in soapmaking
Natural handmade soap with tallow
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: big beer 
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: black magic
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: coffee grounds
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: goat's milk and honey
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: neem oil soap and salve
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: pure tallow
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: salt spa
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: shaving bar
Natural handmade tallow soap recipes: bath soap and cleaning soap
Natural handmade tallow soap recipes: pink clay and greeen herb
Rendering beef tallow in a slow cooker
Soapmaking resources and books
Why use natural soaps and salves


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