You have heard dozens of times but you still can’t believe why a bar of soap made of olive oil is better than that liquid soap you see in drugstores and in ads. “Soap is not natural, soap is harsh for your skin, soap will negatively affect your skin pH, soap is just bad and drying.”- I have heard it many times. Let’s get into the topic deeper and see what is behind the well-known Castile soap.
I want to start with my story, a real research I had been doing to find the best and most natural soap for my baby at that time. I was looking for something gentle, not drying, simple and proven by years, and as I found out I found something proven by ages.
The first thing you do is check the ingredients (INCI) of any soap, be it liquid of a bar of soap. I found a few versions of Aleppo and Castile soap. And I could not understand where the truth was, so many different formulations. I decided to stick to the most traditional recipe: olive oil, water, sodium hydroxide. 3 ingredients without which soap simply CANNOT be made. You CANNOT create soap without sodium hydroxide. Liquid soap is made of potassium hydroxide. BUT liquid soap is dilutied in water while in a bar of soap water turns into hard soap. So, as you know it, if there is water in its primary state, a product needs a preservative. I excluded all preservatives at that time and I am not sorry about it at all! So the only option was a bar of soap made with any oil. Wait, really? ANY OIL? The truth was more complicated than I thought. Not all natural soap is gentle. Have you heard it?
There are 3 main factors which are really important: which oils are used in hard soap, what kind of formulation is used to make soap and how long soap has been curing.
I will give a hint: coconut oil in large amounts is very drying for skin, in general coconut oil as body butter is drying!
A proper soap formula needs a certain amount of unsaponified oils or superfat, 10-12% is a perfect number! 10% of free oils! You can’t see the superfat number on the package or the website of the producer. You will not know it until you try it! But artisan producers are always there to let you know how much superfat was left for your skin.
Castile soap has a long history and has been made for centuries, only the methods have changed, instead of a hot process, soapmakers use a cold process which makes Castile and Aleppo soap look smooth and nice, more attractive, generally speaking. Why olive oil? Let’s get into some history:
“The origins of Castile soap go back to the Levant, where Aleppo soap-makers have made hard soaps based on olive and laurel oil for millennia.
It is commonly believed that the Crusaders brought Aleppo soap back to Europe in the 11th century, based on the claim that the earliest soap made in Europe was just after the Crusades, but in fact in the first century AD the Romans knew about soap and Zosimos of Panopolis described in c. 300 AD soap and soapmaking. Following the Crusades, production of this soap extended to the whole Mediterranean area…
Early soap-makers in Europe did not have easy access to laurel oil and therefore dropped it from their formulations, thereby creating an olive-oil soap now known as Castile soap.” – Wikipedia.
Castile soap is made of 100% olive oil (one of the most gentle oils), they say so, but it also has water and sodium hydroxide. To have soap, you need a chemical reaction and soap has to cure for at least 8 weeks but in case of Castile soap, you need 6-12 months to have a genuine Castile soap, otherwise it will not lather. That is a long time to wait! Yes, would you like to have the best natural soap in the world? It must cure for 1 year! Do Idyl soaps cure for 1 year! Yes, and I am proud to say that.
Olive oil soap made of olive oil and other oils is called Bastille (at least 90% olive oil) or Marseille soap (at least 70% olive oil and mostly palm oil, which I consider non-sustainable and non-vegan soap). All other oils, most of them hard ones in other olive oil soaps, can be drying for your skin. Palm oil, coconut oil are one of those. Shea butter is an exception but it is much more expensive for soapmaking.
Castile soap has a light yellow colour, sometimes light creamy. It gets lighter with time. You can store Castile soap for years, well as any other natural soap!
After curing for 1 year, Castile soap gets really hard, it lathers beautifully and can last much longer! A good Castile soap bar will last for at least 2-3 months if you use it properly.
And remember, traditional Castile soap is never scented with anything! No essential oils, and especially no parfums!
Castile soap can be used for babies (although I recommend to use Bath Milk for the 1st few months) and older kids, as well as for very dry and sensitive skin. Castile soap can also be used to handwash baby clothes to avoid harsh chemicals in washing powders. You can use it to wash your face and wash off makeup (avoid eyes area!).
In fact Castile soap is my favourite soap along with Aleppo, it has thick creamy lather and every time I use it I call it natural spa.
One thing you might consider: if you have very hard water at home, it may affect the lather of olive oil soaps but I really recommend to have a good sponge, it will help get lather much better than if you just try to lather it in your hands.
The last question you might have: why do we generally need soap in our life? Soap kills bacteria and bad odour and this is what we expect from it. Soap cannot substitute a moisturizer, even the most natural one, it will help keep your natural skin sebum and without stripping it off, that is why your skin stays as it is, wthout getting dry.
Be sure to buy 2 bars of Castile soap. Why? Olive oil soaps get soft very fast, they need to dry properly between uses, so if you plan to use it every day, rotate them.
Remember to use a quality soap dish/rack where soap does not sit in water, otherwise water will destroy soap! To extend soap life, you can use a natural sea sponge or loofah, you will save lots of soap and will have plenty of nice lather!
So these days you can find many different versions of olive oil soaps, but I am committed to real traditional Castile soap, 100% olive oil, with plenty of superfat and properly cured. Where can you buy it? Follow the link!