The Differences Between Cold Process & Commercial Soap

Many of us have been told, “Soap is just soap,” as if every soap has the same ingredients, cleansing ability, and is made with equal quality – not to mention sustainability or how different formulations can affect our skin.

But FDA does not agree that all soap is created equal. In fact, according to the FDA most commercial soap bars are not “soap” at all. Instead, they are categorized as detergents, which is why mainstream companies have to call their products ‘beauty bars’ or ‘cleansing bars’. As the FDA states, “Today there are very few true soaps on the market. Most body cleansers, both liquid and solid, are actually synthetic detergent products.

Sorry to (maybe) burst your bubble, but there are dozens of different soap-making methods and hundreds of potential soap ingredients, both good and some very harmful.

As we’ve already covered some amazing benefits of all-natural soap, today we wanted to explain the differences between two common types of soap: all natural cold process soap and commercial soap.

Let’s start with the latter.

What Is Commercial Soap?

Commercial soaps are the majority – the bottles and bars you see cluttering store shelves. All are mass-produced, as commercial companies tend to prioritize quantity over quality. As a result, the ingredients our skin needs, like quality plant oils, get cut from soap formulations and replaced with cheaper alternatives (I’m calling you out, petroleum surfactants!).

Take another look at any commercial bar ingredient label next time you’re at the grocery store, and chances are you’ll see a long list of synthetic surfactants, sulfates, foaming agents, chemical fragrances, dyes, and other additives. Yikes!

The cosmetic industry notoriously has a low bar for safe ingredients, especially here in the US. For example, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is an artificial foaming agent well-known to be a skin irritant, but it is still used in (almost) every commercial soap and shampoo.

Certain chemicals found in commercial soaps can also cause environmental damage to water, soil, and biodiversity. The extent of this is not yet fully known, as synthetic soaps are actually quite new (just over 100 years old).

Luckily, there is a better way, and it dates back millennia! We’re talking about natural soap companies, made in small batches, tried and true soap formulations, and saponification.

Saponification Explained

Saponification is the process of fatty acids (think coconut oil or shea butter) and sodium hydroxide (often known as lye) binding and neutralizing to make soap. Yes, real soap!

If you’d like to dive into the science of saponification, read here.

Natural glycerin (a skin emollient) is produced during saponification, which is one of the reasons why natural soap is so moisturizing. Another fact, perhaps less-known, is that saponified soap takes four to six weeks to cure before it’s ready to use. Yes, like fine wine, soap must also age.

The end result is creamy lathering and all-natural hand, body, and bath soap, often called cold process soap.

What Is Cold Process Soap?

Cold process soap is sometimes referred to as organic soap, natural soap, artisan soap, or handmade soap. All names ring true, as cold process soaps are both made from natural ingredients and usually handmade in small batches.

The base of cold process soap is always a skin-nourishing blend of butters and oils. Coconut, olive, palm, avocado, and almond are all commonly used in soap blends. But that’s not all!

Think of a soap base as a blank canvas, and the real art comes to life with the incorporation of dried flowers, raw salts, ground spices, teas, or colorful clays. And, of course, fragrant essential oils.

The aftermath is gorgeous soap bars for your home and bath that are worth cherishing with each wash. They also make beautiful gifts for your loved ones throughout the year.

What Soap Is Best?

When choosing between cold process and commercial soap, the better choice is always cold process!

Every time we use natural handmade soap, we are participating in an ancient ritual. And beyond history, cold process soap is an artisanal craft with one-of-a-kind colors, swirls, and scents. Setting art aside, cold process soap is simply the most beneficial for our skin.

While commercial soaps are mostly synthetic, cold process soaps are chemical-free and made from real quality ingredients. And importantly, they will cleanse your hands and body without irritating or over-stripping your skin barrier.

Handmade and natural bar soaps are also food-grade, zero-waste, and biodegradable, so they are gentle on the environment.

Tea-Licious Soap Bars

Here at Tea-Licious, it’s no surprise the soap-making method we use and love is cold process.

Our soap collection is not only earth-derived, but it embodies the earth in each bar. We incorporate botanicals and plant-pressed essential oils that smell like wildflower gardens, steaming cups of tea, and anything your heart could desire.

We make each and every bar in-house with the purist plant ingredients the earth offers. Our soaps are lovingly made throughout the year, so you can receive fresh soap at your door – hassle-free!

Discover our soap collection here.

Written by Sariah Vilate