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As a daughter, granddaughter (still...at my age!), wife, mom, grammy, lover of God and life, it has become my mission in life to encourage others. The purpose of this blog is to introduce the reader to the sustainable life through organic recipes, gardening tips, cleaning and organizing methods, Spiritual help, and anything else which may encourage you in your journey to wholeness--body, soul, and spirit.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Scoop on Soap: Is Pure Really Pure? Ivory vs. Dove vs. Dr. Bronner vs. Hand Made

One popular soap markets itself as being 99 and 44/100 percent pure.  I always wondered what that meant...so pure it floats?  How does floating make a soap "pure" and what does a soap's integrity have to do with its ability to not sink to the bottom of the bath tub?  ...so I did a little investigating.

First, I read the label.  The ingredients in Ivory Soap are:  sodium tallowate and/or sodium palmate, water, sodium cocoate and/or sodium palm kernelate, glycerin, sodium chloride, fragrance, coconut acid, palm kernel acid, tallow acid, palm acid, and tetrasodium EDTA.  Mostly that means there is animal fat, some palm and coconut oil, salt, acids (probably to balance the pH), glycerine (soap byproducts to moisturize), artificial fragrance; and a preservative, Tetrasodium EDTA, which is made from formaldehyde and sodium cyanide.  Tetrasodium EDTA is also a penetration enhancer which breaks down the skin's protective layer.  So, I am not so sure about that other 66/100.  It seems a little risky to me.  
Advertising note:  If you click on the "Ivory Soap" link, you will find that it looks very old-fashioned and wholesome.  The link for "Ivory.com" leads to a Tumblr page with lots of advertising, and it is nearly impossible to find the ingredients.  Clever.

What about the soap that claims to be 1/4 cleansing cream?  That sounds like it is GREAT for your skin, right?  Wrong.  The list of ingredients in Dove  reads kind of like a toxic waste dump:  
Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate , Stearic Acid , Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate , Lauric Acid , Sodium Isethionate , Water , Sodium Stearate , Cocamidopropyl Betaine or Sodium C14-C16 Olefin Sulfonate , Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate , Fragrance , Sodium Chloride , Tetrasodium EDTA , Tetrasodium Etidronate , Titanium Dioxide.  The heaviest hitters here are Sodium Lauoyl Isethionate, Sodium Isethionate, Cocomideopropyl Betain, Sodium C14-C16 Olefin Sulfonate, Fragrance, and anything with "Tetrasodium" in front of it.  Do you want the details?  Me either.
Advertising note:  I found the "Dove" link in a google search on soap ingredients.  Ironically, it is impossible to find the actual ingredient list on the Dove site.  You have to go to the Amazon link to find the ingredients.  Hmmm.

Now for the good stuff...Dr. Bronner's and Shepherd's Harvest!I checked out a commercially made organic soap, and will also disclose our own soap ingredients (spoiler alert:  shameless self-promotion here!).

First, Dr. Bronner's Citrus Orange Castile Bar Soap:  Organic Coconut Oil*, Organic Palm Oil*, Sodium Hydroxide**, Water, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Orange Oil, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Lemon Oil, Organic Lime Oil, Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Tocopherol.  Be still my heart!  This soap is made with all organic, fair trade, non-GMO ingredients.  The chemically sounding ingredients are Sodium Hydroxide, which is simply lye (you MUST have lye to make soap); citric acid, which is made from citrus fruit and used to balance the pH; and tocopherol, which is vitamin E oil.  VERY nice list!  You can buy it in some grocery stores and most health food stores, which makes it nice and convenient.

Shepherd's Harvest soap has undergone a bit of a change of formula lately.  We use what I call "plain language" labeling rather than the "INCI" labeling that most commercial soap companies use, because we believe it is a little easier to understand.  The label for Shepherd's Harvest Onyx Detox soap reads:  Olive oil*, Sunflower Oil*, Palm oil*,  Coconut oil*, Castor Oil*, Food grade lye (used to saponify oils), Essential Oils of Tea Tree*, Lavender*, and Lemon*, Activated Charcoal. *Ingredient is organic 

What can I say...another great list!  The ingredients are organic and sustainable.  Shepherd's Harvest soap is cured for several weeks so that the pH is naturally reduced over time, which is why we do not add citric acid.  The sunflower oil is high-oleic, which means it is naturally high in vitamin E, so there is no need to add additional vitamin E, which is a natural preservative. 

So there you have it!  You decide...commercial chemical, commercial organic, or hand crafted?  


  1. I was wondering about Ivory! Thanks for posting!

    1. Glad it helped! (I was curious too. It was not horrible, but still...)

  2. I had this question myself after visiting your booth at the farmer's market. I think I am going to go to move over to all natural soap soon

    1. That is a terrific move! My suggestion is that you really read the labels. Often, there are "natural" soaps that have artificial fragrances. If the label says "fragrance" that usually means it is synthetic. Don't be fooled by buzzwords--if it is not an essential oil, it is not natural! Be healthy.

  3. Thanks for your information, I want to share something about this.

    Natural Soap
    We have bought some premade molds and are now learning how to make some molds of our own. While we don’t make our own soap we do buy quality melt and pour bases and will be listing the ingredients on our site for you in case anyone is worried about allergies. We also want to keep a stock of additives and fragrances that you can pick to customize your soaps.

    1. Making your own molds sounds great! There are very few natural melt and pour bases, and I have only found one or two organic m&p that I would even consider using. Most have sulfates and other inorganic chemical additives that you do not want--and fragrance oils are also chemical additives that are an issue for many people. If it is not an essential oil, I always advise staying away from it, as it is NOT a natural scent. Things to keep in mind if you are going to call soap "natural." Looking forward to checking out your site!!!

  4. i got a lot of informations from this post and thank you for share with us like this infos

  5. Sandra,
    How about a bit about soap dishes which help protect your fine soaps?
    Here is a low-tech solution to a common problem ~ goopy wet bar soap! Please see the review which was released by Kenna and Izza:
    Thanks, Len

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