I love handmade, old fashioned soap – which is how I would describe Pure & Green organics cleansing moisture bars.  Bars of soap made using saponification, the same method which has been used by civilizations to make soap for at least 5,000 years.

I have been asked countless times by customers with a worried tone “is soap okay to use on my face?” based on the belief that soap dries the skin.  This begs answering and so we will begin the examination – soap under the microscope!

Most soap that you purchase at the supermarket is not actually soap – it is detergent that has had all the skin-loving glycerin removed and replaced with synthetic foaming agents that often irritate the skin.  This is the reason many people have allergic reactions to commercial soaps.  Even products marketed as “soap free” are nothing more than bottled detergent.

To prove this point, I have listed the ingredients for two “soap” bars found in most stores,  Dove Beauty Bar – which doesn’t make any eco claims ,  and Eco Store soap bar – which claims to have no nasty chemicals.  The ingredients are listed in descending order as recorded by the manufacturers.

Dove Beauty Bar

Sodium Lauroyl isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Palmitate, Aqua, Lauric Acid, Sodium isethionate, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Parfum, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Zinc Oxide, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Alumina, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Benzyl Alcohol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Coumarin, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene, Linalool, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891).
Eco Store Goat’s Milk Baby Soap Bar

Sodium palmate, Sodium cocoate, aqua (water), sodium chloride, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil, d-Limonene, Linalool, Triticum Vulgare (wheat) Germ Oil, Caprae lac (Goat’s Milk), CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), Glycerin, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Tetrasodium EDTA.

Now look at the ingredients in Pure & Green organics Sensitivity Cleansing Bar:

Pure & Green organics Sensitivity Cleansing Bar Saponified Australian Olive Oil (sodium olivate)*, Saponified Far trade Coconut Oil (Sodium cocoate)*, Shea nut butter*

* = certified organic

Did you spot the difference?  Pure & Green organics cleansing bars contain minimal ingredients – 3 to be exact!  And every ingredient is certified organic, with the natural plant glycerin retained.  Did you also notice that Pure & Green organics is Palm Oil FREE?

The commercial soap bars have so many ingredients – most of which are unpronounceable. I have prepared a list for you below to explain what they are and their function in the “soap” bar.  The ingredients to avoid are listed in red, as these could harm your health. If you are vegetarian/vegan I have listed some ingredients in blue as these are animal derived and you may wish to avoid them.

Ingredients Explained:

Sodium Lauroyl isethionate a cheap foaming agent
Stearic Acid a saturated fatty acid usually derived from tallow or lard and sometimes palm oil.  The use of stearic acid can contribute to a harder, more long-lasting bar of soap
Sodium Palmitate

Dove – onslaughter –  by Greenpeace

the result of combining lye (sodium hydroxide & water) with palm oil.  While Unilever (who manufacture Dove) have committed to using sustainable palm oil from RSPO from the year 2015   saying they will is very different from actually doing it.  Watch the compelling short video prepared by Greenpeace – public outrage generated by this campaign forced Unilver to make the commitment to change – but remember promising to change is not the same as doing it!

Eco store make no mention of sustainable palm oil, therefore we must assume it is not RSPO sourced & therefore contributing to the destruction of the rain forest.

Sodium cocoate the result of combining lye (sodium hydroxide & water) with coconut oil.
Aqua water
Lauric Acid a saturated fatty acid derived from coconut or palm oil.  Able to bond with grease (found in hair for eg) and water can then be used to wash it away
Sodium isethionate synthetic detergent. Technically  a moisture absorber, surfactant and anti-static agent
Sodium Stearate now this one really annoys me! This is actually a way of disguising the use of tallowate & is one of the main compounds in common soap. To make this ingredient you start with beef fat, if you treat beef fat with steam you get tallow, a mixture of fats, one of which is glyceryl tristearate – a tri-glyceride containing three stearic acid molecules attached to a glycerine molecule. When you boil glyceryl tristearate in lye (sodium hydroxide combined with water), you get sodium stearate and glycerine. When you remove the glycerine, you get soap ie sodium stearate, but “sodium stearate” sounds better than “tallowate” doesn’t it!
Cocamidopropyl Betaine listed by Dr Dingle (author of Dangerous Beauty) as one of the “severe seventeen chemicals in cosmetics” that should be avoided wherever possible. A synthetic surfactant (cleansing agent) derived from coconut acid has been known to cause occupational allergic dermatitis in hairdressers and is a potential allergen, found responsible for dermatitis on the head and neck.
Sodium Palm Kernelate see sodium palmitate
Parfum (or fragrance) means no essential oils have been used, instead you are using a synthetic “fragrance” designed to mimic nature.  Most of these synthetic fragrances are derived from petrochemicals and have never been tested as safe for human health. They are a leading cause of allergy and sensitisation in cosmetics.  Many chemicals found in fragrances are extremely hazardous including phthalates, a known endocrine disrupter.
Glycerin It is a  humectant and moisturising agent found naturally in plants and animal fats.  When you see this ingredient added to soaps you know the natural glycerin has been removed by the manufacturing process hence the need to put it back in.
Sodium Chloride salt is often used as a thickening agent
Zinc Oxide zinc oxide is effective for healing the skin, however particle size is an issue here, as often nano sized particles are used.
Citric Acid used as a pH adjuster, however is a moderate to severe irritant to the skin and eyes.  If comes in contact with the eyes, a slight stinging sensation is felt.  Prolonged use results in cumulative damage to the eyes.
Tetrasodium EDTA synthetic preservative, can be irritating to the eyes/mucous membranes.  In my book this counts as a nasty!  What about yours?
Tetrasodium Etidronate a chelating agent used to soften water and soap to prevent soap scum.  Aggravates skin problems, particularly eczema.  Now you know why commercial soaps with this ingredient don’t leave scum on shower doors, no magic just a chemical inclusion to prevent it.  I would count this as a nasty too even if Ecostore don’t!
Alumina alumina is a common name for aluminium oxide.  Often used as a filler or colouring agent as it is a white powder.
Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone a colorless or pale straw-colored liquid. The IFRA Standard restricts the use of mixed isomers of methyl ionone (including Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone) in fragrances because of potential sensitization.
Benzyl Alcohol, a volative perfume ingredient known to stimulate tearing when applied too close to the eye area.
Butylphenyl Methylpropional also called p-tert-butyl-alpha-methylhydrocinnamic aldehyde, is a colorless to pale yellow liquid with a powerful, floral-fresh odour. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) Standard restricts the use of Butylphenyl methylpropional in fragrances because of potential sensitization.
Citronellol may be synthetic or a natural component of essential oils
Coumarin may be synthetic or a natural component of essential oils
Hexyl Cinnamal also referred to as hexyl cinnamaldehyde or a-Hexyl cinnamic aldehyde.  This is a synthetic frangrance component.  Note: It is found naturally in chammomile essential oil but if a manufacturer was actually using this expensive natural oil they would list it by its full name along with with hexyl cinnamal listed for allergen purposes.  With the Dove soap bar, that is not the case so we can determine that the synthetic version has been used to minic the scent of natural chammomile.
Limonene May be synthetic or a natural component of essential oils
Linalool May be synthetic or a natural component of essential oils
Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891) white powder used to colour the soap bar. Known to cause breaks in DNA strands, leading to an increased risk of cancer. Particle size is also an issue, as often nano sized particles are used.
Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil natural essential oil used to scent the product.
Triticum Vulgare (wheat) Germ Oil natural plant oil from wheat germ, used as an emollient (moisturizer).
Caprae lac (Goat’s Milk) goat’s milk, used to treat delicate/eczema prone skin

Now that you know what is actually in most commercial soap bars you can see that the abundance of chemicals would be very detrimental to your skin over a period of time – they are full of irritants and sensitisers!

On the other hand, organic soap made via the saponification method left to naturally cure (harden) for 6 weeks contains a few simple ingredients that are gentle and mild to the skin and perfect for sensitive skin types.

Take a look at how we make Pure & Green organics cleansing moisture bars.

Soap making part one

Ingredients are measured & weighed – certified organic fair trade coconut oil & certified organic Australian grown olive oil shown.

Soap making part two

A lye solution (water and sodium hydroxide) is added to the certified organic oils and mixed to begin the saponification process.

Soap making part three

Once the soap has reached trace (which is not solid yet but on its way – like the consistency of custard), the mixture is poured into a soap mould and set aside to harden for two days.

Soap making part four

After two days the soap mould is opened and soap blocks cut into bars.  These bars are then set aside to cure (harden) on drying racks for 6 weeks.


Soap by its very nature is alkaline, so generally it has a pH of about 9, whereas your facial skin has a pH of about 5.5.   Many people quote this fact as proof that soap shouldn’t be used on the face. However, it’s very important to note that handmade soap employs the super-fatting principle– that is to say we don’t convert all of the oils to a solid (soap).  Pure & Green organics superfat all our cleansing bars to 5% (ie 5% of the oils remain in the bar) to ensure that while you cleanse a layer of certified organic oil is replaced, preventing your skin from drying out.

The pH of your facial skin can be quickly restored to pH balance by using our Toner – designed to refine the pores after cleansing and balance the pH.   As both Pure & Green organics cleansing moisture bars and toner are certified organic, this really is the most effective – most eco – and most organic option to care for your skin. Gentle with no harsh detergents, your skin will be clean and fresh without over-stripping.

Last of all we need to discuss price.  I understand that it’s hard to fulfill all our eco desires when living on a budget – really I do!  For those of you who can’t divert some funds from non-essential elements in your weekly spending (ie, entertainment/alcohol) to put towards the essential items of organic food and personal care items I will teach you how to make soap.  Yes, anyone living in Sydney is welcome to visit our Stanmore showroom for one of our classes – we only ask for the cost of the ingredients (bookings essential).  You can make enough soap for 6-12 months for a family of 4 in one day so even the next objection “I don’t have time”, is also taken care of.   If you can’t afford to buy organic soap then please consider making your own from natural oils as this is far preferable to opting for the “cheap” supermarket brands that are full of toxic chemicals.  In the long run the effects on your health and the environment from this cumulative exposure will not seem so cheap.

If you can’t make it to Stanmore but still want to learn how to make soap, I will be posting some recipes on our website, designed around the most affordable ingredients possible for those wishing to improve their health but living on a strict budget.    Happy soapmaking!

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10 Comments on Soap under the microscrope

  1. Kathy says:

    Any more thought given to your soap making classes I would love to be involved.

  2. Francesca says:


    I found out about your brand in this month’s wellbeing magazine and drove over an hour to purchase the cleanser, soap and toner yesterday. I must admit it was worth the drive!

    I’m interested in participating in one of your soap making classes. Could you please email me the details. I live in Melbourne but I am willing to travel to Sydney to attend . 🙂


    • Grace says:

      Hi Francesca,
      thanks for your support! For the moment we are not holding any more classes (I need to catch up some key projects in the office) but I will email you our recipe and instructions so you can have a go at home. Happy to give you advice on the phone. Warmest – Grace.

  3. Anastasia says:

    I loooove what you’re doing!! and I love your products!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Grace Culhaci, FROGsolutions. FROGsolutions said: Soap under the microscrope: http://www.pureandgreen.com.au/blog/?p=497 […]

  5. Richard Dimech says:

    Thanks for the information on bar soap! It would be great if you could let us know if you would ever bring your class on soap making to Victoria? What’s your opinion on the Melrose organic castle soap. I use this as I find bar soap messy, but my wife uses bar soap. I’ll pass this on to her and my fiends. Is there a way we can share your info via FaceBook?

  6. Kha Hien says:

    Hi, I would love to participate in your soup making class. Please let me know the details. Thank you. Kha Hien

    • Grace says:

      Hi Kha, we are holding a weekday class and a Saturday class to try to suit different schedules. We need to have at least 3 to a class. I will pass your details onto Vicki Campbell in our office who is co-ordinating the classes (Vicki’s number is 02 9638 7575). She will email you and get your phone number to arrange the best class for you. Take care.