Does Natural Soap Contain Lye and Is It Harmful to My Skin?
If you're wondering whether natural soap is made with lye, then the answer is very straight forward: yes. If there's no lye used in the production process, it isn't soap. Don't get confused, though, as that doesn't mean natural soap contains lye. It's a little complicated, but we'll explain everything here.
Do your bars of soap contain lye?
In short, no, our soap does not contain lye. However, lye is used to make the soap. Sound confusing? Allow us to explain.
Soap is made using a chemical reaction. This chemical reaction is called saponification, which combines oil and lye to create soap and glycerin. If the process is carried out correctly, there is no lye left in the soap.
What this means is that while all real soaps use lye in the creation process, there is no lye leftover in the finished product. That includes our very own range of handcrafted coconut milk soaps.
Is lye harmful to my skin?
Lye is a caustic substance that can certainly damage your skin if you're exposed to it. It can cause a number of problems, such as burns, blindness, and even death when consumed.
But, and this is a big but, soap that is created with lye (which is all real soap) will do absolutely no harm to your skin. You see, the lye used to create soap reacts with other chemicals, which results in the formation of soap. The lye gets entirely used up during the process, which means it's no longer present and can do no harm to your skin.
Our range of coconut milk soaps will soothe and nourish your skin, leaving your skin feeling soft and smooth.
My soap doesn't list lye as an ingredient
If your soap is real soap, then it has been made with lye, period. However, it's not uncommon to find lye or sodium hydroxide missing from the list of ingredients on some soaps. If that's the case then lookout for the following terms:
- Sodium Olivate
- Sodium Palm Kernelate
- Sodium Cocoate
- Sodium Tallowate
- Sodium Palmate
- Saponified Oils
These are all alternative generic names for lye. For example, sodium tallowate is the name given to a mixture of tallow (beef fat) and sodium hydroxide (lye). It's still lye, even with the fancy name.
Why do companies do this? It's quite simple: consumers have become afraid of the word "lye" and soap manufacturers know this. To hide the word lye, they simply use different names, such as the ones listed above.
Always remember, if your soap is real soap, then it will have been made with lye. That doesn't necessarily mean it contains lye, though.
Making soap and the process of saponification
To better understand how lye is used to make soap but why it isn't actually in the final product, we'll take a look at the process of saponification.
Saponification is simply the name given to the chemical reaction between an acid and a base, which results in a salt (soap). The base in this instance is sodium hydroxide, and the acids are fatty acids (triglycerides) found in butter and oils.
When oils are mixed with sodium hydroxide and lye, there's a chemical reaction between the substances (saponification), and the result is an entirely new substance. This substance is soap!
This means that there is no lye left in the soap. The chemical reaction has caused all of the different substances to alter molecularly, turning them into entirely new substances.
A simpler explanation of chemical reactions
It might be a bit confusing to picture the process of saponification in your head, so let's look at it in a different way.
Sodium (Na) is extremely reactive when it comes into contact with water; it explodes.
Chlorine (Cl) is a poisonous gas that can be fatal when inhaled.
They both seem pretty dangerous, right? You wouldn't want to deal with either of them. But what happens when they're combined?
Combining sodium with chlorine produces... wait for it... table salt (NaCl)! That's right, regular, everyday table salt that you and I consume. There's no dangerous chlorine gas or explosive sodium left at the end of the reaction.