Q. ~ Is there such a thing as “Natural Soap”?
A. ~ Both science and history document that, although rare, soap is indeed found in nature. However, the “True Soap” we see for sale in stores, is made by combining fat from plants or animals and an alkali, called “lye”.

Lye refers to sodium hydroxide [aka caustic soda, chemical formula NaOH] or potassium hydroxide [aka caustic potash, chemical formula KOH]. When combined, this chemical reaction called saponification occurs; resulting in soap [an alkali salt of fatty acids] and glycerin being produced.

The handmade soap maker leaves the glycerin in their soap. In commercial soap making, this ingredient is often removed and sold as a by-product.

Many people consider soap to be a synthetic product since it is the result of a chemical reaction between fats and lye, and/or because lye is usually manufactured in a factory setting in modern times, and some consider it to be synthetic. However, the lye, used to make soap, is no longer in the soap in the form of an ingredient in the finished consumer product.

The fatty acids and alkali have chemically changed into the finished product we call “true soap”. The FDA interprets the term “soap” to apply only when the bulk of the nonvolatile matter in the product consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids and the product’s detergent properties are due to the alkali-fatty acid compounds, and the product is labeled, sold, and represented solely as soap.

Q. ~ Is glycerin a natural ingredient?
A. ~ It depends. The glycerin formed during the process of making soap, is the result of the saponification process. In cold and hot process soap making, that naturally occurring glycerin is left in the raw and finished soap. That glycerin would be considered part of the “true soap” rather than a separate ingredient. It occurs as a result of the natural biological process.

However, the process necessary to remove glycerin from raw soap, is not considered minimal processing. It requires more processing that that which could take place in a household kitchen, stillroom, on a farm, or vineyard. Glycerin removed from raw soap and sold as a single ingredient, is not natural, however it would be considered naturally sourced.