Sometimes I get a little frustrated with the mis-information that surrounds the subject of soap. On one hand I hear people saying that they'd never put soap on their skin, and on the other I hear people saying that their soap 'treats' conditions like eczema or dermatitis. So which is it? Is soap bad for the skin or an amazing cure for nasty skin conditions?
If you've been following this blog or the Washpool Farm website for a while you'll know that what passes for 'soap' in supermarkets is often what's known in the business as 'syndets' - or synthetic detergents. Typical ingredients include synthetic emulsifiers, animal fats, hardeners, surfactants and scent masking agents. If this is the 'soap' people are referring to then certainly there is little in these bars that would contribute to good skin care.
For some as yet unexplained reason I've started getting dermatitis on my hands. The condition started at Christmas time and has continued, on and off since then. You may just be able to detect the last bumps of a 'flare up' I suffered recently. Naturally, I've been wondering what would cause this problem. Perhaps it was originally stress related - it started during the devastating floods that hit Queenland at Christmas time. Our whole family was 'flooded in' in Brisbane, unable to return to the farm. I also have to acknowledge a hereditary element - my Mother and my Son have suffered from this condition. My research also tells me that people who suffer allergies such as hayfever may also be prone. That would be me.
This week I had reason to submerge my hands in soap suds for an extended period of time (up to an hour) as I was washing the molds we use for soap making. The soap I was working with was our goat's milk formula in nanny goat molds. I thought it would be really interesting to test how my hands coped with such extended exposure to quite a concentrated soap solution.
By the way, people often ask me if our handmade soap lathers well. I'm sure you'd agree that this gentle formula has plenty of lather.
Back to my experiment - hands coped well with soap at much higher concentrations than would normally be experienced during bathing. Three days later I still have had no new dermatitis breakouts.
So, does this mean that Goat's Milk Soap treats dermatitis? I think not. I'm well versed in the benefits of using Goat's Milk in soap - it lowers the pH level of the finished bar closer to that of human skin, it contains vitamins and minerals, it's more moisturising due to the fat content in the milk, the alpha hydroxy acids help remove dead skin cells and soften the skin. All these elements may well mean that quality goat's milk soap is a good choice for people with sensitive skin - but the real benefit is in the ABSENCE of ingredients that can sensitise the skin or dry it out, making it prone to new outbreaks. (When I say quality, I mean made on 100% goat's milk - no added water. It must also be made on the most skin friendly oils - like Almond, Castor, Grapeseed, Olive and Organic Certified Sustainable Palm oil - this is the way we make our Goat's Milk Soap).
In my humble opinion, Goat's Milk Soap helps the skin by not irritating it and allowing the skin to heal itself. I stress that I don't recommend that people with highly sensitive skin expose themselves to concentrated goat's milk soap solutions. I suggest that for children we give the soap a 'swish' through their water or a quick rub on their washer before putting the bar up to dry. For adults with sensitive skin it's fairly similar. More soap is not better - it is simply there to cleanse you, without causing irritation and dryness.
Hope this helps!!