Real natural soaps in solid form are sodium salts of fatty acids. Each soap molecule consists of a long hydrophilic hydrocarbon chain and a lipophilic end. During use, soaps form surface-active molecule complexes (the "micelles") that act as emulsifiers between fats and water. The formation of micelles begins only when a certain temperature ("Krafft point") is reached. The "Krafft point" depends also on the hardness of the water. Thanks to the balanced mixture of selected oils, well-formulated natural soaps can also form micelles in hard or cold water and still wash hair or skin properly.
Our natural soaps are traditionally only obtained from vegetable oils by a simple process (Cold saponification).
Each oil consists of triglycerides: three molecules of fatty acids and one of glycerol. In the first phase, the oils and fats are mixed with a strong basic mixture of water and lye so that all fatty acids are slowly cleaved from the glycerol.
In the second phase, the fatty acids quickly bind to the sodium molecules and form the soap: sodium salt of fatty acids plus glycerol.
There are many different vegetable oils in nature, but only a few fatty acids. During the manufacturing process, high temperatures are reached, which destroy many substances, so that the properties of the soap depend almost exclusively on the fatty acid composition of the oils used.
Many high-quality and rare oils, such as argan oil or rosehip oil, are only added to the soap formulation for marketing reasons, but they have no further advantage over the cheaper ones. On the contrary, the effects of aloe vera in soaps cannot be estimated with certainty.
The True Aloe (Aloe Vera) is known as an ingredient in skincare products and as a laxative. Recently, aloe has also been offered as juice, gel or capsules as a nutritional supplement, some of which have unbelievable potencies. The juice extracted from the leaves, however, consists mainly of water and the vitamin content is low. The bitter anthraquinones are enriched in the outer cell layers of the leaves, which have a laxative effect and are suspected of being carcinogenic. The greatest care should be taken during production and use.
Source: Botanical Garden (Germany)
No, the soaps are not all the same, because in nature also rare fatty acids exist, which are to be found only in few oils. Ricinoleic acid is found only in castor oil and lauric acid in coconut oil and a few other exotic oils. In general, each fat has a specific fatty acid composition and produces different soaps. From the balanced mixture of selected vegetable oils, high-quality shampoo bars can be produced.
There are also other substances (such as sterols, carotenoids, tocopherols, hydrocarbons) that are able to survive saponification: the unsaponifiable part. These substances remain unsaponified in the soap and can increase the caring effect of the final product. The unsaponifiable content in most oils is a value between 0.2 - 1.5%, in Shea Butter it can even reach 11%.
The soaps differ not only because of the oils used but also because of the production methods. Modern soaps are not produced by traditional methods, but by soap flakes made from palm oil, beef tallow or even mineral oil (and various artificial substances). Not all solid shampoos are natural soaps, but they contain sulphates, like conventional products.
The curd soap and Aleppo soap aren't produced by the cold process. The oil mixture is first heated and then supplemented with salt so that the glycerine is separated from the end product. As the glycerine reduces the washing power of the soap and moisturizes the skin, the palm oil curd soap is too aggressive on the skin. On the contrary, Aleppo soaps still remain mild because they consist mainly of olive oil (especially mild for the skin). However, they are not optimal for shampooing because they produce too little foam.
What shampoos contain?
The only ingredients that affect the cleanliness and manageability of hair are surfactants and conditioners. All other substances are added to the mixture to improve the appearance, stability and shelf life of the product.
The conventional anionic detergents, such as SLS or SLES, act too aggressively on the scalp and even cause cancer in the whole body (according to sources from naturopathy). However, they are not the only harmful substances found in modern shampoos. Compounds, preservatives (parabens), synthetic fragrances (phthalates) can endanger hair health. Especially the substances that are added as conditioners to the shampoo have recently been strongly criticized. The silicones are deposited on the hair and make it shiny, but actually they build a waterproof layer that prevents the sebum from penetrating into the hair structure.
Scientific studies on their danger to humans are not clear, but the harmful effects of these substances on the environment have been known for years.
Synthetic detergents and natural soaps wash hair and scalp thanks to their ability to bind simultaneously with water and lipids. Both are capable of removing sebum, sweat and dirt from greasy hair. The surfactants have the advantage that they do not bind with magnesium and calcium ions and do not generate soap scum. Another argument that is often used for advertising conventional shampoos is their pH neutrality.
The soap scum is created by combining the carbonium chains of the soap molecules with the calcium and magnesium ions of the tap water. The amount of minerals in the water is not fixed, but varies by region, city and even district. We speak of water hardness: the harder the water, the more minerals it contains. The values can easily be checked on the website of the city's suppliers. If the water is soft or medium hard, no thought should be given to soap scum.
In combination with hard water the soap actually forms soap scum. With the consequences that the washing power of the soap is reduced (also less foam) and the soap scum can remain on the hair after washing.Soap scum is safe for hair health: it's added as a stabilizer in the food industry (E 470b) and in cosmetic products to prevent foam generation in care products, but for the appearance of the hair, it can lead to undesirable results: the hair can look dull or sticky. The soap scum can be released without artificial substances with the help of a acid rinse. In various blog contributions it is stated that coconut oil can also perform the same function. Another reason to oil the hair with coconut oil!
Not all soaps generate the same amount and type of soap scum. Each natural soap takes its properties from the fatty acid composition of the oils used and works differently in combination with hard water. Lauric acid, which is abundantly contained in coconut oil, generates hardly any water-insoluble soap scum. It is considered the rule: The shorter the carbonium chain and the more double bonds there are in the fatty acids used, the easier it is to release the soap scum. Goodly formulated shampoo bars can also ensure beautiful hair in combination with hard water.
"Ph-neutrality" is used as a sales argument for various care products. But what is the "ph"? The pH value is the negative decadic logarithm of the hydronium ion concentration and measures on a scale from 1 to 14 the acidic or basic character of a liquid solution. Since the skin is firm, it cannot have a "ph value".
The hydrolipid film on the skin car surface (protective acid mantle) has a slightly acid pH value and performs an important protective function against bacteria. However, it should be washed off after a certain time because dust, dirt and other external elements slowly mix with the lipids on the skin. The protective mechanism of the skin is not completely known. Are the good bacteria on the skin, their pH value or the lipids or peptides that perform a protective function?
The ph-neutral detergents have a lower pH compared to natural soaps, but they wash off the hydrolipid film from the skin, so the body has to renew the protective coating again. pH neutrality does not play a decisive role in healthy skin. The soaps remain in contact with the skin for too little time and after a few hours, the coat is completely restored.
The substances that are added to care products to correct the pH value are not harmless at all. The liquid shampoos consist of 70-80% water (ph 7) and 6-8% surfactants (sodium coco sulfate: ph 10; SLS; ph 7.5-8.5; sodium laureth sulfate: ph 9-10;) for 70-80%. In the remaining 15-20%, they hide many synthetic substances, which can have negative effects on the skin, but bring the ph value of the shampoo into the acid range.