Back to regular programming.
General pros: basic bland products, pretty concentrated, decent preservative (the still-fairly-experimental japanese honeysuckle extract related to and acting rather like parabens). Plant-derived ingredients, but with some intelligent (human) design and actual lab-work involved; not just melting stuff into a magic cauldron, stirring till homogenised, decanting, cooling, and praying for the best on the preservative front. No fragrance. None of my common irritants. Cruelty-free. And, for me, local.
I am in favour of some of such things, ex. on the moisturiser front, but have HAD IT UP TO HERE with cold-process bar soaps.
I’ve tried lots. From all over, including several Etsy sellers. Variations on the same theme, ingredient-wise. I’ve been patient. My skin less so. I’ve suffered to prove that no, on my kind of skin, they are not a good idea. Positive: I’m a willing volunteer, with a say in the matter. Rather than an animal used in experimentation (or an unwilling human test-nonsubject). Could be worse.
So what’s up with good old-fashioned soaps? The ingredients of the better ones look lovely: some variation on the following for the main base:
olive oil, palm kernel oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, safflower oil, coconut oil, canola oil, rice bran oil, castor oil
plus some combination of the following moisturising extras:
shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter, oats (various shapes & forms & parts thereof), goat milk, aloe vera, honey, vitamin E, glycerin;
macadamia nut oil, kukui oil, hemp seed oil, other heavier oils as above (avocado etc.)
The people making them: lovely.
Some soaps even include, in the ingredient list:
I’m aware of how both cold-and hot-process saponification work. I have no issues with lye being used (and used up and transformed in chemical reaction). I’ve found plenty that have no added scent, that use organic sustainable fair-trade ingredients, and all been hand-made in exemplary fair labour practices. Actually, come to think of it, small business-people tend to overwork so they’re probably not paying themselves a fair wage or working in the sort of regulated fair working conditions they’d enjoy if they were working or someone else. Here in Canada, they’d also have further protection while at work c/o unions; sympathetic (((hugs))) to some of our neighbours south of the border for the unfortunate lacks of social justice where they live.
But I digress. Just for a change.
What’s wrong with these soaps: in one very short word: pH. These bars are alkaline: not dramatic, but still in the 8-9 range. Skin is acidic: usually in the 4.5-6 range. Some skins (notably, freakish redhead ones, for whatever weird genetic reason) are more acidic. Put alkaline stuff on them, and you strip the skin barrier / mantle / top layer. Causing immediate damage to skin, leaving it vulnerable to everything from scratches to infection while it heals, and potentially thinning it.
Calling all lovely hand-crafting soap-making people: doesn’t matter how much oily goodness you add at that early stage: unless there’s also a bucketload of glycerin, it’s drying; and even with that, that oily base is never going to be as sensitive-skin friendly (for folks prone to breakouts) nor as pH-appropriate as a well-thought-out detergent base. Yes, your lather may feel lovely and soft on the skin: but what does skin feel like after that lather’s been washed off?
But there are other options. Mild detergent bases. Which can, as we see from the likes of M. Curelle, still be plant-based (not using up remaining unrenewable petrochemical resources, and not scaring the “my body is a temple” crowd too much by using entirely synthesized “franken” molecules…).
CURELLE HYDRA SHAMPOO
INGREDIENTS: Purified water, decyl polyglucose*, sodium coco oat amino acids*, sucrose cocoate*, hydrolysed oats, xanthan gum, panthenol, lonicera japonica, citric acid. * cleansing agents derived from coconut, corn, coco and soy (no GMO).
I used the Hydra one for hair towards the dry end of the spectrum. Mild detergent plus oaty goodness: proteins, moisturising, and humectant. I do love oats (see elsewhere on this blog). Less foamy than my main “like,” Free & Clear shampoo; more creamy when mixed with water; and I needed to use a lot more for the same effect. But it does clean as well, and leaves scalp calm. surrounding skin too. So I experimented to see where else it might be used. The answer seems to be everywhere (which makes sense: it’s a very plain cleaning base). I’ve therefore been using this all over. Hair, body, face. Leaves skin clean but moist, not tight or (GAH TRAD SOAPS) drying out as soon as the stuff is rinsed off.
I’m not 100% convinced, given that the Free & Clear shampoo works as well (and all over, too) and is more concentrated. Still: if you’ve got actual sensitive skin (rather than feeling that you’re a sensitive sort of person, and therefore have sensitive skin…), it’s always nice to know that you actually have choices out there.
love, love, love.
That was: the first live global television link. Ah, those sweet days of innocence and wonder, before the interwebs… and before you could live and relive such joys of love at the click of a button. Isn’t life in 2012 brilliant. On which happy note, if you haven’t yet done so, meet the brilliant kid from The Fast Show. An Old World classic.
CURELLE RICHE CONDITIONER
INGREDIENTS: Purified water, behentrimonium methosulphate (from colza oil), hydrolysed oats, cetearyl alcohol, lonicera japonica.
I used the Riche one, again intended for drier hair. And it was good. Initially. Did my usual thing of a pre-wash and then usual post-wash condition, mixed with a couple of drops of meadowfoam seed oil. I wasn’t expecting miracles: just for my hair to be clean, shiny, detangled; maybe a little bounce; to stay that way for around 2 days without either greasing up at the roots (i.e. all over my head) or drying out and frizzing at the ends (i.e. the lengths), or both. And no irritating the skin on my neck and back when I rinse the stuff off. Success on all fronts. At first.
Then: noticeable bumps, redness, and things that look like a cross between zits and insect-bites, with a hint of pustule. And that itch and hurt. Location: right where my hair lies down my back, when rinsing conditioner out and when it’s just down my back when asleep (whether wearing PJs or not, I end up with my hair lying down my back by the next morning).
Conditioner, for the time being, out. Free & Clear back in.
There’s a hand/body lotion too: tested out, didn’t do much in the way of moisturising on the test-hand.
UPDATE (April 2013): see correspondence in the comments below (February 2013) and a new review, after a 6-week testing period.