What Is Natural Soap and Why Should You Try It?

By Angela Tague in Natural Products

Between my early morning shower and after-dinner dishwashing, I lather my hands with soap several times a day. I imagine you do, too! But, have you ever stopped to think about what's in those suds? Is there a better choice for your skin and overall wellness?

What Is Natural Soap?

When I developed an itchy skin rash called contact dermatitis, my dermatologist told me to be cautious of what I was putting on my skin. She suggested switching to natural soap, which is often free of synthetic ingredients like lab-created dyes and artificial fragrances. So, I started reading labels more closely. The truth is, soap can be made exclusively from ingredients derived from nature—you simply need to know what to look for.

Using substances from the Earth for personal care isn't a new practice at all. In fact, Native Americans used to mix the fruit of North American soapberry trees with water for soap. The combination produced a naturally foaming substance that they then used for cleaning, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.

Today, we still rely on Mother Nature's plants to help us feel clean and refreshed. For example, the fatty acids in coconut oil produce sodium cocoate, which is an ingredient in Tom's of Maine Natural Beauty Bars. This ingredient can be responsibly and sustainably harvested, unlike some petroleum-based alternatives that are also used in soapmaking.

Sodium cocoate is just one of the naturally derived ingredients you might find in natural soap. For example, Tom's of Maine Natural Beauty Bar in Fresh Eucalyptus features raw shea butter. The company's Stewardship Model also affirms that all ingredients support the use of sustainable growing and harvesting practices.

Washing hands with bar of Tom's of Maine soap

3 Things You'll Love about Natural Soap

For me, making the switch to natural soap was as simple as putting a new product in my shopping cart. And, now that I look for bars of soap made with naturally derived ingredients, I feel more confident that I'm helping my skin heal and making better choices for my overall wellness. Here are three of my favorite things about natural soap:

  1. Natural soap is effective. Washing with soap and water helps physically lift bacteria and microbes from your skin and wash them away. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that you don't need soap with artificial antibacterial ingredients to effectively keep your hands clean. Plain soap works just as well!
  2. Natural soap may soothe irritated skin. I learned the hard way that artificial fragrances cause bumpy rashes on my legs. Once I started using bars of natural soap, my skin cleared up. If you have skin concerns, ask your dermatologist if switching to natural soap could be beneficial to you, too.
  3. Natural soap fits my personal choices. Whenever possible, I try to select personal care products made from ingredients that can be sustainably harvested and grown again and again, such as plant-based oils. I also like natural soaps that haven't been tested on animals or contain animal-based ingredients.

Bar of Tom's of Maine soap in a glass seashell-shaped dish

How to Make the Switch

If you look around your home, you'll likely see numerous opportunities to try a natural soap in place of a traditional soap—such as for hand soap in the kitchen or bathroom, or in place of body soap in the shower.

When you start to use natural soap, you may notice a few things. In my experience, my skin stays softer longer, which means I use less lotion. I also enjoy the soothing aromas of the essential oils used to scent natural bars of soap. Taking a hot bath after an evening yoga class with the fragrance of eucalyptus filling the air sets me up for a restful night's sleep.

label from a bar of natural Tom's of Maine soap

Ready to Shop? Read Those Labels

Whether it's online or at the store, look past the colorful packaging and price points of your go-to soap. Instead, examine what's actually in the product, so you know what you're rubbing into your skin each day.

Look for the ingredient list. Do the items come from natural sources? You might see the words "derived from" in parentheses after longer words to help you understand where the ingredients came from. Here are a few common natural soap ingredients you might discover:

  • Sodium palmate, derived from palm oil
  • Sodium gluconate, derived from corn
  • Butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), extracted from the nut of the shea tree

Finally, when choosing a natural soap, trust your instincts. Does the product seem like a good fit for you and your personal preferences? If so, then, give it a try!

What is natural soap doing for your routine, and what do you love most about using it? We'd love to hear about your experiences and see a picture of your favorite bar of natural soap. Tag @toms_of_maine on Instagram so we can see your post!

Images Source: Angela Tague

The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

When making greener choices, small changes add up. Take a few minutes to browse and consider selecting a natural soap next time you shop for personal care products. Your decision will not only put less strain on our environment's resources, but you'll also be using gentle, naturally derived ingredients.