Is All Handcrafted Soap The Same?

Many people with skin conditions or sensitive skin will likely wander down the rabbit hole of natural skincare alternatives. Most will try a “natural” soap to help with their skin problems, only to be disappointed when the soap causes just as much irritation and dryness as their commercial soap or body wash.

Not all “natural handcrafted” soap is equal. In fact some of these soaps still contain detergents that can cause skin irritation. In contrast, real all natural soap has a lather that is rich, creamy, and nourishes the skin. True natural soap can be hard to spot but don’t worry, we will help you learn the differences between soaps that claim to be natural versus REAL natural handcrafted soaps.

The Problem with Melt & Pour

The ancient process of soap making uses a combination of oils and liquid lye; a very caustic material. The concentrated lye water stage of soap making is the most dangerous and requires proper safety precautions, or there is risk of sustaining damage if anything goes wrong. This has caused many to decide that soap making is too scary, and because of this manufacturers have found a way to capitalize on this drawback.


Melt and Pour soap was created to allow soap makers to craft soap without the use of lye. Instead all that is needed is heat, added scent, and color. They then pour the soap into a mold and call it their soap. The problem with Melt and Pour is that it is not a natural soap. In fact, most soaps with a melt and pour base are highly processed and made with chemicals that actually strip or damage the skin. These soaps can look very similar to a natural soap, so it is important that you educate yourself on the ingredients in the product you are using. Some of the chemicals that can be present in Melt & Pour soap are:

Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Laurate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Laurate

This is a detergent and known skin irritant used in everything from toothpaste to shampoo. Sodium laureth sulfate is what causes that luxurious lather in processed soap, body wash, and some shampoos. What most don’t know is that it strips oils from the skin resulting in it being dry and itchy. Sodium laureth sulfate may also cause dry and damaged hair follicles.

Sorbitol and Sorbitan Oleate Sorbitol

These ingredients are humectants that prevent the loss of moisture. By pulling water from the air through a process called osmosis, they hydrate the skin. In extremely dry climates however, sorbitol will have the exact opposite effect and will pull moisture out of the skin leaving it dry and even damaged.

Propylene Glycol Propylene

This is a strong skin irritant that has been shown to have implications in causing contact dermatitis (an itchy red rash caused by direct contact with a substance or an allergic reaction). The Material Safety Data Sheet warns that this ingredient can inhibit cell growth, rupture cell membranes, and cause rashes, dry skin, and surface damage.

Tetrasodium Etidronate  or Tetrasodium EDTA
This chemical is known to be a strong eye irritant. Furthermore it has been linked to newly developed cases of eczema. It’s also slow to biodegrade making it a poor choice for those who are eco-conscious consumers.

A Healthier Alternative

Melt and pour soap requires the use of synthetic ingredients in order for it to quickly melt with heat, form a new shape, and harden. Lye based soap cannot be quickly melted down and re-poured so they take a much longer time to process and cure (roughly 4-6 weeks is required). However, lye-based soap has no added detergents. Instead the soap is made through a chemical reaction between lye and oils. Each recipe is custom tailored with a variety of oils formulated to nourish the skin and enhance moisturization, making it a healthier alternative.

How Can You Tell The Difference?

There is no strict definition for hancrafted soap and most soap makers do not disclose that they use a melt and pour base. So how can you be sure that you’re buying a lye-based soap?

Check the ingredients. If your soap contains sorbitol or any of the other ingredients we’ve listed in the above section, more than likely you’ve got a melt and pour soap.

“Naturally Retained Glycerin” is an ingredient. The glycerin in cold process soaps is formed due to natural chemical reaction. So if your soap only states that it’s made with glycerin, you’ll have to do more research.

They look different. Melt and Pour soap made with glycerin usually has a clear base that has a transparent look. The solid melt and pour bases have a plastic look and feel to them.

Contact the soap maker. You can always reach out to them and ask. A responsible business will truthfully disclose their ingredients.

Just because a soap is labeled as handcrafted does not mean it’s a better alternative to commercial soaps. It is still up to you to do your research on the soap maker you are purchasing from. Here at Country Girl USA we clearly disclose our ingredients on our label with each soap description. All of our soaps are lye-based, and most are made with our own raw goat milk. 

If you’d like to know more about our soaps, feel free to email us or post in the comments below.



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