Exploring The Scientific Basis Of Soaps: Their Role In Cleansing & Safeguarding Our Skin

April 30, 2024

The significance of common household items is often overlooked owing to their humble function and existence. However, simple does not mean trivial, and it’s useful to take a closer look at essentials to make better choices. In this blog, we are diving deep into an item that’s found in virtually every home across the globe – soap.

Answers to questions like what is soap and what are the benefits of soap may seem obvious, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. Scroll through to read more.

What Is Soap?

Let’s begin with the basics by addressing what soap is. The dictionary defines soap as an emulsifying agent used for cleaning or cleansing surfaces. It is primarily made of potassium or sodium salts. The two most prominent forms found in the market today are liquid soap and soap bars.

How Is Soap Made?

Before we get into how soap is made, let’s backtrack to the history of soap to understand things better. Soap has been used by humans for a very long period now. The earliest known evidence of soap manufacture is from ancient Babylonia, circa 2800 BC. Way before modern chemistry and biology were established disciplines, people observed that certain substances cleaned far more effectively when combined with water than when used alone.

How Does Soap Work?

It's common knowledge that oil and water don't mix. From a chemical perspective, this happens because water molecules are polar, whereas the fatty molecules that comprise oil, grease, and grime are all non-polar and chargeless. This explains why combining frying oil with vinegar or water results in distinct layers. This is crucial to know while washing your hands because after using the restroom or touching a contaminated surface, disease-causing bacteria from dirt or faeces stay on the hands because they combine with the natural oils on your skin. Rinsing your hands with water alone won't get rid of the germs that have been embedded in your skin. The water just slides off without removing dirt, which is why we need soap to help eliminate these particles.

The Benefits Of Using Soap

The humble soap is beneficial for many reasons. Let’s take a closer look at each of these functions.

Helps Maintain Hygiene

The most obvious role a soap plays is that of ensuring hygiene as it kills bacteria. It’s crucial to wash hands before and after having meals, using the restroom, and after returning home from the outdoors. There are several varieties of soap – like liquid hand soap or essential oils soap bars – you can pick from to use for hand wash. It’s advisable to keep a dedicated bottle or bar for hand washing, to ensure it doesn’t contaminate other surfaces or parts of the body.

 

Options With Natural Ingredients

Gone are the days when soap would only be used for washing hands or other surfaces. As the beauty and wellness industry continues to expand, there are many brands (both global and homegrown) offering a host of soaps crafted consciously using naturally sourced ingredients. Some commonly found natural ingredients in soaps include neem, turmeric, honey, shea and cocoa butter, green tea, papaya, lavender, lemongrass, saffron, and aloe vera extracts. You can also choose from vegan offerings – the options are endless!

An Aromatic Affair

It’s a common misconception that using soap cannot be a luxurious experience. However, that’s not the case, especially given the innumerable options available in the market. Certain soaps (especially handmade ones) are formulated using aromatic essential oils like lavender, peppermint, lemongrass, and rose. They offer you a spa-like experience each time you use them. Aside from pleasing the senses, soaps with essential oils can help alleviate specific skin conditions. For instance, soap with tea tree oil extract can soothe irritated skin.

pH-balancing Properties

If you do not wish to use soaps with synthetic additives and harsh chemicals, buy soaps of high-quality without chemicals that can strip your skin of its natural oils and upset its delicate balance. These types of soap are made with natural and vegan components. You can maintain your skin's pH balance and encourage a bright, balanced complexion by using a soap from a good brand. These soaps leverage the benefits of nature's abundance to improve the health and brightness of your skin.

How To Pick A Soap?

The best way to choose a soap – or any skincare or grooming product – is by determining your skin type. Specific ingredients and components work better on each skin type, so it’s important to take this route while selecting a soap.

Before we get into ingredients, let’s look at the major skin type categories:

- Normal Skin: If your skin is neither too oily nor too dry, you may have a normal skin type.

- Oily Skin: Characterised by excess sebum production, making it more prone to breakouts, blackheads, and whiteheads.

- Dry Skin: People with dry skin face concerns like flakiness or dry patches, and the natural production of oil for this skin type is lower.

- Sensitive Skin: As the name suggests, sensitive skin is reactive to allergens, harsh chemicals, fragrances, and other additives.

- Combination Skin: If you have combination skin, you may experience concerns related to both oily and dry skin types. Typically, these skin types have an oily T-zone with the rest of the face being dry.

Ingredients to look for when buying soaps based on skin type:

- Mild soap with natural ingredients: Suitable for normal, sensitive, and oily skin types; look for saffron, turmeric, chamomile, neem, tea tree oil, and aloe vera.

- pH-balancing soap: Suitable for sensitive and oily skin; look for dermatologically approved brands.

- Vegan soap: Suitable for sensitive and dry skin; look for aloe vera, castor oil, pectin, and corn syrup.

Final Thoughts

A humble household item, soap plays a significant role in our day-to-day lives. It’s worthwhile to understand the history of soap, how it’s made, and what it offers to each skin type. Buy soaps mindfully to reap the benefits and goodness they have to offer!

 

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